The Riace Bronzes, a pair of fifth-century BC statues of bearded warriors from the ancient Greek world, are undergoing restoration that experts hope will help them to answer some of the questions that have puzzled them ever since the statues were found off the coast of Calabria almost 40 years ago.
To this day, archaeologists and historians are not sure of the identity of the two warriors. Some theories have speculated that they could represent two characters, Tydeus and Amphiaraus, from the ancient Greek play, Seven Against Thebes. A monument representing the play is known to have existed in Argos. Other theories suggest that the statues may come from Delphi or Olympia.
While it seems that the statues came from ancient Greece, they were found off the southern coast of Italy, which was part of Magna Grecia until it came under Roman rule in the third century BC following the Pyrrhic War. They were discovered in 1972 by archaeological expert and diving enthusiast, Stefano Mariottini.
The Riace Bronze Mysteries
It is not known how they got to the bottom of the sea – no evidence of a shipwreck has yet been found at the discovery site. And their final destination is not known either. They may have been on their way to Rome – or could they have been destined for Magna Grecia? The identity of the sculptor is also unknown.
As part of the conservation process, the bronzes will undergo a CAT scan, which will show the state of preservation of the statues from the inside – it will be the first time their interior has been examined. Pasquale Dapoto, archaeological director of the restoration laboratory at Reggio Calabrias National Archaeological Museum, said that the process will also use technology and materials usually used in the aeronautics industry or in extreme sports.
Follow the Restoration Online or in Person
Visitors will be able to see the restoration process first-hand, as the laboratory, at Palazzo Campanella, in Reggio Calabria, will be open to the public from March 2010 to March 2011, every day from 9am to 7.30pm. A small exhibition of other statues and objects found in or off the coast of Calabria will also be on display at Palazzo Campanella. The National Museum of Reggio Calabria that usually displays the bronzes will be closed during the restoration until 2011.
The process is also accessible to people from further afield through the website www.bronzidiriace.org, which will be following each step of the process and will be updated with video clips and photos as the restoration progresses.