x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

A eureka moment

The discovery of the Apollo statue in Gaza reinforces the belief that we know very little about what lies beneath the region’s surface

We know that archaeological treasures lie scattered in abundance across the Middle East. Yet, we still know very little about what lies beneath the surface. The news about the discovery of a statue of the Greek god Apollo has again reinforced the belief that we have much to learn.

Lost for centuries, the 500kg statue – estimated to be 2,000 years old and considered unique because it is made of metal, an unusual material choice in that period – was discovered last summer in Gaza, and has since been seized by Hamas. The sculpture’s clean condition has raised doubts over claims that it was found on the seabed. Regardless of whether or not it was scooped from the sea, the piece has held out the possibility of a far more extensive treasure trove yet to be found.

In a similar eureka moment, archaeologists recently found a multipurpose ancient stone tool – compared to the modern-day Swiss Army knife – in Jebel Barakah on Abu Dhabi’s coast. It is thought to be 130,000 years old.

These artefacts represent little-known facets of the region’s history. We can only hope that the Apollo statue that vanished from public view as quickly as it appeared will be accessible for future study. It may be the tip of an archaeological iceberg that will lead us to dig deeper into the past.