Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

Gaza fisherman hooks statue of ancient Greek god Apollo

By Nic Robertson and Talal Abu Rahma , CNN
updated 7:14 AM EST, Sat February 15, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: "Treasure pulled out of the sea"
  • Fisherman Jwdat Abu Ghrb says he discovered the statue off Gaza
  • The statue appeared on eBay with a starting price of $500,000, authorities say

Gaza (CNN) -- When Jwdat Abu Ghrb spotted a dark shape last summer in the waters off Gaza, where he was diving for fish, he initially thought it was a corpse.

"I was afraid," he told CNN. "I put on my goggles, dove underneath and still couldn't tell what it was. I resurfaced and got some help from other people and family members and came back, and after full four hours of trying we managed to get it out of the water and I was shocked by what I found."

It was a life-size bronze statue, believed to be a 2,500-year-old depiction of the ancient Greek god Apollo.

He described the half-ton object as "treasure pulled out of the sea."

"I thought it was made of gold; I was going to be rich," Ghrb said. "So I took it home to hide it."
But then others got involved. A local armed brigade took control of the statue, and someone listed it for sale on the online auction site eBay, with a starting price of about $500,000, according to authorities.

The posting raised suspicions among officials in the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities and the Interior Ministry in Gaza, which is governed by the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas.

The antiquities authority and the Interior Ministry opened an investigation into what they said they suspected was an illegal attempt to sell the work of art.

"It is against the law to sell an artifact found in the Palestinian territories and Gaza in an illegal manner," Ahmad Al-Burch, head of the antiquities department at the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities in Gaza, told CNN.

He said the case was being handled by the Ministry of the Interior, while the antiquities authority looks after the statue.

Authorities there asked that the statue, as a historical artifact found in Gaza, be handed over; they have hidden it from public view.

But in a Gaza gold store, a man who displayed video of the statue told CNN that he has custody of it and that it is in safe hands, but -- if someone wants to buy it -- that would be possible.

Government officials promise that the statue will not be sold and that they will start restoration and display it after an investigation into its discovery is completed.

"We are not denying that the statue was found in the sea -- as a matter of fact, that is a very authentic and real story," Al-Burch said.

A green spot -- a sign of decay -- has formed on the leg of the statue, which is exposed to the air.

"We are trying to preserve the statue to show it for the public in the near future."

He said the antiquities authority was working on a plan for the statue to be displayed in world-class museums around the world.

Museum authorities in Geneva, Switzerland, have offered to help repair and preserve the statue, and plan for its eventual display in Gaza, he said.

For Ghrb and his family, the discovery seems unlikely to land them the financial security they had hoped for with a sale. They are instead hoping to net a reward for the find, which has excited archaeologists around the world.

CNN's Kareem Khadder in Jerusalem and Laura Smith-Spark in London contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 8:25 AM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
Action needs to be taken immediately before affected states potentially collapse, says campaigner Bob Geldof.
updated 12:29 AM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
Thomas Malthus famously predicted that rising populations would create a food crunch: Could this be true?
updated 6:33 AM EDT, Sat October 18, 2014
From "Sick Man of Europe" to the world's fourth largest economy.
updated 1:06 PM EDT, Fri October 17, 2014
Each day, CNN brings you an image capturing a moment to remember, defining the present in our changing world.
updated 7:18 PM EDT, Wed October 15, 2014
Australian PM Tony Abbott vows to "shirt-front" Russia's Putin over the MH17 disaster.
updated 7:27 PM EDT, Wed October 15, 2014
Serbia and Albania try to play but the major game is called off after a drone flying a political flag enters the stadium.
updated 7:36 AM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
George Clooney's new wife, is now Amal Clooney, raising the issue of married names.
updated 1:57 PM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
The mysterious unmanned X-37B space plane returns to Earth after more than two years in space. But the U.S. Air force isn't saying much.
updated 12:55 PM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Public health experts are asking whether the CDC is getting the wrong message out.
updated 11:41 AM EDT, Mon October 13, 2014
It's no longer necessary to launch your startup in Silicon Valley -- thanks to the internet, you can do it anywhere.
updated 5:00 AM EDT, Wed October 8, 2014
From a "democracy wall" to a towering "Umbrella man" statue, see the best art from the massive protests in Hong Kong.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT