The statue of Apoxyomenos is one of Croatia's most important historical treasures - and it was discovered by random chance during a recreational scuba dive. DIVE Magazine got a chance to visit the statue's dedicated museum in Mali Lošinj during a recent visit
In 1996, René Wouters, a Belgian diver and amateur photographer was visiting the island of Lošinj, in the northern Kvarner region of Croatia, when he came across the statue at a depth of 45m somewhere near the small island of Vele Orjule. Almost completely intact, but with a damaged right leg and partially severed head, the statue rested between two rocks which had prevented it from sinking any further, where it would have undoubtedly been lost to history.
Apoxyomenous literally translates as 'the scraper', and the figure depicts an athlete in the process of cleansing his body – scraping oil and dust from his skin using a tool known as a strigil, although the tool itself was never recovered.
It is only one of eight known surviving examples of this ancient Greek statue. The Croatian find is one of only two in bronze. Bronze relics from this time period are extremely rare, as the soft metal was often melted and re-used.
Wouters initially reported the find to Belgian authorities, however, the project was taken over by the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Croatia in 1998, who subsequently began an exploration of the site – a closely guarded secret – in order to begin the process of raising the statue from the seabed and attempt to discover what had caused the figure to be located there in the first place.
The plinth on which the statue had stood was recovered, and the discovery of a damaged iron anchor – but no shipwreck – suggested that the statue may have been thrown overboard during a storm, although whether or not that was a deliberate act will never be known.
Dating the statue through historical records suggests that it is a relic from the Hellenic period, between 360 and 280BC, and the presence of a mouse-nest inside the statue, along with seeds from the era, (also preserved and on display in the museum) helped to confirm this. The statue was raised in 1999 and its painstaking restoration and preservation lasted until 2006.
The museum in which it now stands, in the harbour of Mali Lošinj, is testament to the value placed upon it by the Croatian Ministry of Culture. Indeed, the building itself is something of a work of art. Well worth a visit, and it definitely makes you wonder what else might be out there, lying on the seabed, waiting for an observant diver to find it.
For more information on the museum visit www.muzejapoksiomena.hr
This short story originated from DIVE Magazine's trip to the Kvarner region of Croatia in July 2016. Click here for the full article....