Matson Museum of Anthropology objects



Matson Museum of Anthropology objects

Photo by

Julia Righter


Fact or Fake?

Although museums strive to represent ancient cultures as accurately as possible, they may unwittingly display objects that are carefully crafted fakes. On display are five objects ostensibly from archaeological sites in Ecuador and Peru. Which pieces do you think are authentic and which ones are forgeries or souvenir replicas?

High demand by private collectors for antiquities from these countries has resulted in the massive destruction of archaeological sites and the looting of thousands of objects. Popular among collectors are stirrup and portrait vessels from ancient cultures like Moche and Nazca. However, local people desperate for income have resorted to forging objects. They repair broken pieces, copy painted designs, or stain replicas to resemble ancient artifacts.

Based on evaluation by regional experts, the two pieces to the left are forgeries and the two vessels to the right are probably authentic. The experts relied on weight, execution of the painted design, and iconography to tell the difference.


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