In the 1860s peasants from the town of Bratsi, in the Greek region of Boeotia, north of Athens were plowing the soil when they unearthed an ancient grave, and then another and another. Although there were no lavish grave goods to be found, the burial sites did harbor a magnificent treasure of a different kind. As they dug, the peasants began to unearth beautifully made terracotta figurines. The fascinating little statues, mainly of female figures between three and nine inches tall, were everywhere. Eventually hundreds would be collected.
The accidental archaeologists offered the pieces for sale to anyone they met and news of the extraordinary find soon spread, attracting treasure hunters. Grimadha, near the location of the ancient city-state of Tanagra, was a popular target for looters. It is estimated that more than 8,000 graves were dug up as people hungrily searched for the figurines.