Antiquities, nearly always used in the plural in this sense, is a term for objects from Antiquity
Ancient history
Ancient history is the study of the written past from the beginning of recorded human history to the Early Middle Ages. The span of recorded history is roughly 5,000 years, with Cuneiform script, the oldest discovered form of coherent writing, from the protoliterate period around the 30th century BC...

, especially the civilizations of the Mediterranean: the Classical antiquity
Classical antiquity
Classical antiquity is a broad term for a long period of cultural history centered on the Mediterranean Sea, comprising the interlocking civilizations of ancient Greece and ancient Rome, collectively known as the Greco-Roman world...

 of Greece and Rome, Ancient Egypt
Ancient Egypt
Ancient Egypt was an ancient civilization of Northeastern Africa, concentrated along the lower reaches of the Nile River in what is now the modern country of Egypt. Egyptian civilization coalesced around 3150 BC with the political unification of Upper and Lower Egypt under the first pharaoh...

 and the other Ancient Near East
Ancient Near East
The ancient Near East was the home of early civilizations within a region roughly corresponding to the modern Middle East: Mesopotamia , ancient Egypt, ancient Iran The ancient Near East was the home of early civilizations within a region roughly corresponding to the modern Middle East: Mesopotamia...

ern cultures. Artifacts from earlier periods such as the Mesolithic
The Mesolithic is an archaeological concept used to refer to certain groups of archaeological cultures defined as falling between the Paleolithic and the Neolithic....

, and other civilizations from Asia and elsewhere may also be covered by the term.


The definition of the term is not always precise, and institutional definitions such as museum
A museum is an institution that cares for a collection of artifacts and other objects of scientific, artistic, cultural, or historical importance and makes them available for public viewing through exhibits that may be permanent or temporary. Most large museums are located in major cities...

 "Departments of Antiquities" often cover later periods, but in normal usage Gothic
Gothic art
Gothic art was a Medieval art movement that developed in France out of Romanesque art in the mid-12th century, led by the concurrent development of Gothic architecture. It spread to all of Western Europe, but took over art more completely north of the Alps, never quite effacing more classical...

 objects, for example, would not now be described as antiquities, though in 1700 they might well have been, as the cut-off date for antiquities has tended to retreat since the word was first found in English in 1513. Non-artistic artifacts
Artifact (archaeology)
An artifact or artefact is "something made or given shape by man, such as a tool or a work of art, esp an object of archaeological interest"...

 are now less likely to be called antiquities than in earlier periods. Francis Bacon
Francis Bacon
Francis Bacon, 1st Viscount St Albans, KC was an English philosopher, statesman, scientist, lawyer, jurist, author and pioneer of the scientific method. He served both as Attorney General and Lord Chancellor of England...

 wrote in 1605: "Antiquities are history defaced, or some remnants of history which have casually escaped the shipwreck of time".

The art trade reflects modern usage of the term; Christie's
Christie's is an art business and a fine arts auction house.- History :The official company literature states that founder James Christie conducted the first sale in London, England, on 5 December 1766, and the earliest auction catalogue the company retains is from December 1766...

 "Department of Antiquities" covers objects "from the dawn of civilization to the Dark Ages, ranging from Western Europe to the Caspian Sea, embracing the cultures of Egypt, Greece, Rome and the Near East." Bonhams
Bonhams is a privately owned British auction house founded in 1793. It is the third largest auctioneer after Sotheby's and Christie's, and conducts around 700 auctions per year. It has 700 employees....

 use a similar definition: "...4000 B.C to the 12th Century A.D. Geographically they originate from Egypt, the Near East and Europe ..." Official cut-off dates are often later, being unconcerned with precise divisions of art history
Art history
Art history has historically been understood as the academic study of objects of art in their historical development and stylistic contexts, i.e. genre, design, format, and style...

, and using the term for all historical periods they wish to protect: in Jordan
Jordan , officially the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan , Al-Mamlaka al-Urduniyya al-Hashemiyya) is a kingdom on the East Bank of the River Jordan. The country borders Saudi Arabia to the east and south-east, Iraq to the north-east, Syria to the north and the West Bank and Israel to the west, sharing...

 it is 1750, in Hong Kong
Antiquities and Monuments Ordinance
The Antiquities and Monuments Ordinance, in Hong Kong Law , was enacted in 1976 to preserve the objects of historical, archaeological and palaeontological interest and for matters ancillary thereto or connected therewith...

 1800, and so on.

The term is no longer much used in formal academic discussion, because of this imprecision. Most, but not all, antiquities have been recovered by archaeology
Archaeology, or archeology , is the study of human society, primarily through the recovery and analysis of the material culture and environmental data that they have left behind, which includes artifacts, architecture, biofacts and cultural landscapes...

. There is little or no overlap with antiques
An antique is an old collectible item. It is collected or desirable because of its age , beauty, rarity, condition, utility, personal emotional connection, and/or other unique features...

, which covers objects, not generally discovered as a result of archaeology, at most about three hundred years old, and usually far less.


The sense of antiquitates, the idea that a civilization could be recovered by a systematic exploration of its relic
In religion, a relic is a part of the body of a saint or a venerated person, or else another type of ancient religious object, carefully preserved for purposes of veneration or as a tangible memorial...

s and material culture
Material culture
In the social sciences, material culture is a term that refers to the relationship between artifacts and social relations. Studying a culture's relationship to materiality is a lens through which social and cultural attitudes can be discussed...

, in the sense used by Varro
Varro was a Roman cognomen carried by:*Marcus Terentius Varro, sometimes known as Varro Reatinus, the scholar*Publius Terentius Varro or Varro Atacinus, the poet*Gaius Terentius Varro, the consul defeated at the battle of Cannae...

 and reflected in Josephus
Titus Flavius Josephus , also called Joseph ben Matityahu , was a 1st-century Romano-Jewish historian and hagiographer of priestly and royal ancestry who recorded Jewish history, with special emphasis on the 1st century AD and the First Jewish–Roman War, which resulted in the Destruction of...

' Antiquities of the Jews
Antiquities of the Jews
Antiquities of the Jews is a twenty volume historiographical work composed by the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus in the thirteenth year of the reign of Roman emperor Flavius Domitian which was around 93 or 94 AD. Antiquities of the Jews contains an account of history of the Jewish people,...

was lost during the Middle Ages, when ancient objects were collected with other appeals, the rarity or strangeness of their materials or simply because they were thought to be endowed with magical or miraculous
A miracle often denotes an event attributed to divine intervention. Alternatively, it may be an event attributed to a miracle worker, saint, or religious leader. A miracle is sometimes thought of as a perceptible interruption of the laws of nature. Others suggest that a god may work with the laws...

 powers. Precious cameos and other antique carved gems might be preserved when incorporated into crowns and diadems and liturgical objects, consular ivory diptych
A diptych di "two" + ptychē "fold") is any object with two flat plates attached at a hinge. Devices of this form were quite popular in the ancient world, wax tablets being coated with wax on inner faces, for recording notes and for measuring time and direction.In Late Antiquity, ivory diptychs with...

s by being used as gospel covers. Roman columns could be re-erected in churches. sarcophagi
A sarcophagus is a funeral receptacle for a corpse, most commonly carved or cut from stone. The word "sarcophagus" comes from the Greek σαρξ sarx meaning "flesh", and φαγειν phagein meaning "to eat", hence sarkophagus means "flesh-eating"; from the phrase lithos sarkophagos...

 could receive new occupants and cinerary urn
An urn is a vase, ordinarily covered, that usually has a narrowed neck above a footed pedestal. "Knife urns" placed on pedestals flanking a dining-room sideboard were an English innovation for high-style dining rooms of the late 1760s...

s could function as holy water stoups. Sculptural representations of the human form, feared and reviled as "idols
Cult image
In the practice of religion, a cult image is a human-made object that is venerated for the deity, spirit or daemon that it embodies or represents...

" could be rehabilitated by reidentifying their subjects: the equestrian bronze Marcus Aurelius
Equestrian Statue of Marcus Aurelius
The Equestrian Statue of Marcus Aurelius is an ancient Roman statue in the Campidoglio, Rome, Italy. It is made of bronze and stands 3.5 m tall. Although the emperor is mounted, it exhibits many similarities to standing statues of Augustus...

 of the Campidoglio was respected as a representation of the Christian emperor Constantine
Constantine I
Constantine the Great , also known as Constantine I or Saint Constantine, was Roman Emperor from 306 to 337. Well known for being the first Roman emperor to convert to Christianity, Constantine and co-Emperor Licinius issued the Edict of Milan in 313, which proclaimed religious tolerance of all...

, and in Pavia the Regisole
The Regisole was a bronze classical or Late Antique equestrian monument, highly influential during the Italian Renaissance but destroyed in 1796...

 acquired a civic role that preserved it. In Rome the Roman bronze Spinario
Boy with Thorn
Boy with Thorn, also called Fedele or Spinario, is a Greco-Roman Hellenistic bronze sculpture of a boy withdrawing a thorn from the sole of his foot, now in the Palazzo dei Conservatori, Rome...

was admired for itself by the guidebook writer Magister Gregorius. The classicism of the Carolingian renaissance
Carolingian Renaissance
In the history of ideas the Carolingian Renaissance stands out as a period of intellectual and cultural revival in Europe occurring from the late eighth century, in the generation of Alcuin, to the 9th century, and the generation of Heiric of Auxerre, with the peak of the activities coordinated...

 was in part inspired by appreciation of Late Antique
Late Antiquity
Late Antiquity is a periodization used by historians to describe the time of transition from Classical Antiquity to the Middle Ages, in both mainland Europe and the Mediterranean world. Precise boundaries for the period are a matter of debate, but noted historian of the period Peter Brown proposed...

 manuscripts: the Utrecht Psalter
Utrecht Psalter
The Utrecht Psalter is a ninth century illuminated psalter which is a key masterpiece of Carolingian art; it is probably the most valuable manuscript in the Netherlands. It is famous for its 166 lively pen illustrations, with one accompanying each psalm and the other texts in the manuscript...

 attempts to recreate such a Late Antique original, both in its handwriting and its illustrations.

Illegal trade

The export of antiquities is now heavily controlled by law in almost all countries and by the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property, but a large trade in Illicit antiquities has resulted. The Sevso Treasure
Sevso Treasure
The Sevso Treasure is a hoard of silver objects from the late Roman Empire, that may be illicit antiquities.The treasure trove consists of 14 large decorated silver vessels and the copper cauldron which contained them, and has been dated to the late fourth or early fifth century AD.Most notable is...

 and the Euphronios krater
Euphronios krater
The Euphronios krater is an ancient Greek terra cotta krater, a bowl used for mixing wine with water. Created around the year 515 BC, it is considered one of the finest Greek vase in existence artifacts and is the only complete example of the surviving 27 vases painted by the renowned Euphronios...

 are apparent examples that have come to light. Forgers
Archaeological forgery
Archaeological forgery is the 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....

 have long been active in the field, as the Etruscan terracotta warriors
Etruscan terracotta warriors
The three Etruscan terracotta warriors are art forgeries, statues made to resemble work of ancient Etruscans. The New York Metropolitan Museum of Art bought them between 1915 and 1921...

, the Persian Princess
Persian Princess
The Persian Princess or Persian Mummy is a mummy of an alleged Persian princess that surfaced in Pakistani Baluchistan in October 2000. After huge publicity and further investigation, the mummy proved to be an archaeological forgery and possibly a murder victim.-Discovery:The mummy was found...

, the "Bronze Statue of a Victorious Youth at the Getty", and the Getty kouros
Getty kouros
The Getty kouros is an over-life-sized statue in the form of a late archaic Greek kouros. The dolomitic marble sculpture was bought by the J. Paul Getty Museum, Malibu, California, in 1985 for $7 million and first exhibited there in October 1986....

 show. A more contemporary example is the illegal trade in Kigango
Kigango is "a carved wooden memorial satute erected by the Mijikenda" peoples of north-eastern Africa. The vigango, which can be of stylized effigies humans and are placed vertically rising out of the earth, honor a dead member of the secret Gohu society. The traditional use-pattern of vigango is...

 statues which are carved wooden grave markers produced in modern Kenya and sold into international art markets.


An antiquary was originally someone concerned with antiquities, and John Leland was appointed the "King's Antiquary" by Henry VIII
Henry VIII of England
Henry VIII was King of England from 21 April 1509 until his death. He was Lord, and later King, of Ireland, as well as continuing the nominal claim by the English monarchs to the Kingdom of France...

, but in modern usage the term is mostly associated with antiquarian books
Antiquarian book trade in the United States
The antiquarian book trade in the United States is an aspect of book collecting and publishing. The term antiquarian, in general, refers to antiquities and collectible items usually considered old and rare, usually in reference to books, but is not limited to books...

 - a category even less precisely defined than antiquities.

See also

  • Ancient art
    Ancient art
    Arts of the ancient world refer to the many types of art that were in the cultures of ancient societies, such as those of ancient China, India, Mesopotamia, Persia, Egypt, Greece and Rome.-Egypt:...

  • Antiquities of the Jews
    Antiquities of the Jews
    Antiquities of the Jews is a twenty volume historiographical work composed by the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus in the thirteenth year of the reign of Roman emperor Flavius Domitian which was around 93 or 94 AD. Antiquities of the Jews contains an account of history of the Jewish people,...

    by Josephus
    Titus Flavius Josephus , also called Joseph ben Matityahu , was a 1st-century Romano-Jewish historian and hagiographer of priestly and royal ancestry who recorded Jewish history, with special emphasis on the 1st century AD and the First Jewish–Roman War, which resulted in the Destruction of...

  • Japanese cultural artifacts controversy
  • Antiquities Act
    Antiquities Act
    The Antiquities Act of 1906, officially An Act for the Preservation of American Antiquities , is an act passed by the United States Congress and signed into law by Theodore Roosevelt on June 8, 1906, giving the President of the United States authority to, by executive order, restrict the use of...

     of 1906 - US
  • Israel Antiquities Authority
    Israel Antiquities Authority
    The Israel Antiquities Authority is an independent Israeli governmental authority responsible for enforcing the 1978 Law of Antiquities. The IAA regulates excavation and conservation, and promotes research...

  • Supreme Council of Antiquities
    Supreme Council of Antiquities
    The Supreme Council of Antiquities is the branch of the Egyptian Ministry of Culture responsible for the conservation, protection and regulation of all antiquities and archaeological excavations in Egypt...

     - Egypt
  • :Category:Antiquities of the Louvre
  • :Category:Archaeological forgery
  • Antiquities (Magic: The Gathering)
    Antiquities (Magic: The Gathering)
    Antiquities was the fifth Magic: The Gathering set and the second expansion set. It was the first set to have an original backstory that explores the mythos of the Magic universe . The story is primarily about the brothers Urza and Mishra who are inseparable at first, but become sworn enemies over...

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