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
Art forgery
Art forgery is the creation of works of art which are falsely attributed to other, usually more famous, artists. Art forgery can be extremely lucrative, but modern dating and analysis techniques have made the identification of forged artwork much simpler....


A string of archeological forgeries have usually followed news of prominent archaeological excavations. Historically, famous excavations like those in Crete
Crete is the largest and most populous of the Greek islands, the fifth largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, and one of the thirteen administrative regions of Greece. It forms a significant part of the economy and cultural heritage of Greece while retaining its own local cultural traits...

, Valley of the Kings
Valley of the Kings
The Valley of the Kings , less often called the Valley of the Gates of the Kings , is a valley in Egypt where, for a period of nearly 500 years from the 16th to 11th century BC, tombs were constructed for the Pharaohs and powerful nobles of the New Kingdom .The valley stands on the west bank of...

 in Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

 and Pompeii
The city of Pompeii is a partially buried Roman town-city near modern Naples in the Italian region of Campania, in the territory of the comune of Pompei. Along with Herculaneum, Pompeii was destroyed and completely buried during a long catastrophic eruption of the volcano Mount Vesuvius spanning...

 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
"Archaeoraptor" is the generic name informally assigned in 1999 to a fossil from China in an article published in National Geographic magazine. The magazine claimed that the fossil was a "missing link" between birds and terrestrial theropod dinosaurs. Even prior to this publication there had been...



Most of the archaeological forgery is made for reasons similar to art forgery - for money. The monetary value of an item that is thought 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
Pious fraud
Pious fraud is used to describe fraud in religion or medicine. A pious fraud can be counterfeiting a miracle or falsely attributing a sacred text to a biblical figure due to the belief that the "end justifies the means", in this case the end of increasing faith by whatever means available...



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
Neutron activation analysis
In chemistry, neutron activation analysis is a nuclear process used for determining the concentrations of elements in a vast amount of materials. NAA allows discrete sampling of elements as it disregards the chemical form of a sample, and focuses solely on its nucleus. The method is based on...

 to find out the real age of the object.

Criticisms of antiquities trade

Some historian
A historian is a person who studies and writes about the past and is regarded as an authority on it. Historians are concerned with the continuous, methodical narrative and research of past events as relating to the human race; as well as the study of all history in time. If the individual is...

s and archaeologists have strongly criticized the antiquities
Antiquities, nearly always used in the plural in this sense, is a term for objects from Antiquity, especially the civilizations of the Mediterranean: the Classical antiquity of Greece and Rome, Ancient Egypt and the other Ancient Near Eastern cultures...

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

As is the case with art forgery, scholars and experts don't 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

  • Alceo Dossena
    Alceo Dossena
    Alceo Dossena was an Italian sculptor. His dealers marketed his creations as originals by other sculptors.Dossena was born in Cremona. He was a talented stonemason and sculptor who was skilled at duplicating classical Greek, Roman, medieval, and Renaissance artistic styles and such artists as...

    , 19th century creator of many Archaic and Medieval statues
  • Shinichi Fujimura
    Shinichi Fujimura
    Shinichi Fujimura is a Japanese former amateur archaeologist who claimed he had found a large number of stone artifacts dating back to the Lower Paleolithic and Middle Paleolithic periods. These objects were later revealed as forgeries.-Success:Fujimura was born in Kami, Miyagi in 1950...

    , who planted specimens on false layers to gain more prestige
  • Brigido Lara
    Brigido Lara
    Brigido Lara is a Mexican artist and ex-forger of pre-Columbian antiques. He says he created maybe 40,000 pieces of forged pre-Columbian pottery.Brigido Lara begun to create forgeries in the 1950s and 1960s...

    , Mexican forger of pre-Columbian antiquities
  • Moses Shapira
    Moses Shapira
    Moses Wilhelm Shapira was a Jerusalem antiquities dealer and purveyor of fake Biblical artifacts. The shame brought about by accusations that he was involved in the forging of ancient biblical texts drove him to suicide in 1884...

    , purveyor of fake biblical artifacts
  • Tjerk Vermaning
    Tjerk Vermaning
    Tjerk Vermaning was a Dutch amateur archaeologist who is now mostly remembered for the court case and media frenzy that followed the assessment of professional archaeologists that he had forged certain of his prehistoric archaeological 'finds'.Before the forgery came out Tjerk Vermaning was a...

    , Dutch amateur archaeologist whose Middle Paleolithic finds were declared forgeries

Known archaeological forgeries

  • Calaveras Skull
    Calaveras Skull
    The Calaveras Skull was a human skull found by miners in Calaveras County, California which purported to prove that humans, mastodons, and elephants had coexisted in California. It was later revealed to be a hoax...

  • 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...

     in the Metropolitan Museum of Art
    Metropolitan Museum of Art
    The Metropolitan Museum of Art is a renowned art museum in New York City. Its permanent collection contains more than two million works, divided into nineteen curatorial departments. The main building, located on the eastern edge of Central Park along Manhattan's Museum Mile, is one of the...

  • Forged Persian princess, forged ancient mummy, possible murder victim
  • Michigan relics
    Michigan relics
    Michigan relics is a name for forged, supposedly ancient artifacts that were supposed to prove that people of an ancient Near Eastern culture had lived in Michigan, USA....

  • Piltdown Man
    Piltdown Man
    The Piltdown Man was a hoax in which bone fragments were presented as the fossilised remains of a previously unknown early human. These fragments consisted of parts of a skull and jawbone, said to have been collected in 1912 from a gravel pit at Piltdown, East Sussex, England...

  • Tiara of Saitaphernes in Louvre
  • Glozel
    Glozel is a hamlet in central France, part of the commune of Ferrières-sur-Sichon, Canton of Le Mayet-de-Montagne, Allier, some 17 km from Vichy....

     tablets, bearing prehistoric writing
  • "Egyptian mummy" ca.1898  at the Old Capitol Museum, Jackson, MS
  • Shepton Mallet Chi Rho amulet
  • The pieces "discovered" in 2006 in Iruña-Veleia
    Veleia was a Roman town in Hispania, currently located in the Basque Country, Spain. The site is located in the municipality of Iruña de Oca, 10 kilometers west of Vitoria. The town was an important station on the Roman road ab Asturica Burdigalam that ran parallel to the coast of the Bay of Biscay...

  • See also Kensington Runestone
    Kensington Runestone
    The Kensington Runestone is a 200-pound slab of greywacke covered in runes on its face and side which, if genuine, would suggest that Scandinavian explorers reached the middle of North America in the 14th century. It was found in 1898 in the largely rural township of Solem, Douglas County,...


See also

  • Scientific misconduct
    Scientific misconduct
    Scientific misconduct is the violation of the standard codes of scholarly conduct and ethical behavior in professional scientific research. A Lancet review on Handling of Scientific Misconduct in Scandinavian countries provides the following sample definitions: *Danish definition: "Intention or...

  • Nebra skydisk
    Nebra skydisk
    The Nebra Sky Disk is a bronze disk of around 30 cm diameter, with a blue-green patina and inlaid with gold symbols. These are interpreted generally as a sun or full moon, a lunar crescent, and stars . Two golden arcs along the sides, marking the angle between the solstices, were added later...

  • Art forger
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