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Giant ancient Greek statue returns to Sicily’s Valley of the Temples

A giant statue dating back about 2,500 years has been restored to Sicily’s Valley of the Temples, an archeological site which ancient Greek poet Pindar described as “man’s finest city.”

The 8-metre-high representation of the mythological giant Telamon once supported the temple of Zeus, one of the famed Doric constructions on the site that art historians consider the principal ancient Greek historical record outside Greece itself.

“Telamon will become … the new international ambassador of an archaeological site with no equals worldwide,” said Sicily’s cultural heritage councilor Francesco Paolo Scarpinato.

The stone statue returned to guard the temple on Thursday, following 20 years of restoration work. In ancient times the giant was one of numerous Telamon statues that were part of the temple’s structure.

It was reassembled from 90 fragments from the fifth century BC and dug up by archaeologists over a century ago, Sicily’s regional government said in a statement.

The Temple of Zeus was built to celebrate Agrigento’s victory over the Carthaginians and was irreparably damaged by an earthquake in 1401.

Raiders looted the site in the 18th century and some remaining building blocks were used to build a pier at the nearby coastal town of Porto Empedocle.

Since the 1800s, when experts first stumbled upon the remains of the Telamon statues, the temple has attracted the interest of scholars determined to unearth its buried secrets.

The 1,300-hectare Valley of the Temples was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997 and is now a mass tourism destination which Scarpinato said drew over a million visitors in 2023.

The Temple of Zeus will receive extensive restoration work ahead of Agrigento becoming Italy’s culture capital for 2025, said Sicily’s regional president Renato Schifani.

The Telamon would be a centerpiece of the city’s year in the spotlight, promising “an augmented reality project and even special lighting to encourage nighttime visits … to promote this impressive work internationally,” Scarpinato said.

Source: Reuters