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These pages are to show that piece YOU bought, which with the wisdom of quickly achieved hindsight would not have fooled you.......
I guess I had better go first!
16 October 05
Some 40 years ago, in the swinging sixties, when I first discovered ancient things, there was, albeit only briefly, an antiquities shop in Hampstead; just a few shops up from where Carluccio's is now.
I bought a couple of poor Late Period shabtis and this.
"Ah" he said (for some reason I recall his exact words!)
"You are obviously a collector, you have a good eye!"
"Look" he oosed, "what these hieroglyhs read , no doubt the people at the British Museum wil be able to tell you".
It was long before I realised I should have , very reasonably said "why can't you tell me what they say?
"What a piece of alabaster this is!" he said . "Only a very important person would have selected such a piece.....look it is semi-translucent!"
So......................five years later, a bit older and wiser.
It's still here and I am fond of him!
This piece illustrates (in my view) a number of give aways which members may find useful when looking at dubious items.
Typology: Nothing even vaguely like it in Petrie's Scarabs&C.W.N. or in his Amulets or in any other major reference book. Always a bit of a give away that.
Materials: The material seems to be some sort of plaster, painted (or perhaps glazed and fired) to look like stone and then distressed for that incrusted look, a technique I associate with vintage fakes, although judging by the anubis amulet discussed in fake faience it is alive and well. This is hard to spot from a photograph but substantial colour variation between the surface of a 'stone' piece and the interior as revealed by the chip in the bottom right hand corner of the base is a give away. Any item that is not made of a readily identifiable material commonly used for the type of object in question at the period it pretends to belong to is highly suspect (cf. all those 'ivory' and bone faux scarabs one sees for sale online).
Iconography: Rather strangely, considering the time and effort put into the carving and the plausibility of the individual elements of the composition, no attempt appears to have been made to copy any recognisable scene for the base. What is the robed figure doing ? What is his gesture supposed to signify ? Where is the goose going ? What genre does the scene belong to ?
Although very few genuine Egyptian pieces are exact copies of one another, they usually conform to a stereotype, which should be readily identifiable from standard reference works.
� Inscription: The glyphs at the foot of the base are distinct and individually correct but they appear to have no meaning. The direction of the text is the opposite of what one would expect, i.e. glyphs normally run with the dominant figure in a composition or the figure nearest to them. The names in the cartouches refer to two different pharaohs with no obvious link with each other (Amenhotep III and Tuthmosis III).
� Morphology of the scarab: nothing too outlandish here, if one ignores the sphinx head (of which more below). Where one would expect the drill hole in a typical scarab there is a notch that suggests such a hole, which is curious. The V notches on the wing-case, marking the �humeral callosity� or shoulders of the bug (which are an indication of post Dyn. 18th date on genuine scarabs, see Tufnell, Studies on Scarab Seals, Vol 2) are hatched. Hatching in this location seems to be very rare on the real thing but popular on larger faux scarabs. The base below the legs is thick, giving a heavy paper-weight like appearance to the piece. Where legs are shown in scarabs the base beneath them is normally thin in relation to the beetle as whole, usually little wider than the width of the legs themselves.
� Morphology of the sphinx head: the idea seems to have been to depict a Sphinx wearing a tripartite wig and a false beard. Tripartite wig ? On a sphinx ? Sphinxes represent the king and as such should have royal regalia, wig-wise that usually means the nemes head dress or a crown. And there should always be a ureus or the remains of one too, which is absent here. The beard, which is not visible above, is moulded as part of the neck rather than, as it should be, as part of the chin, either for convenience or because the mould-maker (this piece was made in at least 2 pieces which I assume were cast from moulds) was working from a frontal photograph from which the location of the beard was not apparent.
If it looks too good to be true�..
18th October 2005
Here are some pics of my favourite fake, sold to me in goodish faith (as far as I can tell) by a dealer in American antiquities, although at a price which now suggests to me that he had his own doubts.
The "scarab/sphinx" seems to be a popular subject for fakers and has been going for at least a hundred years, see the illustrations of similar "paper weight" scarabs in Wakeling's Forged Egyptian Antiquities, pub. 1913 !
I saw a nice hard-stone one recently on the website of a big museum in California noted as "probably modern"...
This is the most elaborate carving I have seen on a similar item, although I am sure that there are many more out there. Most of the others I have seen are inscribed with large cartouches for Amenhotep III or Ramses II or both). They pop up on ebay about every 2 months.
I am not sure that this piece was made to deceive but I have to admit, as a new collector, it got me.
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