Why was the Gaza statue’s left eye gouged out?

As Bloomberg Businessweek‘s Vernon Silver and the Palestinian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities in Gaza observed, the Gaza “Apollo” (or, more likely but less romantically, the Gaza tray-bearer) has ‘one intact inlaid eye‘ and one missing. But one thing that I don’t believe has been discussed is when and why it lost its left eye.

As far as I know, in all of the fisherman’s infuriatingly inconsistent tellings of his tale, never has he mentioned that one of the statue’s eyes was gouged out while photographs were being taken to advertise the sale.

But it’s not a trick of the light in a poor-resolution image. In one of the photographs in the eBay advert, the statue only has one eye; in another, it has both eyes intact. The statue’s left eye was punched in or torn out between photos. So if the fisherman and/or his family did it, why did (t)he(y) do it, why did (t)he(y) do it then, and why hasn’t he explained it?

Update (16th February 2014)

Vladimir Stissi has commented,

It does seem there is a big hole on the lower photographs, but the inlaid pupil is already missing on the top one, what may have fallen out is a part of the filling originally forming the white part of the eye – glass, ivory/bone, limestone or some composite which would be rather brittle. I don’t think gouging is needed for this kind of damage.

Likewise, David Meadows had asked, ‘anyone else think that gaza apollo doesnt look ‘right‘?’ When I had asked in return whether a forger would have damaged his own work, David considered: ‘Maybe it wasn’t the forger… And maybe it wasn’t attached properly to begin with.’

If it were a forgery and its hand and face were damaged by its forger, the forger either got their work confiscated immediately through their own behaviour, or they were unable to sell it for two months then tried to auction it in English via Canada. If its hand and face weren’t damaged by the forger, it was forged, then it was confiscated by the Al Qassam Brigade that induced the fisherman to pretend to be its finder, tried to sell it and damaged it in the process, then it was confiscated by Hamas Police.

I don’t think that a forger would have had enough practice and business to produce this statue, either while behaving like (or employing people who behaved like) the fisherman and/or his family, or while lacking an outlet for their products. Still (though as far as we know the statue was laid down and was not being knocked or shaken), as it was fragile and decaying, the eye filling may may fallen out naturally. Regardless, the eye damage is yet another thing to add to the list of things that need to be explained.

Update (23rd February 2014)

Gaza antiquities director Ahmed Elburch inspected the statue in October 2013 and judged that ‘one of the eyes had been cut out‘.

a photo of the statue with both eyes

In one of the photographs for the eBay advert, the statue still has both eyes.

a photo of the statue with one eye missing

In another of the photographs for the eBay advert, the statue has only one eye.

a photograph that clearly shows that the statue's left eye is missing

In Reuters’ photograph, it’s very clear that the eye is missing.
(c) Reuters (published in the Guardian, 10th February 2014)

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9 Comments to “Why was the Gaza statue’s left eye gouged out?”

  1. It does seem there is a big hole on the lower photographs, but the inlaid pupil is already missing on the top one, what may have fallen out is a part of the filling originally forming the white part of the eye — glass, ivory/bone, limestone or some composite which would be rather brittle. I don’t think gouging is needed for this kind of damage..

  2. Ah, cool! So the heads were cast with empty eye sockets (like this), then? Thanks!

  3. Looking at it and reading the discovery stories, I am still not completely convinced the statue is not a forgery. It is indeed quite difficult to produce a statue like this, and one would not expect it to turn up in Gaza. The damage to the fingers, however, is of a kind one sees more often with forgeries: minor defects make an item more authentic-looking, also because people apparently expect fakes to be as perfect as possible. Damage can also hide indications of forgery. Finally, a forged decaying eye could well be as brittle as a real one.

    The clumsiness of what is happening is perhaps more problematic, especially considering the sophistication of the statue itself. You have a good point there. On the other hand, if the statue is a forgery, it is quite clear that whatever cunning plan there was in the beginning, things have gone monumentally wrong. Either it was never the plan that the statue appeared in the press before it was exported or sold, or the owners underestimated the effects of an appearance staged to find a buyer.

    The famous and tragic case of the so-called Persian princess (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Persian_Princess) may offer some interesting parallels (and differences) here.

    But let’s hope the statue is not a fake.

    • I’m not saying that it can’t be a forgery. Things Have Gone Monumentally Wrong could be the title for this entire story and every stage in it. I’m just saying that, if it is an unconvincing forgery that has been (possibly twice) confiscated as the genuine article, it will achieve (glorious) new heights of monumental wrongness.

  4. Yes, you are completely right 🙂 I hope we will find out at some point…

  5. The eye is missing in ALL photos. What you understand as an eye in the first photo of this post (the eBay photo), is the inner surface of the head, illuminated by the direct flash light passing by the (empty) orbit. The area has the greenish color of the metal, and it is very different from the dark marble of the real eye.
    In Reuters’ photo, the hole is darker because the flash light is more diffuse, and comes from the left side (look at the shadows), so it does not fully illuminate the inner surface of the head.
    There are no doubts to me, it is just a visual artefact of light/shadows.

    • The eye is present in the first photo. You can see a continuous grey patch from the lower eyelid to the eyeball, a continuous metallic grey patch from the tear duct to the eyeball, and a continuous metallic patch from the eyeball to the outer corner.

  6. You can see these grey patches in the Reuters’ photo as well (even if I am not fully convinced they are metal, they might be some concretion). To me, photo 1 and photo 3 show exactly the same things, with different light conditions.

    • I agree that they might not be metal; I just meant that they were like metal, not like the plain grey patch.

      It seems, to me, that the grey patch on the lower eyelid is the only one of those patches left. It looks like the corners of the eye are very clearly defined in Reuters’ photo, because the filling of the eye, and the corroded(?) material inside the corners of the eye, have gone.

      I really wish we had better photographs from its discovery.

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