Archaeology Odyssey 4:6, November/December 2001


The Lie Became Great: The Forgery of Ancient Near Eastern Cultures

Oscar White Muscarella (Groningen: Styx Publications, 2000), 540 pp., $100

How widespread are forgeries in the Near Eastern antiquities market? The answer is “very,” according to this angry book by Oscar White Muscarella, a curator for more than 35 years at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

The book is essentially a catalogue with plates of forged artifacts, plus a 22-page, aptly named “Introduction and Polemic.” Muscarella does cite a few statistics: Half of the Marlik-like vessels (Marlik is a site in northern Iran) on the market are estimated to be forgeries; and 40 percent of the 1,500 artifacts annually brought to Oxford University are forgeries. Around the world, about “25,000 forgeries of pre-Columbian art enter the bazaars each year.” And Yale’s Babylonian Collection, Muscarella writes, contains many “forgeries of tablets, seals, and bric-a-brac purchased in the early years of the century.”

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