Biblical Archaeology Review 25:4, July/August 1999

First Person: Don’t Buy Forgeries

(In other words, don’t collect)

By Hershel Shanks

There are many reasons why you shouldn’t collect antiquities. One of them is that you may end up with a forgery. There are plenty of clever forgers out there who would love to take your money. Even scholars are sometimes tricked by their fraudulent handiwork. Often there is no foolproof way of distinguishing between a forgery and the real thing.

Recently we were faced with making a decision of our own related to this problem. Not that we collect. We wouldn’t touch the stuff. In our case, the issue was whether or not we should print something. The object in question was a seal. If authentic, it was an awesome piece. We already had an article ready to publish when we talked to two more scholars. They had their doubts about the seal’s authenticity. We all conferred, and everyone agreed that we should pull the article. So we did. There were too many suspicious signs.

I can’t help wondering what will happen to that seal. Will someone purchase it without knowing of these grave scholarly doubts? Caveat emptor!

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