Gaza often makes the news! Regrettably, it is usually for the wrong things. It is the terrorist group, Hamas, who controls the Gaza Strip. They rule over about 1.8 million Palestinians. Politically, Gaza is associated with terror. Located between the Israel border to the north and the Egyptian border to the south, Gaza continues to threaten certain southern Israeli cities. Smuggling illegal arms through the underground tunnels they made, some of which are 3-4 kilometers long (1.5 – 2 miles), Hamas continues to defy international law and disrespect life.
This present situation which I intentionally shared serves as the context for what makes this “surprise find” so interesting. Ironically, one of the latest archaeological discoveries was a full-sized bronze statute of the Greek god Apollo. Truly, this is an amazing “accidental” find!
In a recent Reuters article entitled, “Mysterious Greek God Held in Gazan Detention,” (Feb 10), it was reported that it was a local fisherman who found it along the Mediterranean coastline. Finding it this past August, he took this 500 kg statue home on his donkey cart. Regrettably, the statue was seized immediately by Gazan “police” (that would be the Hamas militia), disappearing out of sight. Even though not being able to examine the statue, archaeologists estimate that Apollo dates to sometime between the 5th and 1st century BC.
Jean-Michel de Tarragon, a historian with the French Biblical and Archaeological School of Jerusalem said, “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. It’s very, very rare to find a statue which is not in marble or in stone, but in metal.”
Where and how the statue was found adds to the intrigue of it all. As reported, the 26-year-old father of two who found it said he saw a human-like shape lying in shallow waters some 100 yards offshore, just north of the Egyptian-Gaza border. At first he thought it was a badly burnt body, but when he dived down to take a closer look he realized it was a statue. He said it took him and his relatives four hours to drag the “treasure” ashore. “I felt it was something gifted to me by God,” he told Reuters.” Comically, his mother was less happy when she saw the naked Apollo carried into the house, demanding that his private parts be covered. The statue was apparently then put on Ebay for $500,000. This would have been a bargain price for some eager (and rich) person.
Apollo was one of the most important deities in classical Greek and Roman religion. He was the son of Zeus, and was deemed the god of the light and the sun. If you recall, the reference to Roman gods is mentioned in Acts 14. These early missionaries were at Lystra (in Asia Minor) when Paul was viewed as Hermes (since he was a speaker of messenger of God), and Barnabas was viewed as Zeus. Paul also spent time in Corinth, the location of one of the most ancient temples of Apollo. It’s ruins still stand today.
The archaeological world hopes that this bronze statue of Apollo will re-surface sometime soon. I do too!