Literally, an artefact is something made or given shape by man, such as a tool or a work of art, especially an object of archaeological interest.
A very few people have keen interest in ancient artefacts and they just can’t stop drooling over the pieces kept in museums and ancient sites. Fake archaeological artefacts are flooded in the marketplace. They look so identical to the real ones and look so convincing that even the experts sometimes fail to identify the real from the fake.
According to some analysts, 90% of all the artefacts and coins that are sold on internet auctions are fakes.
Before going into the details, let us first understand the difference between the following three important terms which are often misused with each other.
Relic: A relic is a true original object that has survived in whole or in part from some time in the ancient past. These objects are made by or altered by ancient humans in the context of their daily lives.
Replica: This is the duplication or reproduction of original artefact for honest purposes. Such duplicates are made where the original is very rare and replacement is impossible. Reproductions of an ancient relic permit it to be displayed at museums and other public places.
Fake: It is a replica of an original artefact, also called artefake and is made with the sole purpose of deceiving others into believing it to be an original relic. Fake artefacts usually have elaborated aging techniques performed on them to make them very difficult to detect.
People love to collect and own the ancient artefacts and some of them can spare any amount for buying one. These items are very rare and even more expensive. The counterfeiters and forgers make use of this yearning of people and dupe buyers by selling fake artefacts and make grand profits.
These artefacts are so cunningly crafted that it is very difficult to identify a fake. Professional artefact forgers and craftsmen are hired to make exact replicas of the original expensive artefact.
These artists carefully study the moulds or models and carve out their fakes. For bronze items, after being cast, they are aged deliberately to resemble originals. The surface might be altered using chemicals and burying the object so that it looks as if it is an original.
Ancient coins are often reproduced, by the score, in moulds made from original coins. Wooden objects are covered with food and left outside for birds to peck at, then buried in termite nests to rapidly form ‘old borer holes.’
There are many ways to detect fake artefacts but even the forgers know that the cost of testing the artefacts is very expensive.
There is huge danger of having an object scientifically authenticated. The process can harm the artefact and obviously most collectors and museums do not want their valuable objects damaged and therefore, they are never verified. Therefore, only highly important or very valuable objects are usually ever tested.
There are now many testing methods available to authenticate ancient relics:
X-ray Diffraction – X-rays can see into the object and reveal what it is made of. The x-ray diffraction method sends high energy x-rays into the material that bounce off internal crystals in a pattern. By comparing these diffraction patterns to known patterns of genuine relics, analysts can determine an object’s authentic age.
Pigment Analysis – The composition of the colours of paint used in ceramics, mosaics, paintings, writings and architecture have changed throughout history. An artefact cannot contain a pigment type that was not developed in its day and can therefore be exposed as fake.
Radiocarbon Dating – This method is used on organic materials or objects with organic residue or componentry. The technique requires some of the object to be destroyed in the testing process but relatively accurate ages can be established if the object has remained sound and dry.
Atomic Absorption Spectrometry – Different elements burn with a different colour of flame. AAS testing uses this theory and scientists can observe the controlled burning of portions of the object. If a flame colour reveals that the object contains an element not found in original relics then the item can be discounted as a forgery.
As long as people will desire to own artefacts, the counterfeiters or forgers will continue to forge them. So, if you are one of those who have everlasting love for artefacts, be very careful before you fall prey to these fake items.