Artifact Forgery

All museums come in contact with forgeries of ancient artifacts. They may be donated or bought by the museum having been mistaken real by uneducated curators or even experts. Many forgers are well educated and can easily trick experts until testing has been done. Some fake artifacts are purposeful by museums in the form of replicas that allow the public to view the piece without harming the artifact, and reduced pricing (such as Michelangelo’s David which has been replicated numerous times, most notably seen where the original statues once was at Piazza Della Signoria). Replicas are also used as educational tools and can be sized down easily and meticulously using 3D printing.

Fake artifacts interest many potential buyers, including museums, when thought to be real and sometimes scientifically undetected as a fake. The profit made by the forger is immense and relatively easy with today’s technology. If the work is displayed the emotional high also plays a role. Some forgers also use fakes as evidence to promote their beliefs in religion, theories, etc. Fakes hurt anthropological academia by sometimes encouraging research into fake artifacts that obstruct the knowledge of cultural material regarding the fakes as well as similar real artifacts. This could lead to new theories of the past societies culture that are tremendously skewed from fact. In order to decrease forgery from entering museums there would not only have to be more research on items received, but a ban on purchasing or receiving items that do not have an archaeological track record of the site the object came from. This would be difficult financially for museums because they would not be able to take in many donations, and some of the artifacts that are real but taken long ago by looting or otherwise without records would not be able to be included which would also restrict important research and findings.



  • Meador-Woodruff, Robin, Janet Richards, and Terry Wilfong. “EGYPTIAN FORGERIES IMAGE GALLERY.” The Art of the Fake: Egyptian Forgeries from the Kelsey Museum of Archeology. Kelsey Museum of Archeology. Web. 2 Oct. 2014. <>.
  • Jackson, Brittany, and Mark Rose. “Archaeology Magazine – Hoaxes, Fakes, and Strange Sites – Bogus! An Introduction to Dubious Discoveries – Archaeology Magazine Archive.”Archaeology Magazine – Hoaxes, Fakes, and Strange Sites – Bogus! An Introduction to Dubious Discoveries – Archaeology Magazine Archive. Archaeological Institute of America, 1 Jan. 2014. Web. 2 Oct. 2014. <>.
  • Stanish, Charles. “Forging Ahead – How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love EBay – Archaeology Magazine Archive.” Forging Ahead – How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love EBay – Archaeology Magazine Archive. Archaeological Institute of America, 1 Jan. 2009. Web. 2 Oct. 2014. <>.

One thought on “Artifact Forgery

  1. I find your post very interesting as I am an Art History student, and fakes and forgeries are often something that comes up in any class I’ve taken. Currently, I am in Professor Frey’s Ancient Art and Archaeology class and we just had a similar discussion on fake and stolen antiquities and the repatriation of artifacts. Like you said, having forgeries in your collection, as a museum institution, is detrimental and would talk increased research on the part of the institution to guarantee that each displayed piece is authentic. This, however, is the case in most museums. Museums to do not want to be involved in any type of scandal that may damage their reputation or the reputation of their collection. Their are a few laws in regards to World War II era art and Native American art that specify how an artifact must be appropriately repatriated, but other than that, again as you pointed out, the law then becomes a bit of a grey area. It essentially becomes up to the museum if they want to return art that has been stolen to the rightful owner. When it comes to making modern purchases, museums make sure to go through reputable sources and look for a plethora of documentation on the piece to verify that it is neither stolen nor a forgery. Since antiquities are so often found to be forgeries, they are consider too “hot” for any museum to touch and buy. You can go on to auction websites like Christie’s and Sotheby’s and see antiquities for sale and spot a fake for yourself. Pieces with no documentation or that are said to come from “a gentleman’s collection” or something along similar lines are most undoubtedly fakes.

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