Farmer stumbles across an exquisite ancient Roman statue in Crete


Recently Greece was struck by a very heavy cold, which included rain, wind and snow. Even in the southernmost part of the country, including southeastern Crete, which is always sunny and the winters are mild, the snow balefully reached the beaches of the island that open to the Libyan Sea.

In one such small coastal city, known as Hierapetra, an unexpected object appeared in a field, when the snow melted. It turned out to be a unique marble bust of a woman dated from the Roman period, preserved in its almost intact state. The impressive feature of this sculpture pertains to the hairstyle, which showcases its flair of curly circular hair-locks. The indentations were probably made by some ancient drill-like object, since the marble is full of small circular holes that intricately define the hair.

A few days ago, a 30 year-old farmer, Michalis Bachlitzanakis, was driving in the countryside of Hierapetra (a few miles to the west of it), after a heavy rainstorm. And it was then that he saw a white object in the bottom of a ravine that he was about to cross. This is what he had to say about the ‘historical’ encounter –

I pulled aside my car and went down to the bottom of the ravine to see what was this white object, that was lying there on the newly wet ground. When I reached it, I realized that it was a piece of sculpture and I got puzzled for a while. I was astonished by its beauty. Soon I pulled myself together again and I returned to the car in order to call the local Ephorate of the Greek Ministry of Culture, so as to report the find and give it to them. After a while the chief guard of the Ephorate came to the spot, and carried the find to the public service’s offices at the city of Aghios Nikolaos, to the archaeologists. I think that I did what I had to do. I gave it to the Ephorate, in order to be restored and eventually to be exhibited in the Archaeological Collection of Hierapetra.

The head of the Ephorate of Eastern Crete (Lasithi area), Mrs. Chrysa Sofianou told the press –

It is true that the ancient sculpture that was found last week at Hierapetra, has been given to us and it is stored by our service. Next week I will visit Hierapetra in order to do the estimation of its value and to tell you what it is and when it is dated. This sculpture as many others, that have been found in the area will stay here, it will be restored and exhibited in the Archaeological Collection of Hierapetra.

At the city of Aghios Nikolaos where the offices of the Ephorate are, Michalis Bachlitzanakis not only reported the find, but also provided information about its exact spot. And as it would have been expected, he was deservedly praised for his action. Manolis Bachlitzanakis, father of Michalis, said –

We are proud for Michalis, because he has been raised with such principles. We are really moved by what he did. The day I saw the statue he found in the ravine, I was astonished. Her face is so beautiful and so well preserved, that it has to be exhibited so as everybody can see it.

Michalis Bachlitzanakis’ action was also praised by the Head of the Committee of the Enhancement of the Cultural Heritage of Ierapetra, Yiannis Rovithakis.

This young man did his appreciable duty to the state, by offering to his city one of the hundreds of archaeological finds of the ancient city of Hierapytna (modern Hierapetra), that are found. My duty is to suggest to the Hierapetra’s Municipality to honor this man, along with Manolis Kornilakis, who a while ago found at the site of Gra Lygia some pithoi and amphoras of the Minoan times and he also gave them to the authorities. These people are exceptional and such actions should teach all of us to respect our cultural heritage and do the same, if we come across with such a case.

And finally for the historical side of affairs, the artifact in question here possibly harks back to the Roman time frame, with the archaeologists expected to present their analysis by the end of the month.

Source/ Image Credit: Nea Kriti

The article was partly translated into English by Mimika Kriga, an archaeologist working in Athens, Greece. You can get in touch with her here. 

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