Sculpture mystery baffles Concordia researchers

Montreal's Concordia University wants the public's help in solving an archeological mystery involving an ancient stone statue.
Students check out The Starving of Saqqara statue at Concordia's EV building in downtown Montreal on Wednesday. (CBC)

Montreal's Concordia University wants the public's help in solving an archeological mystery involving an ancient stone statue.

The university has put the limestone statue of two intertwined, large-headed figures on display in the main atrium of the downtown engineering campus.

The statue can also be viewed on the university's website.

The university believes the statue is of ancient Egyptian or Mediterranean origin and is calling it The Starving of Saqqara.

There are traces of script on the figures, but no scholar has been able to identify the language, deepening the level of curiousity.

"We've got a big mystery," said George Harrison, a professor in Concordia's department of classics.

"Most pieces, you look at it and you can tell that it's associated with this period or the other. This one, we can't nail it down."

Greek family donated sculpture to school

The sculpture is part of a collection brought to Canada by Vincent Diniacopoulos, a Greek immigrant from France.

The Starving of Saqqara was donated to Concordia University in 1999 by Vincent and Olga Diniacopoulos. (Concordia University)
Diniacopoulos amassed a world-class collection of antiquities gathered from Egypt, Israel and other ancient sites.

His wife Olga donated the collection and its archives to the university in 1999.

Since then, experts from Cambridge University, the British Museum, the Brooklyn Museum, the Israel Museum and the Royal Ontario Museum have all been consulted.

No authority has been able to confirm the sculpture's pedigree, said Clarence Epstein, Concordia's director of special projects and cultural affairs

"It's a conundrum. We're reaching out to the international community of scholars and the local community to help us understand what it might be," said Epstein.

Guesses abound

On a recent visit, two professors stood in the shadow of the sculpture to guess at its history.

"For sure it's pre-Hellenic, but not from the Mediterranean area," said Davi Carutta, a professor of archeology from Brazil, before settling on sub-Saharan African as his guess.

"Yah, I think it's a fake, honestly," countered George Vatistas, a Concordia engineering professor.

Harrison doubts that is the case.

"You only fake things that are important. You fake a coin of Alexander the Great because he's famous, and somebody wants to buy into the mystique. You do not fake something like that," he said.

Student Corey Coates checked out the statue after hearing that it was "creepy looking."

"I wanted to see what all the fuss was about," said Coates. "It's one of those things that could remain a mystery forever."

The sculpture will be on display in the atrium of Concordia's EV Complex at 1515 Sainte-Catherine St. West until 1 p.m. Friday.