Looted Item du Jour: Pharos of Alexandria?

Dorothy King — whose Lootbusters website we mentioned t’other day — was commenting on this piece on Twitter today:

As the label suggests, this is an item — a lighthouse or colossus — which was looted from Afghanistan at the turn of the millennium. In subsequent discussion with Gary Corby and Adrian Murdoch, we were trying to decide what lighthouse might be depicted, given that the item came from Afghanistan and that. I initially suggested that it might be an image of the lighthouse Nero supposedly built which was claimed to have been found a couple of years ago at Patara ( from 2006: Nero’s Lighthouse; from 2008: Roman Lighthouse  … we really haven’t heard much since). Then conversation turned to the Pharos of Alexandria of course, which, we are told, had a statue of Poseidon (and possibly others) on top. So some comparanda … first, a piece of a mosaic from Olbia, Libya (via Wikipedia):

We can also include a different view  mosaic I saw at that Rome exhibit I saw in Quebec City last summer (Rome – From the Origins to Italy’s Capital (Quebec City)):

So … having stared at these for a while now, it’s rather interesting to note the differences. The mosaic from Olbia, which clearly labels its image ‘The Lighthouse’ seems likely to be referring to the Alexandrian variety, no? But the image on it has some naked divinity wearing a radiate crown awkwardly brandishing a sword. Helios? There’s another statue there as well (we have reports of various statuary on the Pharos), who holds nothing. The one from Quebec city has a statue of someone who seems to be wearing clothes and may or may not be carrying something. No other statues are around it, but interestingly the ‘top of the lighthouse’ on which it stands is pretty much identical to that of the other mosaic. Perhaps artistic license and/or different time periods account for the differences. Our looted item from Afghanistan, however, seems rather different. It’s a naked divinity brandishing something — thunderbolt? trident? — and he’s standing ‘amidst the flames’ of the lighthouse (maybe). The looted item, however, I’d suggest  is more than likely not the Pharos of Alexandria, but is some other one which has vanished from history. Except that it does survive in this looted item from Afghanistan. Pity we don’t have it.

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