If you snoop around the Greek island of Naxos, you might stumble across a rock statue quietly sleeping in a marble quarry. He’s known as the Kouros of Apollonas. Although he may look a bit like an Easter Island Moai statue, it’s believed this unfinished sculpture actually depicts a bearded Greek god.
The Kouros of Apollonas, also known as the Colossus of Dionysus, is located at one of the oldest quarries in Greece near the sleepy seaside village of Apollonas on the northern part of Naxos in the Aegean Sea.
Stretching for 10.7 meters (35 feet), the human-shaped figure lays on its back. Although its form is faint as it remains unfinished, features like legs, arms, and even a bearded face can be seen emerging from the stone.
To create the statue, ancient sculptors used hammers and chisels, as well as iron drills and wedges, to chip away at the marble. Interestingly, it's thought the technique they used means they never worked on a single feature, like an arm or leg, at a time. Instead, they sculpted the figure as a whole and removed the marble in layers.
Once the bulk of the work was complete, the finer details would have most likely not been completed until it arrived at its final location to avoid damage during transit.
Look closer and you’ll see the statue is lined with horizontal grooves, which are evidence of this style of sculpting.
Estimates of its date vary, but most suggest it was created between the eighth and sixth centuries BCE during the Archaic period of Ancient Greece. Springing out of the Greek Dark Ages, this was a time of striking changes in art, politics, and technology that paved the way for the Classical Age of Greece known for its art, science, and philosophy.
It was originally believed this vast statue was to pay homage to Apollo since the local town was named after this god. However, in the 1930s archaeologists realized the figure was bearded, suggesting it actually depicted Dionysus, the merry god of wine and pleasure.
It was carved out of Naxian marble, a revered form of large-crystal white marble quarried in Naxos that was frequently used to make Ancient Greek sculptures known as Kouros statues. These free-standing statues depicted naked young men, standing naturally with their arms by their sides.
Although not much of a looker nowadays, it’s likely the Kouros of Apollonas has been somewhat affected by natural erosion over the centuries. It’s also notable that the sculpture is not protected and visitors are free to clamber on top of it for holiday snaps, which has not helped its condition.
As for why the beautiful statue was left unfished and abandoned, we can only wonder.