Tuesday, April 14, 2009

How One Archaeologist Has Come to Love eBay

The AIA Magazine has an interesting article from an archaeologist who purports to love eBay because it has brought a host of fakes onto the market. See: http://www.archaeology.org/0905/etc/insider.html In essence, he believes that this cottage industry has led to a decline in looting as faking is "easier" than looting and far less likely to attract the unwelcome attention of the local authorities.

The archaeologist in question might be less happy about locals producing fakes if he were the victim of one of the local "entrepreneurs" I have heard about in Turkey. Apparently, they bury high quality fakes on archaeological sites with the hope they will be discovered and treated as genuine. What better way for a faker to prove the "authenticity" of a piece he wants to sell than to be able to point to a similar piece found in a bonafide local archaeological excavation?

And can we really be sure that an archaeologist will be any better than a collector or a dealer in telling a fake from the real thing? In the article itself, the author admits that the owner of a La Paz antiquities shop told him that an antiquity he thought was real was actually a fake. He then goes onto state that "the experts who study the objects are sometimes being trained on fakes. As a result, they may authenticate pieces that are not real." Certainly, none other than Zahi Hawass was apparently recently fooled by what purported to be a "real" Iraqi antiquity. See: http://www.museum-security.org/?p=1453

All in all, archaeologists should be careful what they wish for!

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