Missing Head of Ancient Greek Statue Unearthed After 2,100 Years


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A post shared by Celal Şimşek (@laodikeiakazisi)

Ancient Greeks immortalized their gods in many ways, but most notably in elegant, magnificent stone statues. Many of these statues survive today, whole or in pieces, and offer insight into a lost world of worship and art. Archeologists continue to discover new examples of statues in new places. Recently, archeological work in ancient Laodicea on the Lycus, now modern-day Turkey, unearthed two exciting finds. First, a statue of Asclepius, the Greek god of medicine, was discovered close to an ancient theater. Next, archeologists unearthed the head of a statue depicting his daughter, Hygieia, goddess of health and hygiene.

Laodicea on the Lycus was an ancient city within Asia Minor, situated in a spot of busy trade alongside rivers. It was founded in the third century BCE by the Seleucid Empire, a Hellenistic empire that succeeded the partition of Alexander the Great‘s empire. The city's Greek culture is reflected in its architecture, including an agora and temples.

In the second century BCE, the city became Roman territory. It was affected by wars and earthquakes and was eventually destroyed and abandoned during the medieval Byzantine period. However, today, the abandoned city ruins are a delight to archeologists, who have been particularly concerned with excavating and restoring its magnificent stepped western theater.

The statue of the god Asclepius was discovered in 2024 in proximity to the theater. In May, the head of his daughter Hygieia was also uncovered, buried beneath the dirt. Professor Celal Şimşek, who directs the excavations, identified the head as being 2,1000 years ago and dating to the second century BCE, during the city's Hellenistic period.

“Both statues were made in the late Hellenistic-early Augustus Period in the classical style,” he tells the Hurriyet Daily News. “The statues of the god and goddess of health reveal the presence of the Herophileion medical school in the ancient city of Laodicea and the ancient writer Strabo, one of the important doctors trained there. All statues have very fine workmanship and are of high artistic quality.”

While the goddess's body has yet to be discovered, excavations continue, and one can hope she will be complete and in her glory once more.

A 2,100-year-old statue head of the Greek goddess Hygieia was discovered in ancient Laodicea, now modern-day Turkey.


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A post shared by Celal Şimşek (@laodikeiakazisi)

h/t: [Popular Mechanics, Hurriyet Daily News]

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Madeleine Muzdakis

Madeleine Muzdakis is a Contributing Writer at My Modern Met and a historian of early modern Britain & the Atlantic world. She holds a BA in History and Mathematics from Brown University and an MA in European & Russian Studies from Yale University. Madeleine has worked in archives and museums for years with a particular focus on photography and arts education. When she isn’t writing, she enjoys hiking, film photography, and studying law while cuddling with her cat Georgia.
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