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Two more statues of Iron Age boxers unearthed in Sardinia

Archaeologists in Sardinia have unearthed the torsos of two more limestone statues of boxers within the Iron Age necropolis of Mont’e Prama, Italy’s culture ministry said Saturday.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

This view of the Cabras excavation site shows parts of one of the statue’s torso, a leg and a head that has been cut off at the neck.
This view of the Cabras excavation site shows parts of one of the statue’s torsos, a leg and a head that has been cut off at the neck. Photo: Italy’s Ministry of Culture
Culture Minister Dario Franceschini called the find at the archaeological site in Cabras, western central Sardinia, an “exceptional discovery” that should shed more light on the ancient Mediterranean culture whose tombs and
statuary have been slowly uncovered since the 1970s.

The naked torsos and other fragments have been identified as boxers, due to a shield that wraps around their bodies, and are similar to another two sculptures unearthed a few metres away in 2014 and now on display at the local museum, the ministry said.

Archaeologists working on the southern part of the sprawling necropolis — first discovered in 1974 by local farmers — also found the continuation of the site’s funerary road on a north-south axis, along which have been found
tombs dating back to between about 950 BC to 730 BC.

While small and medium-sized fragments are being documented and recovered from the earth, “the two large and heavy blocks of torsos will need time to be freed from the sediment surrounding them and to be prepared for safe recovery,” said the culture ministry’s superintendent for southern Sardinia, Monica Stochino.

The site is believed to be part of the Nuragic civilisation that controlled the island of Sardinia for centuries beginning in the Bronze Age. The people erected mysterious stone towers called “nuraghe” that today dot the Sardinian
countryside and whose original purpose remains unknown.

Thousands of fragments and major pieces from Mont’e Prama discovered over the decades have so far been reassembled into about two dozen statues, each over 2 metres tall, that have been identified as warriors, archers or boxers.

Archaeologists still do not know precisely what the statues represent or what purpose they served.

Nor is it clear where they were originally located before being deliberately shattered in ancient times, according to researchers — who cannot agree whether this was carried out by Phoenicians, Carthaginians, or by warring Nuragic groups themselves — and strewn above and near the tombs.

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Phallus of Pompeii: Italian art exhibition reveals ancient sexuality
Raunchy scenes may redden faces at a new exhibition in Pompeii on art and sexuality in the ancient Roman city, where sculptures and paintings of breasts and buttocks abound.

Published: 4 May 2022 09:41 CEST
Phallus of Pompeii: Italian art exhibition reveals ancient sexuality
Archaeologists excavating the city, which was destroyed by the eruption of nearby Vesuvius in 79 AD, were initially startled to discover erotic images everywhere, from garden statues to ceiling frescos.

Since those first digs in the 18th-century site, racy images have been found in taverns, thermal baths and private homes, from huge erect penises to a statue with both male and female physical attributes.

READ ALSO: Roman chariot unearthed ‘almost intact’ near Pompeii

It became clear that “this is a city where sensuality, eroticism, are ever-present,” Pompeii’s site director Gabriel Zuchtriegel told AFP as he stood in front of statues of bare-chested Centaurs.

The discoveries initially caused “dismay, embarrassment, and curiosity, and were seen by some as a great opportunity to think about the relationship with their bodies and nudity in a very different way”.

 

Pompeii’s site director Gabriel Zuchtriegel, poses during a new exhibition in Pompeii’s site entitled “Art and sensuality in the houses of Pompeii”. (Photo by Andreas SOLARO / AFP)
The Neapolitan King Charles VII, who financed the excavations, shut some of the more bawdy finds away in a secret cabinet in Naples, only showing them to those of proven moral standing, Zuchtriegel said.

READ ALSO: Italian archaeologists uncover slave room at Pompeii in ‘rare’ find

That secret cabinet still exists today in the archaeological museum in the southern Italian city.

The exhibition, which runs until January 2023 and brings together some 70 works, begins with the vast erect penis on a statue of the god Priape – a Roman symbol of fertility and prosperity.

 

This photograph shows a “Statue-fountain of Priapus, symbol of prosperity” during a new exhibition in Pompeii’s site entitled “Art and sensuality in the houses of Pompeii”. (Photo by Andreas SOLARO / AFP)
Priape and his phallus was traditionally placed in the atrium, the large central hall of Roman houses.

Suitable for children?

Visitors are told this has nothing to do with eroticism, “though the modern imagination gives it this meaning”, says Tiziana Rocco from the Pompeii exhibition office.

The smirking of embarrassed tourists is proof enough of that, despite some wishing it otherwise.

“I think modern American culture is a little bit too prudish, and uncomfortable with the human body,” says Seattle tourist Daniel Berglund.

“It’s nice to see ancient culture that was more open and willing to display and glorify the human body,” the 40-year-old said as he lingered in front of paintings from a “cubiculum”, or Roman bedroom.

Various scenes are shown, including a man and a woman having sex. Further on, a series of oil lamps shine light on images to make pulses race – though the curators have not forgotten that some people will be bringing their children to the exhibition.

“Families and children make up a large part of our public,” says Zuchtriegel, who has put together an illustrated guide for them.

READ ALSO: IN PHOTOS: Pompeii’s treasures go on display at reopened Antiquarium museum

“The theme may seem difficult, but it is omnipresent in Pompeii, so it must be explained to children in one way or another,” he said.

In the guide, a centaur – a creature from Greek mythology that is half man, half horse – searches for a mate.

A visitor walks during a new exhibition in Pompeii’s site entitled “Art and sensuality in the houses of Pompeii. (Photo by Andreas SOLARO / AFP)
On the way he meets Narcissus, who fell in love with his own image, Dionysus, the god of wine, and Hermaphrodite, the child of Aphrodite and Hermes, who had both male and female sexual organs.

“It’s a playful way to meet the different figures of Greek myths present in Pompeii,” Zuchtriegel said

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