Thursday 23 March 2023

"Viking" Artefacts from North Africa

From an Internet sales platform near you:
A Genuine Rare Ancient Bronze Decorated Viking Amulet Artifact Authentic
Condition: Used
Price: US $51.66
Located in: Fes, Morocco Seller: elhomoh_0

Dear Customers, you will receive exactly the same item which you see on the pictures, not similar or other. This is a lovely item to own or to give as a special gift [...] We strongly urge all of our customers to contact us first if a problem arises. We do our best to ensure that everything goes smoothly, but mistakes can and will happen. We will do everything within our power to solve any issue you have Thank you.
I have a problem with this and I've not even bought it. It is a cast metal lunulate pendant of non-Scandinavian type (looks more like what we get from eastern Europe, but I am sure this one is of modern manufacture). So why (apart from marketing purposes) is it described as "Viking"? Where did it get that odd patina? In the soils of Morocco or out of a bag of chemical fertiliser? Is this a representative artefact from the El Soukskam Culture, like many that have been turning up with increasing frequency from Morocco in recent months? This guy has been trading "Ancient items, oldest items, bronze and brass items with good prices" since Feb 2020. There seems to have been an increase in sellers from Morocco offering what they say are Roman and Viking artefacts in the past five or so years (examples: Barnoussi.10, based in Tangier - from Dec 2018; Antiques-and-artefacts Marrakesh, started Jun 2019; King_of_antique, trading from Sidi Kacem, - Sep 2019; Berbarea, from Marrakesh - Jan 2020; Haskar_4875, Casablanca -Apr 2021; Waazz_84 [= Wolf.Antique] -Oct 2021; Bofirl_0, kenitra - Sep 2022; Aureus.collectibles.coins -Oct 2022; Rare_ancient, based in -Dec 2022; Hasoumo-68 Casablanca [= old_crafted] -Feb 2023). There are many more, they generally sell small personal ornament items, often in a wearable state, and generally in the price range $30 -$75. While some of them are attempts at faking real Viking artefacts (Thor's hammers, axe amulets etc - nothing very elaborate), most are variants of local 'vintage(style) jewellery including 'Berber' and related styles. Rather shocking are some hand-of-Fatima amulets described as 'Viking' (and a brionze tobacco-pipe). Indeed, one wonders whether in some/many cases, the word "Viking" is there, not so much to attract attention of collectors of Viking artefacts (not all of whom are so stupid, surely, to be taken in by this deception), but to deflect attention of local authorities from the export of vintage/historical items from Morocco (on the logic that, like in many other countries, Moroccan law does not protect foreign artefacts in transit through the country). For the record, of the many hundreds of "Viking" artefacts offered from Morocco, not a single one I saw looked like an authentic dugup Viking (whatever you take that to mean) artefact.

* Berber artefacts are very popular with collectors. In the Colonial mindset, the austere lives of the desert-dwelling native populace of Europe's North African colonies led to them being cast as the noble savage belved of the collectors of so-called 'tribal' artefacts and jewellery.

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