May 16, 2008—A marble bust of an aging Julius Caesar—which may date back to 46 B.C.—has been found by divers in the Rhône River in southern France, officials say. The life-size sculpture (shown in a photo released this week) is etched with deep wrinkles and a balding pate.
The bust may be the oldest known representation of the famous Roman leader. Most known ancient sculptures of Caesar were created after his death.
(See a photo of another newfound bust of a Roman emperor.)
Divers uncovered the Caesar bust and a collection of other artifacts near the town of Arles, which was founded by Caesar in 46 B.C.
Among the ancient objects is a 5.9-foot (1.8-meter) marble statue of Neptune, dating to the early third century A.D.
Two smaller, bronze statues—each measuring 27.5 inches (70 centimeters)—were also found. One, a satyr with his hands tied behind his back, originated in Hellenic Greece, the French Culture Ministry said in a statement.
"Some [of the discoveries] are unique in Europe," French Culture Minister Christine Albanel said.
Researchers are trying to uncover "in what context these statues were thrown into the river," Michel L'Hour, who heads the Department of Subaquatic Archaeological Research, said in a statement. The organization's divers made the discovery between September and October 2007.
The site "has barely been skimmed," L'Hour told the Associated Press, adding that a new search operation will begin this summer.
He added that Arles—with its Roman beginnings—and the Rhône are "propitious" for future discoveries.
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