di Davide Marchetta
(ANSA) - Reggio Calabria, August 21 - Archaeologists are investigating the discovery of a gilded bronze lion found off the coast of Calabria not far from where the famed Riace Bronzes were discovered 40 years ago. Armour in bronze and copper was also found by a diver and two tourists in the area that is now closed to the public as investigators probe the details of the find. One of the divers who made the discovery said there may be a ship and other important artifacts there as well. "When I went into the water, I saw a statue that was stuck between the rocks and a piece of the ship," explained Bruno Bruzzaniti. "The tides, however, cover everything and then you must be really fortunate to be able to see other items that are still at the bottom of the sea." The discovery sounds similar to that of the iconic Riace Bronzes, 2,500-year-old statues representing ancient warriors which were discovered in 1972 by a Roman holidaymaker scuba diving off the Calabrian coast. That find turned out to be one of Italy's most important archaeological discoveries in the last 100 years. Those statues are of two virile men, presumably warriors or gods, who possibly held lances and shields at one time. At around two metres, they are larger than life. The newly discovered bronze lion is said to be about 50 centimetres high and weighs 15 kilograms. Also found in the area of the lion were remains of vases and other statues. An early hypothesis suggests that all these newly found items were aboard a ship that sank just off the Calabrian coast. However, it's up to experts in the Cultural Heritage department to determine the precise age of the artifacts and piece together what happened that left the objects strewn around the sea bed. "We think these are pieces of value and the important thing is that they be safeguarded and protected," said Bruzzaniti. "It's a great discovery for the whole of Calabria." It's believed the discovery was made last week, but authorities say they weren't informed until Monday. If so, that's contrary to regulations that oblige explorers to report historic finds within 24 hours, said Simonetta Bonomi, superintendent for archaeological and cultural heritage of Calabria,. "There are a number of elements that must be...clarified," she said Tuesday.