UNIVERSITY OF ZADAR
Department of archaeology
Apoxyomenos, an ancient bronze statue of an athlete scraping off oil and dust from his body after a competition, was found in 1996. by a Belgian tourist René Wouters, under the sea off the little island of Vele Orjulen close to Lošinj, a Croatian island. The statue was lying on a sandy seabed, stuck between two rocks, at a depth of approximately 45 m. Investigations suggest that it might be an original Greek statue dated back to the 4th century BC, or a Roman copy of this statue. Since only a few original Greek bronze statues remained, Apoxyomenos is an extraordinary example of the world cultural heritage, therefore restoration and determination of its origin is of great importance.
In 1998. this find, of incalculable value, was reported to the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Croatia. The Ministry of Culture took over the coordination of the project, which envisaged systematic submarine archaeological exploration, the raising of the statue and its conservation-restoration. But before the beginning of the investigation, in spring 1999 Croatian Minister of Culture Božo Biskupić, for security reasons, made a decision that the statue ought to be raised at once, to forestall unlawful diving operations at the site. The raising action involved experts from the Ministry of Culture and the Archaeological Museum in Zadar, as well as Special Police and professional divers. The statute was finally brought to the surface on April 27, 1999, and during June that year, extensive underwater investigations at the site were carried out in quest of any other valuable finds there might be. Immediately after the raising, a team of experts examined the statue, and gammagraphic imaging was carried out to provide a better picture of the state of preservation of the statue. The front of the statue was completely covered with a thick layer of incrustation (organogenic calcium deposits) that had protected the bronze structure against the harmful effects of marine galvanochemical processes. But the rear of the statue, which had lain in the sand, was much more seriously corroded. While still in the sea, the lead join of head and neck had completely given way, and the head had thus come apart from the body; cracks on the left shoulder and the front and rear of the upper right leg were observed. The little finger was missing from the left hand, and the inserts that should have been in the eye sockets were unfortunately not to be found.
For the performance of the conservation and restoration operations, a team of two was chosen: Giuliano Tordi, the Italian restorer, who led the conservation and restoration works, in association with Antonio Serbetić, restorer specialist and head of the Metal Laboratory of the Croatian Conservation Institute. The operations were watched over by a commission of experts, consisting of Academician Nenad Cambi, Academician Igor Fisković, Dr. Mario Jurišić, Professor Ante Rendić Miočević and the chairman, Miljenko Domijan, who also coordinated works as chief conservator of the Ministry of Culture. The removal of the thick layer of incrustation was a long-lasting and meticulous operation, which was done only mechanically, with precise hand and power tools, the aim being to preserve the original patina in places where it was still in existence. No chemical substances were used in the removal of the incrustation. Then came consolidation of the most serious cracks and breaks; this was done with arametal, or araldite resin, with additional reinforcements using brass struts in the right...
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