Friday, 30 July 2010

False Provenances

Over on Looting Matters is a very important post Corrupting knowledge: inaccurate information ("One issue surrounding recently-surfaced antiquities is that the objects may be supplied with misleading collecting-histories"). Please read it.

One of my own first experiences with liaison with artefact hunters several decades ago was being led on a wild goose chase tramping round a muddy field in the depths of midwinter on the basis of a falsely reported findspot. This was because a metal detectorist had good reason to hide where an item had actually come from, which was miles away from where he originally told museum archaeologists it had come from. I suspect this practice is far more prevalent in the milieu and among dealers than we give credit for. Even in the old pre-metal detector days artefacts were put on sale with the same popular "provenances" ("Lakenheath", "Icklingham" and "Colchester" in East Anglia in the 'seventies) to make them more saleable, probably still are today.

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