In 1972, Stefano Mariottini while on a scuba diving vacation in southern Italy made a historic discovery. While diving a couple of hundred feet offshore of Riace Marina in 27 feet of water, he spotted an arm protruding from the seabed. The appendage was so life-like, he believed he’d found a corpse. Then, he found a leg sticking out of the seabed not far away. He contacted the Sicilian police who, under the direction of the Archeological Superintendency of Reggio Calabria, recovered the statues.
The Riace Bronzes are full-size Greek bronzes of nude bearded warriors, cast about 460–430 BCE. The Riace Warriors who arms and shields are missing are respectively termed “A” (a younger man nicknamed “The Hero”) and “B” (an older man nicknamed “The Strategist” who wore a helmet-now missing). While both statues were armed with shields and The bronzes are critically important to the art history because they are GREEK ORIGINALS. The ancient Romans raided the towns they conquered and returned the originals to Rome. In addition, much of the surviving statuary from antiquity are Roman copies of Greek originals. The magnificent 2,500-year-old statues’ eyes are inlaid with bone and glass. The teeth are silver and lips and nipples are in copper. They represent a transition between the formal Archaic style and the more realistic Classic style that developed in the 5th century BC.
Little has been discovered about the statues—not who they represent, where they came from, how they got there, or why they were there. Experts don’t agree on whether the statues were produced locally or in Greece; whether they decorated a ship, were lost in a shipwreck (no evidence of one has been discovered) or adorned a local building (evidence of an Ionic temple was found in the subsiding seabed).
The bronzes were restored Florence and are currently housed at the Museo Nazionale della Magna Grecia in Reggio Calabria, Italy.
Next week, another gorgeous hunk of metal or marble. Rita Bay