In contrast to the self-righteous scholars and antiquities department bureaucrats who want to solve the problem of looting by putting antiquities dealers out of business—something that everyone knows doesn’t work and simply drives the market underground—one group of people, and, at least for the time being, only one group of people, is actually doing something to reduce site looting and to discourage collecting. That group is the forgers!
BAR hereby joins forces with the forgers because we want to reduce and, if possible, stop looting. Toward that end we are on record as discouraging collecting.e The difference between BAR and the forgers, however, is that our purpose is to stop the looting and discourage collecting; the forger’s purpose is to deceive and thereby make money. That the forgers may also discourage collecting and thereby decrease the market for looted objects is an unintended consequence of their actions.
BAR wishes to help by publicizing the skill and ubiquity of the forgers. In short, we wish to discourage collecting by alerting everyone of the dangers of being taken in by a forger. Unless you are an absolute expert, you may very well be fooled. If you think an antiquities dealer or his certificate of authenticity is foolproof, think again. Virtually every serious collector and every museum has been fooled by some forger. Unless you think you are smarter than they, you’d better stay out of the market.
Indeed, the more you want the object, the more likely it is to be a fake. Take, for example, two very popular Roman-period oil lamps with molded disks that depict an erotic scene or a seven-branched candelabra called a menorah. Oil lamps with these disks are in great demand by amateur collectors and tourists alike. Oil lamps of this period without such disks are quite common. A clever forger can take a genuine oil lamp and give it a forged disk. The forged disk may even be made from a mold made from a genuine exemplar.
In the photograph at right, the second-century C.E. oil lamp is genuine. The central disk, however, may have been broken and replaced with a forged disk made of plastic that depicted a menorah within a wreath of olive leaves. Menorahs depicted on ancient pottery lamps are not enclosed in wreaths; this combination of elements was probably borrowed by the forger from architectural decorations in some ancient synagogue. But it takes an expert to detect this anomaly—and even they are sometimes fooled.
If you think you can outsmart the forger, you may be meant to be a collector. Otherwise, stay away.