His heart pounded as he made out the unusual shape resting on the sea bed. Something about how the rays of light were hitting the underwater face made a shiver go down his spine.
He suddenly lost his breath and quickly returned to the surface to ask for backup. Little did he know, this journey was just beginning.
Stefano Mariottini was diving in the waters of Calabria, Italy when he stumbled into a life-changing experience.
Stefano was a chemist in profession but also liked to consider himself as an amateur deep-sea diver. He had a love for the sport which is what brought him to vacation in Calabria, Italy.
It was his third day on vacation and he had yet another day of dive fishing planned. He loved getting a close look at various sea life and often even dreamt about discovering a new form of life on his little expeditions.
Little did he know, his desire for discovery would lead him down a frightening path.
His thoughts ran wild as he swam closer. Just across the bay was Sicily, a renowned spot for Mafia connections. His heart pounded as he struggled with his reaction to flee, but he couldn’t turn away.
Stephano was alone when he dove 26 feet off the Ionian Coast of Riace. As always, he was well prepared for his dive – or so he thought.
The water was crystal clear and blue, but the ocean bed was covered in coral and concreations. Fish swam in and out of the aquatic plants that lined the sand floor.
As Stephano edged towards the sea bed, he spotted something peculiar in the distance. He squinted, something resembling the curve of a nose and lips — it was a face.
Stephano froze in fear. He squinted harder. Was he really seeing a face or were they just strangely shaped corals and rocks?
He closed his eyes and shook his head. He was definitely imagining this. He knew eyes could play tricks on you, especially when underwater in an unfamiliar place. He decided to calm his wild assumptions and swim closer.
His heart raced as he realized that what he was seeing was indeed a face. But the closer he got, the less real the face looked. When he finally was within arms reach, he touched it, and that’s when he made a startling realization.
His breath quickened as he realized he wasn’t alone. In the distance, was another murky figure.
Right ahead of him, Stephano could just about make out another human figure. He tried to steady his heart as he took in the details of the face he now embraced.
It wasn’t long before he realized that he was touching a bronze statue. Whether it was real and of any kind of value however, was something he couldn’t figure out. But there was something else.
As he made his way over to the second statue, Stephano suddenly felt strange. Looking into the dishevelled sculpture, he felt something he never felt before.
Something about how the rays of light were hitting the underwater work-of-fallen-art made a shiver go up his spine. He suddenly lost his breath with its rustic beauty. He quickly returned to the surface and called the authorities.
The Italian authorities didn’t need much convincing to come to Stephano’s aid. They were at the scene in less than 30 minutes. Within an hour, they hauled the statues to the surface, where the commotion had suddenly attracted numerous locals to stay and watch.
Stephano helped haul the statues to the boat. When they were all aboard. His jaw hit the floor. What was it?
Rome is the capital city of Italy, and is one of the oldest cities in Europe. The authorities told Stephano that their rich history as a city meant that these statues he found could be much more than just decaying props of a movie set.
Now, Stephano knew he could have found something remarkable. Was he right?
To investigate the authenticity of the statues, they were sent to the National Museum in Reggio Calabria for cleaning and restoration.
There – and to much of Stephano’s delight, it was discovered that they had been on the seafloor for over 2,500 years! They certainly weren’t just discarded decorations, so what were they?
As it turns out, the statues were identified as original Greek bronzes from the 5th century B.C. in the Early Classical period! These astonishing statues may have existed at the same time Alexander the Great and Socrates graced the earth.
Unfortunately, they couldn’t confirm anything else due to one complication in the statues…
As the statues had been underwater for so long, they suffered from water damage and were covered in dense concretions that obscured the details around their faces.
Fortunately, the restoration team were able to remove the concretions, and what they found underneath showcased the unbelievable artistry of their ancient sculptors.
Stephano kept up-to-date with the unveiling of these statues and eventually learnt that they came from two renowned artists of the time; Myron and Alkamenes. They were also hailed as the most pristine artifacts and even featured in parades and on postage stamps.
But how they ended up in Stephano’s hands, no one knows…