Fisherman nets centuries-old statue of Greek god Apollo in Gaza Strip
A local fisherman says he scooped the 500kg, life-sized bronze from the sea bed last August, and carried it home on a donkey cart, unaware of the significance of his catch.
Others soon guessed at its importance, and the statue briefly appeared on eBay with a $500,000 (£300,000) price tag - well below its true value. Police from the Islamist group Hamas say they are investigating.
To their great frustration, archaeologists have not been able to get their hands on the Apollo, and instead must pore over a few blurred photographs of the intact deity, who is laid out incongruously on a blanket emblazoned with Smurfs.
From what they can tell it was cast sometime between the 5th and the 1st century BC, making it at least 2,000 years old.
His mother was less happy when she saw the naked Apollo carried into the house, demanding that his private parts be covered. “My mother said ‘what a disaster you have brought with you’ as she looked at the huge statue,” said Ghrab.
The discoloured green-brown figure shows the youthful, athletic god standing upright on two, muscular legs; he has one arm outstretched, with the palm of his hand held up.
He has compact, curly hair, and gazes out seriously at the world, one of his eyes apparently inlaid with a blue stone iris, the other just a vacant black slit.
Ghrab says he cut off one of the fingers to take to a metals expert, thinking it might have been made of gold. Unbeknownst to him, one of his brothers severed another finger for his own checks. This was melted down by a jeweller.
Family members belonging to a Hamas militia soon took charge of the statue, and at some stage the Apollo appeared on Ebay, with the seller telling the buyer to come and collect the item from Gaza.
That would have been easier said than done, however, as Gaza is virtually sealed off from the outside world, with both Israel and Egypt imposing rigid controls on access to the impoverished enclave and its 1.8 million inhabitants.
Whether any potential buyers stepped forward is not clear, but when Hamas’s civilian authorities found out about the artefact, they ordered that the police seize it.