An Italian archaeological team is patch together an ancient statue from Crete, restoring it to its original condition and helping smooth over political tension sparked by the breakage .
The statue of the goddess Hera, unearthed on the Greek island of Crete by the Italian Archaeological School, was broken last September while under Italian care, attracting extensive media coverage and resulting in parliamentary questions in both countries .
"The problem of the statue from the Roman Theatre in the town of Gortyn has now been resolved," said Anna Maria Reggiani, the head of the Italian Culture Ministry's archaeology department .
"The plan has already been approved by the Greeks, much to the satisfaction of both governments." The incident occurred in September, while the newly unearthed statue was being transported. Although technically under Italian supervision, the archaeology team had hired local Greek workers for the move .
However, the breakage itself was the result of a freak gust of wind, which knocked the artefact to the ground, cracking it in two .
Some initial reports suggested the statue had been reduced to smithereens but it soon emerged that there was only a single break .
According to the co-director of the dig, Francesca Ghedini, the damage is "95% repairable" .
Ghedini, whose brother Niccolo Ghedini is Premier Silvio Berlusconi's lawyer, also suggested the incident had been used by the opposition for political purposes .
In an interview with daily Il Mattino di Padova, she denied that the breakage had caused any diplomatic problems, implying that the media coverage had been a storm in a teacup .
"Relations with Greece are excellent, just as they've always been," she said. "We still have a great many projects under way." Reggiani echoed these sentiments, stressing that "ties with our Greek colleagues are excellent" and explaining that both side were working on plans to open a Greek archaeological school in Rome .
Vassily Avarantinos, the classical antiquities superintendent of Viotia, a site near Athens, said the Greek authorities were satisfied .
"The Italian Archaeological School is a highly prestigious body," he explained. "I'm a superintendent, I've seen the excavation in Gortyn and I know that what happened to the statue of Hera can happen to anyone working on digs .
"The only real mistake is when people sit back and do nothing about such accidents. What's important is that a solution has been reached." The reconstruction work will be carried out by the Culture Ministry's archaeological team, headed by Giovanna Bandini. Work will start this month .