Friday, January 06, 2017

Booming forgeries market in Syria

FORGERY WATCH: After Islamic State institutionalized looting in Syria, the market for fake antiquities is booming (Nabih Bulos, L.A. Times).
The Bible, its pages browned and frayed at their edges, seemed liable to crumble at the slightest touch.

One page had the faded traces of a drawing of the Virgin Mary, its spaces filled in with golden particles tinged green by oxidization, set opposite neat lines of Aramaic script. Elegant drawings of religious iconography adorned the margins, adding to the artifact’s elegance.

There was just one problem.

“It’s a fake,” said Yarub Abdullah, director of the National Museum in Damascus, closing the Bible suddenly with a nonchalant flip of his hand. He looked with distaste at his fingers, smudged by the pages he had just handled.

“Just smell the page; they got that color by dunking it in chocolate, something like that.”


And not all fakes were as obvious as Abdulkarim’s new office ornament, cautioned Azm.

Some are made from pieces of damaged mosaics, reassembled into designs that mimic more valuable pieces. “There are some very good fakers, especially in mosaics…. These workshops are mostly in the area around Idlib, some in Damascus. They’re so good they use ancient stones and reset them to get a higher value,” he said.

“Unless they make a stylistic error or a technical error, you won’t tell it’s a fake. If you look at the stone, test the residue, it will all be ancient.”

Some dealers will even bury the counterfeit artifact – another trick to fool potential buyers into thinking the item is authentic. They then either sell the rights to the site so buyers can send someone to dig it out, or have them pay a premium three times the artifact’s value for delivery across the border or beyond.

Remember, if an artifact has not been recovered in a scientific archaeological excavation, the burden of proof is on anyone who wishes to argue that it is genuine and ancient.

Recent related post here and one from 2015 here.