You never know what you’ll find out in the open sea. Sometimes a simple dive can turn into something very special…
Stefano Mariottini, a chemist on vacation in Calabria, Italy, experienced just that while dive fishing in waters just 26 feet deep off the Ionian Sea coast of Riace. While looking around, he saw what appeared to be a human arm in the sand. His remarkable find made the history books and you’re about to find out why…
Stefano Mariotiini is an amateur scuba diver from Rome, By profession he was actually a chemist, but enjoyed nothing more than scaling the seabeds looking for various forms of sea life.
Rome, the capital city of Italy is home to some 2.9 million people. Rich in history, Roman mythology dates the founding of Rome at 753 BC but there is much evidence to say that it was inhabited long before this, making it one of the oldest continuously occupied sites in Europe
Diving In Rome
Lovers and fans of diving will dive all over the Italian coast, but the areas where most people dive is in the Islands of the country. Sardinia is considered the best diving in Italy. The Tuscany Archipelago that includes Elba Island also deserve to be mentioned, As well as Sicily and the coast of Riace.
Gliding Through The Sea
Forty years ago, on the morning of August 16 1972, Stefano Mariottini, a chemist from Rome on a scuba-diving holiday, was gliding through the waters of the Tyrrhenian Sea a few hundred yards off the coast of Calabria when he was totally shocked to see, thrusting from the sea floor below him, what looked like a human arm.
Work Of The Mafia?
The deep south of Italy is just across the water from Sicily with its Mafia connections, and as Signor Mariottini swam closer, he feared at first that he might have come upon the remains of a corps
An Amazing Find
But thankfully, no police were to be involved here: On closer inspection he saw it was attached to a statue on its side and that there was another statue on its back lying next to it.
Help From The Authorities
After marking the location, he sent for help to retrieve the statues, He alerted authorities and police divers returned with oxygen-filled balloons to carefully lift the statues out of the seabed.
The Finest Examples Ever Seen
What was cautiously dredged from beneath the calm blue surface and hauled ashore to the village of Riace, proved to be a pair of statues, larger than life-size, nude and flamboyantly male, and two of the finest examples of mid-fifth-century-BC Greek sculpture to be found anywhere in the world.
Sent For Tests
Wrapped in the soft Calabrian sand, the Riace bronzes had slept on the seabed for 2,500 years. They were sent to the National Museum in Reggio Calabria for cleaning and restoration. Experts confirmed at that point that they were original Greek bronzes from the 5th century B.C. Early Classical period. Preliminary conservation continued in Reggio Calabria until 1975
After this, the statues were sent to Florence for further work in its better equipped restoration labs. Once the concretions, particularly dense around their heads and faces, were fully removed, restorers found exquisite details like individual silver eyelashes, copper lips and nipples, silver teeth and eyes inlaid with ivory and glass.
Statue A and B
The most popular theory about these statues is that two separate Greek artists created the bronzes about 30 years apart around the 5th century BC. “Statue A” was probably created between the years 460 and 450 BC, and “Statue B” between 430 and 420 BC. Some believe that “Statue A” was the work of Myron and that a pupil of Phidias, called Alkamenes created “Statue B”.
Its thought that both of the bronzes used to hold shields and spears, so they were probably warriors. The one with parted lips, silver teeth and long, flowing curls is known as Riace A; the one with the helmet and wide eyes is known as Riace B.
Statue A portrays a young warrior hero or god with a proud look, conscious of his own beauty and power. Statue B, on the other hand, portrays an older more mature warrior hero with a relaxed pose and a kind and gentle gaze.
One theory posits that they are Tydeus and Amphiaraus, two warriors enlisted by Polynices to attack Thebes in Aeschylus’ Seven against Thebes. Statue A would be Tydeus, who ate the brains of the defender who had mortally wounded him, hence the prominent silver teeth. Statue B would be Amphiaraus who was a seer, a role often represented by wide eyes.
Restoration was complete in 1980 and in due course, the bronzes were allowed out on loan to Florence and Rome. They were permitted a triumphant tour of Italy; they were celebrated on postage stamps. Safely back in the Museo Nazionale in Reggio Calabria, they were placed on permanent exhibition as the star exhibits of what had previously been a little-visited museum.
In December 2009, the Riace Bronzes were transported to the Palazzo Campanella before further restoration work began. Early 2010, expert art restorers Cosimo (Nuccio) Schepis and Paola Donati began restoration work on the Riace bronzes. Restoration work on the two bronze sculptures was completed in 2011
Still A Mystery
There is also the mystery of how they actually came to be lying on the seabed off the Calabrian coast. Most experts are roughly in agreement: en route from Greece to Rome, caught in a storm, the statues were thrown from a ship to lighten its load, or possibly the rough seas dislodged them from their place on deck. No wreck was found on the seabed. Either way, we are so happy they were found!
[Featured image credit: SOLO AMARANTO REGGINA-SuperGreg @ Youtube]