Agrigento, exceptional recovery at sea: a fragment of the Temple of Zeus resurfaces


Important recovery in the sea of Agrigento: divers from the Nucleo Tutela Patrimonio Culturale (Cultural Heritage Protection Unit), together with the Superintendence of the Sea and the BCsicilia association, recovered a fragment of the ancient Temple of Zeus lying on the seabed.

A recovery described as “exceptional” was carried out yesterday in Sicily, in the sea off Agrigento. The operations, which took place in the stretch of water in front of San Leone, not far from the mouth of the Akragas River, were conducted by divers from the Carabinieri’s Diving Unit, in the presence of officials from the Superintendency of the Sea, the Carabinieri’s Cultural Heritage Protection Unit and members of the Underwater Group of BCsicilia, a voluntary association that works in the field of protection and enhancement of Sicily’s cultural heritage and which spread the news.

The find recovered in the sea of Agrigento is most likely a marble frontal decoration belonging to the famous Temple of Zeus: the fragment depicts a prancing horse, an iconic element in artistic representations of the Greek period. Covered with concretions, the find, almost certainly made of Proconnesian marble, measuring 2 meters by 1.6 meters and 35 cm thick, lay about 300 meters from the coast, at a depth of 9 meters, and had been known to archaeologists for a long time, but was marked in the archaeological map as a banal and anonymous “basin.” The recognition as a basin had never convinced the BCsicilia Underwater Group, led by engineer Gaetano Lino, which in October 2022 carried out, together with volunteer diver Salvatore Ferrara, and thanks also to the external contribution of Francesco Urso, of the BCsicilia office in Agrigento, a 3D survey.

Thus, from the processing of the photos useful for the three-dimensional underwater survey, an image emerged of what appears to be the detail of a temple gable frieze. The association immediately gave notice of the discovery to the Superintendence of the Sea in order to recover the exceptional find, which was finally brought back to shore this morning, after two previous attempts rendered futile by the turbidity of the water. The fate of the find is not yet known: what is certain is that those involved managed to complete a rather complex operation with great professionalism, making possible the recovery of a very relevant find for the archaeological history of the ancient city of Agrigento.

3D image of the October 2022 in situ finding processed by BCsicilia.
3D image of the in situ find from October 2022 processed by BCsicilia
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The find in the underwater environment in 2022. The find in the
underwater environment in 2022
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The recovered artifact with participants in the operation.
The recovered find with participants in the operation
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Agrigento, exceptional recovery at sea: a fragment of the Temple of Zeus resurfaces
Agrigento, exceptional recovery at sea: a fragment of the Temple of Zeus resurfaces


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