Head of Athena
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Greek, South Italy, about 420 B.C.
8 1/4 in.

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Not all Greek statues were made from a single material such as marble or bronze. This marble head is all that survives of a statue of the goddess Athena that would have been assembled from several materials. The unknown sculptor carved the parts of the body that represented exposed flesh--head, arms, feet--from marble, and then attached these to a body made out of another material, probably wood. This type of sculpture, called an acrolith by scholars, was produced most frequently in the Greek colonies in South Italy, where fine white marble had to be imported and was therefore very expensive.

The cuttings on the head help scholars reconstruct the statue's original appearance. A bronze helmet, a typical part of Athena's costume, would have hidden the fact that the top of the head was cut off. The rectangular cutting over each temple would have supported the raised cheekpieces of the helmet. The small holes drilled around the upper edge of the head probably held gilded locks of hair seen as falling out from under the helmet. Athena wore earrings in her pierced ears and her eyes were inlaid in a contrasting material.