Ancient head of Hades goes back home, to Italy

February 1, 2016

An ancient terracotta rendering of Hades has finally gone back home, to Italy, after being dug up illegally more than 30 years ago.

Bluebeard - that is the name given to the head - is more than 2000 years old and comes from one of numerous ancient sites in Italy that were illegally excavated in the late 1970s, before being sold abroad. The unique terracotta head depicts Hades, god of the underworld. He is shown with a bushy blue beard and curly hair, which still bear a good deal of the blue and red pigments with which they were painted 2,400 years ago.

The sculpture was acquired in 1985 by the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles - and now the museum itself has decided to return the work after similar fragments were found in central Sicily. So, Hades - ancient god of the underworld - goes back home, where he belongs.

It has also to be said that Getty museum officials and Sicilian researchers worked together to ascertain where the head came from. Curls of its hair had been found in a shrine to ancient Greek harvest goddess Demeter, so it only seems fair that the ancient god returns to Sicily. In particular, the head of Hades has been sent to the Aidone museum to which the Getty has already returned the "Cult Statue of a Goddess", known in Italy as the "Morgantina Venus”.

“It was great to be able to work with our Sicilian counterparts to identify the provenance of the head,” a spokesperson for the museum declared. "The process of identifying the head took two years and the museum agreed to give it back in 2013. Since then it's been in storage while we waited for instructions from Sicily for its eventual return. Officials finally arrived to pick up the statue this week.”

Sadly, Italy's archaeological venues have been plundered so extensively that the country set up a police corps dedicated to tracking down treasures which are dug up and smuggled abroad. Sometimes, some pieces are able to find their way back home.

Picture: Bluebeard (© farnesina / Flickr).

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