A Group of Near Eastern Bronzes from Olympia
Recently a reconstruction was published for the fragmented remains of at least 13 registers of repoussé bronze frieze of Near Eastern workmanship, layered with fragments of Greek incised bronze. These were excavated from Well 17 near the north wall of the stadium at Olympia in February 1960 by the Deutsches Archaölogisches Institut. Nearly 30 years were spent on piecing together the fragments and on their subsequent conservation, analysis, and interpretation. The Near Eastern frieze and the incised Greek bronze were found to have been smelted in the same smelting operation, according to scientific analyses. The original publication proposed that some imported bronze frieze was melted down and reworked by Greek craftsmen. Both original frieze and reworked incised bronze were used together to create three sphyrelaton korai. The authors carefully catalogued all the pieces, and did a meticulous and persuasive reconstruction of the bronze fragments and the korai, of the bronze analysis, and of the connections of the Greek incised motifs to the Near East in general. In that publication, however, they almost completely neglected the history of the bronzes before they arrived in Greece. This missing history is the main subject of this article; in addressing this topic, I analyze the Near Eastern motifs, consider the purpose for which the Near Eastern bronze was initially fabricated, and put forth some observations about the techniques of working the reliefs and possible dates for its initial manufacture and termination of use in the Near East. A corrected date for its reuse in Greece is offered, based on the motifs incised on the Greek bronze, their organization, and style features of the korai, the final product.