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20 January 2006
Early Spanish sculpture to return to town

An early Spanish sculpture, symbol of the advanced nature of prehistoric culture on the Mediterranean coast, is to return on loan to the town where it was discovered. The Dame of Elche a striking stone bust dating from between the fourth and fifth centuries BCE was uncovered in 1897 by farm laborers who informed a local doctor and art connoisseur.
     The find was made near the town of Elche on the eastern coast of Spain at a spot that had been called Illici Augusta Colonia Julia during the Roman Empire, and Helike by Iberian tribes that dominated the area before that. The sculpture's artistic and historical importance were immediately obvious and the bust was sold the same year to the Louvre Museum in Paris. Under Nazi German occupation in 1941, Paris returned the sculpture to Spain, where it became a popular exhibit in the Prado Museum until 1971, when it was given a permanent home at Madrid's National Archaeological Museum.
     Following exhaustive tests that found the sculpture to be in very good structural condition, the museum decided to lend the famous bust to a museum in Elche, near where experts believe it would have been sculpted some 2,500 years ago.

Sources: Associated Press, Nola.com (19 January 2006), Pravda (20 January 2006)

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