Wednesday, 15 March 2023

Quant Geek Bought a Cunie: Has No Idea What They've Got

Over on a collectors' forum near you, a member calling themself 'Quant.Geek' has a request for other members: "Would like some help with the following cuneiform tablet"

quant.geek@...Mar 14 #98259
Hi, I would like to know if the following cuneiform tablet is real and what the writings on the tablet are, if possible.
Thanks, QG 
I have some thoughts on the layout of the script and its form, but it's not really my area, so I'll keep them to myself for the moment. However, the elephant in the room on a supposedly "responsible" collectors' forum is that there is no idea where this is from, when and how it got on the market, and where it has been since then, before QG decided it would be ethical and OK to buy it for their collection - while not actully knowing anything about cunies and hw to tell real from fake. That is what concerns them, but apparently whether or not it is looted and smuggled is not something he thinks forum members will be concerned about enough to mention the paperwork they bought with the tablet.

As for the question, there are some online resources that should be of help for people trying to research (or navigate) the antiquities market. There is dealer Bron Lipkin's excellent site (not accessible to everyone, it has some strange antique coding)  there are several useful and hard-hitting pages on Cunies beginning here. Then there is Sara Brumfield's How to Spot Fake Cuneiform Tablets in ASOR News Vol. VI, No. 9 September 2018 with some useful hints (I mentioned this article earlier, Quant Geek probably does not read this blog - their loss). A newer and very useful text is Cécile Michel's, 'Cuneiform Fakes: A Long History from Antiquity to the Present Day' [a chapter in:  Michael Friedrich, Harunaga Isaacson and Jörg B. Quenzer ed] Fakes and Forgeries of Written Artefacts from Ancient Mesopotamia to Modern China, Studies in Manuscript Cultures Volume 20, De Gruyter, pp.25-60, 2020, is useful (the whole volume looks pretty good). In the case of the cunies, pp 39-56 is the bit one needs to see the modern fakes and some really helpful information on how they are made [mirror on Research Gate]. The point made in the first part of the article is reiterated in more popular form in a blog from Universität Hamburg 'Fake antiquities. Were the Mesopotamian scribes already counterfeiters?' 25 February 2018. In an article from May 2020, the British Museum blows its own trumpet 'Fake antiquities made for unsuspecting collectors', but don't tell you how to tell the difference ("because WE are the experts"?). I'd have loved to see this Reddit post from Dec 9th 2018 on the r/Cuneiform group " Please help me stop my dad from buying more fake tablets".

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