Major Find (Maybe?) From Apollonia

Here’s one Tim Parkin (and others) and I have been chatting about on Facebook … AFP via PhysOrg:

Archaeologists unearthed a Roman bust from the 2nd century AD hailed as the most important archaeological find of the last 50 years in Albania, experts said Friday.

“It is an exceptional discovery, the most important in the last 50 years in Albania because the bust is still intact,” French professor Jean-Luc Lamboley, who led the dig at Apollonia with Albanian archaeologists, told AFP.

Experts say the bust of an unknown athlete found at the Apollonia site, some 120 kilometers (75 miles) from Tirana, was of a remarkable quality.

Apollonia is one of the biggest archaeological sites in Albania and the fact that no modern town was built on its ruins makes for excellent excavating conditions.

The team of French and Albanian archaeologists digging at the scene are studying how Apollonia evolved from a Greek colony founded in the 7th century BC to a Roman settlement in the 3rd century AD.

“This spans a thousand years of history and we can study here how the classic Greek civilisation was transmitted, evolved and enriched in Roman times,” Lamboley said.

“For security reasons the bust was moved Friday to the Tirana archaeological museum as the Apollonia museum still has no security system in place,” the French expert added.

After the fall of communism in the early 1990s and following public unrest in 1997 several art works were stolen from Albanian museums probably to be sold to foreign art lovers at very high prices.

… the original AFP item (via Google and likely short-lived; no photo):

In any event, the PhysOrg piece is accompanied by a photo:

I tracked down another photo at Balkan Insight:

… which is interesting, because that second one doesn’t seem to be the same as the first one at all (perhaps this is a case where an indefinite article became definite in translation; maybe it’s just the angle of the photo). In any event, assuming that the first photo is the one that is being ‘hailed’, what Dr Parkin (and others) and I have been struck by is how ‘perfect’ this bust seems to be, despite having been buried for however many years. The nose, hair, and everything else seems undamaged and really isn’t typical of what tends to emerge from archaeological sites.

That said, I believe this must be the same site where Jack L. Davis and the University of Cincinnati was digging a few years ago (see also this earlier post) At one point, road construction threatened it … not sure how long the French have been involved there.

ADDENDUM (an hour or so later): Dorothy King notes the similarity to an item in the Shelby-White Collection which graced an exhibition catalog a while back (the image is via the Looting Matters blog):

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