ATHENS – A funerary stele dated to the 4th century BC that was returned to Greece by British authorities was revealed to the public at the Epigraphical Museum in Athens on Tuesday.
The stele’s provenance is lost, because it was the product of smuggling. But its stylistic details and the white, fine-grained Pentelic marble it is made of indicates it was made in Attica.
It is 87.5 cm tall, 37 cm wide and 10 cm thick, and its top end has the familiar triangular shape of a pediment, which once had painted plant decoration on it. The main part depicts a sculpted loutrophoros – a vase used for funerary rites and the bridal bath – and carved on the body of the vessel is the seated figure of a woman and the standing figure of a young man. Between the top and the main body is carved the name ‘Epikrates’, probably belonging to the young man.
The stele made its way onto a Christie’s catalogue for an auction on December 8, 2021, and was given a starting price of 60.000-80,000 British pounds. Routine market research by the Greek Culture Ministry’s Directorate of Documentation and Protection of Cultural Goods flagged the item for further research, and it was eventually determined it was a product of antiquities smuggling.
Culture Minister Lina Mendoni said the stele would remain at the Epigraphical Museum, instead of being transferred to a local museum, since its city of origin could not be determined so far.