Giant Statue Returns to Ancient Greek Archaeological Site in Sicily

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ROME, March 1 (GCT) - A giant statue dating back approximately 2,500 years has been restored and returned to Sicily's Valley of the Temples, an archaeological site described by ancient Greek poet Pindar as "man's finest city."

The 8-meter-high representation of the mythological giant, Telamon, was originally part of the temple of Zeus, one of the renowned Doric constructions on the site that art historians consider the main ancient Greek historical record outside of Greece itself.

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"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 was returned to guard the temple on Thursday after 20 years of restoration work. In ancient times, the giant was one of many Telamon statues that formed part of the temple's structure. It was reconstructed from 90 fragments dating back to the fifth century BC and was excavated by archaeologists over a century ago, according to a statement from Sicily's regional government.

The Temple of Zeus was constructed to commemorate Agrigento's victory over the Carthaginians but was severely damaged by an earthquake in 1401. In the 18th century, the site was looted by raiders, and some remaining building blocks were used to construct a pier in the nearby coastal town of Porto Empedocle.

Since the 1800s, when experts first discovered 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 popular tourist destination that drew over a million visitors in 2023, according to Scarpinato.

In preparation for Agrigento becoming Italy's cultural capital for 2025, the Temple of Zeus will undergo extensive restoration work, said Sicily's regional president, Renato Schifani. The Telamon will be the centerpiece of the city's year in the spotlight, with plans for an augmented reality project and special lighting to encourage nighttime visits and promote this impressive work internationally, said Scarpinato.

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