from Andrew Horton's book "Bones in the sea – Time apart on a greek island")

Kea has its fair share of ancient statues that have come to light over the years. Best known would be the handsome Kouros (young man) of Keos (7th century BC) housed in the National Museum of Athens.

But one statue is a mystery and joy unexpected : the Lion of Kea. No museum encases this happy beast. Located a country mile from the center of the village, the Lion of Kea reclines regally halfway up a steep slope, smiling at all who come to pay their respects. Carved into a huge six-meter-long rock, by an unknown artist from an unknown period, this powerful but friendly fellow holds his own secret.

6th century BC or 12th ? A unique tribute to his species or part of some long forgotten cult ? Nobody knows.

Yet there he is, smiling.

Hiking to sit at his weather-worn paws at dusk is a favorite end-of-day activity. His smile faces the village. Either in irony or in contentment, or perhaps both, his smile comforts. The Lion of Kea is a friend.

There was surely a time when lions roamed Kea. And despite the abundance of water and sun and crops, life must have been hard most of the time. Surely after a brief period when the Kouros statues also smiled (an Egyptian influence, so they say), Greek statues adopted the knowing, reflective, serious look reflected in the Charioteer of the famous statue of Poseidon hurling a trident.

But on Kea, and nowhere else, a stone lion smiles.

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