Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Egypt: Knowing Your Source

One might have thought that collectors buying from those dealers who buy right from the source, from the digger-uppers of artefacts might be saved from the indignity of getting a fake with their "freshly-surfaced" (from underground) items. It seems that one cannot even count on that these days. There is no honour among culture thieves it seems. Over in dug-up land Egypt, we find the source contaminated by fakes, if one can believe the latest report (Nevine El-Aref, 'Seventy Egyptian artefacts found in illegal possession are authenticated', Al-Ahram Tuesday 19 Jun 2012). The Egyptian Tourism and Antiquities Police (TAP) was searching for artefacts that were reported missing from several archaeological sites in Egypt in the aftermath of the recent breakdown in order in the country. The police caught three people with more than 110 ancient objects and called in a group of experts led by Youssef Khalifa, from the Ministry of State for Antiquities (MSA) to inspect them and check on their authenticity. Interestingly only 70 of them proved to be ancient. Khalifa said that these objects were not registered with the ministry’s antiquities list, which means that they were stolen from illicit digging in archaeological sites.

Minister of State for Antiquities Mohamed Ibrahim is reported to have revealed the artefacts as:
  • A collection of 17 late pharaonic period amulets, depicting the lioness goddess of joy and blessings, Sekhmet; the god of the universe, Toth; goddess of magic and life, Isis; god of the afterlife, Osiris and the fertility goddess, Tawert
  • nine eye scarabs (sic, recte amulets?)
  • rings
  • bronze spoons
  • many coloured seeds (recte beads?) of different shapes and sizes
  • two sets of Roman and Islamic bronze coins
  • glass bottles

So more than a third of the objects found in these people's possession were fakes mixed in with genuine artefacts. Caveat emptor.


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