|Gaza — Lost for centuries, a rare bronze statue of the Greek god Apollo has mysteriously resurfaced in the Gaza Strip, only to be seized by police and vanish almost immediately from view. A local fisherman says he scooped the 500-kg god from the sea bed last August, and carried it home on a donkey cart, unaware of the significance of his catch.|
| Police from the Islamist group Hamas, which rules the isolated Palestinian territory, swiftly seized it and say they are investigating the affair. Archaeologists have not been able to get their hands on the Apollo – to their great frustration- and instead must pore over a few blurred photographs of the intact deity, who is laid out incongruously on a blanket emblazoned with Smurfs.|
From what they can tell, it was cast sometime between the 5th and the 1st century BC, making it at least 2,000 years old.
|The discoloured green-brown figure shows the youthful, athletic god standing upright on two, muscular legs; he has one arm outstretched, with the palm of his hand held up. He has compact, curly hair, and gazes out seriously at the world, one of his eyes apparently inlaid with a blue stone iris, the other just a vacant black slit.|
Ghrab says he cut off one of the fingers to take to a metals expert, thinking it might have been made of gold. Unbeknownst to him, one of his brothers severed another finger for his own checks. This was melted down by a jeweller.
|"It's unique. In some ways I would say it is priceless. It's like people asking what is the [value] of the painting La Gioconda [the Mona Lisa] in the Louvre museum," said Jean-Michel de Tarragon, a historian with the French Biblical and Archaeological School of Jerusalem.|
"It's very, very rare to find a statue which is not in marble or in stone, but in metal," he told Reuters television. Some 5,000 years of history lie beneath the sands of the Gaza Strip, which was ruled at various times by ancient Egyptians, Philistines, Romans, Byzantines and crusaders. Alexander the Great besieged the city and the Roman emperor Hadrian visited. However, local archaeologists have little experience to carry out any scientific digs and many sites remain buried.