Archaeological forgery

From Academic Kids

Archaeological forgery is a manufacture of supposedly ancient items that are sold to the antiquities market and may even end up in the collections of museums. It is related to art forgery.

A string of archeological forgeries have usually followed news of prominent archeological excavations. Historically, famous excavations like those in Crete, Valley of the Kings in Egypt and Pompeii have caused the appearance of a number of forgeries supposedly spirited away from the dig. Those have been usually presented in the open market but some have also ended up in museum collections and as objects of serious historical study.

In recent times, forgeries of pre-Columbian pottery from the South America have been very common. Other popular examples include Ancient Egyptian earthenware and supposed ancient Greek gold. There have also been paleontological forgeries like archaeoraptor.



Most of the archaeological forgery is made for reasons similar to art forgery - for money. The monetary value of an item that is though to be thousands of years old is higher than the similar one sold as a souvenir.

However, archaeological or paleontological forgers may have other motives; they may try to manufacture proof for their point of view, favorite theory or to gain increased fame and prestige for themselves. If that is to create "proof" for religious history, it is pious fraud.


Investigators of archaeological forgery rely on the tools of archaeology in general. Since the age of the object is usually the most significant detail, they try to use carbon dating or neutron activation analysis to find out the real age of the object.

Criticisms of antiquities trade

Some historians and archaeologists have strongly criticized antiquities trade for putting profit and art collecting before the scientific accuracy and veracity. This, in effect, favors the archaeological forgery. Allegedly some of the items in prominent museum collections are of dubious or at least of unknown origin. Looters that rob archaeologically important places and supply the antiquities market are rarely concerned about things like exact dating and placement of the items. Antiquities dealer may also embellish a genuine item to make it more saleable. Sometimes trader may even sell items that are attributed to nonexistent cultures.

As is the case with art forgery, scholars and experts do not always agree on the authenticity of particular finds. Sometimes an entire research topic of a scholar may be based on finds that are later suspected as forgeries.

Known archaeological forgers

Known archaeological forgeries


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