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From Col

June 2012


Hi all,


Last year my wife and myself were fortunate to visit the 12th century Shobak Crusader Fortress in Jordan.


The only non-tourist that we saw for many miles was an older Bedouin selling some curiosities on a plank table at the fortress. The items offered ranged from an ancient arrowhead to a 100 year old army buckle.



My wife was pleased to obtain this small (46mm high) figurine.

It appears to be made of lead and is obviously quite old.

Our only thought re the figure is that it could be a Pilgrim memento or holy figure.

We would appreciate any information at all on the items.



From Harry 


Altho' this trends a bit outside my claimed area of expertise, one cannot be involved with ancient and antique weapons without getting involved in the culture of the Middle Ages.


AND, with that disclaimer/caveat, my guess is that your guess is right - This is likely a "Pigrim's Souvenir" - a lead saint which the Faithful could take home to prove their pilgrimage and to assist their devotions.


Stylistically, I don't see any major problems with the piece and it would not look out of place in a batch of verified 13th C. pieces.  The use of lead is consistent with the practice at the time and most "Pilgrims' Badges" were made of it - or of lead with, perhaps, some tin or other alloying metal to harden it a tad.  It's easy to work and cast, at relatively low temperatures and was reasonably cheap to make.  It could be buffed to look like silver and it would be slow to oxidize.  So, for me, it is easy to imagine this piece, and others like it, being offered for sale by some Crusade era hawker of trinkets and souvenirs from the land of Christ and the Apostles.


Could it be a later knock-off and/or forgery?  Of course, but a lot of that can be answered by a closer look at it, perhaps some testing of it, and by looking at the circumstances surrounding its acquisition.  Let's just say I wouldn't reject it out of hand and it may, in fact, be quite a nice little find.


From David K

Sadly, this is EXACTLY the kind of fake rubbish that one would expect to find being peddled to gullible tourists at a major ruin by "an older Bedouin selling some curiosities on a plank table at the fortress".

Fakers in the Syria/Jordan region appear to have a total obsession with producing figures of short bearded men - perhaps hoping the touristswill think they are figures of ancient saints or Jesus, despite the alarming incongruity that some of them strike somewhat erotic poses or are generously endowed (think Priapus).

Supposedly ancient lamps in the same form of 'short bearded men' in both stone and pottery circulate in their thousands, cropping up regularly on eBay where they are sold to anyone silly enough to pay money for them. They bear no resemblance to anything truly ancient.

A 'Pilgrim Souvenir' is a good guess - they were indeed frequently made from lead - but this item smacks far too much of the 'short bearded men' syndrome that afflicts fakers in that region to be taken seriously aftera mere glance. It's a fantasy fake.



From Rene

June 2012

Have just come back from Greece, where I found a strange thing

It looks like a piece of stone (I don't think it is terracotta), showing a quite regular pattern of round engraved marks on one side.

Its length is 7cm, width 3cm, and thickness ca 4mm.

It's quite symmetric, and I don't think it is a broken part of something, since the edges do not go through any of the recesses... Maybe a tool ???

I found it on the island of Aegina, Greece, on a spot which was most probably part of an ancient harbour. 4 big storage jars are still visible, many remains of buildings, and many pieces of pottery can be easily found just walking along the shore (Greek black ceramics, amphoras handles, etc).

The place was inhabited during all the ancient times (from neolithics to the end of Roman Empire)... but I have no idea if this thing is old or not !!!

 Any idea ? No one could tell me yet !!! Thank you in advance for your advice !





My guess is that it's a portable gaming board.

The Egyptians had similar types in clay and stone. The Romans too.

But I've not seen one with hollow depressions like that.

My  guess is that they moved the game pieces from one to another.



The first above, Egyptian and in clay: wooden pins  were probably placed in the holes.

The others carved in to the natural rock near the Deir monument at Petra.



 I didn't think about a gaming board, it's an interesting idea !

I know the egyptian Senet game (3 lines x 10 rows), but not the one of Petra (4 lines and 13 rows).


Well, the surface of my "thing" is not perfectly flat, but maybe even a stone can get curved after centuries..


If it was made for putting some balls in the depressions, they must have been pretty small (the distance between 2 holes is 5 mm), and it would be difficult to move them without touching the others. 


I was wondering whether it could be a tool, the holes being used to retain a fuid, like a kind of sponge, for cleaning, or painting...or maybe fixed under a shoe so that it would not slide on the ground (the wear could suggest this)?


 I asked a greek antiques seller who knows well ancient tools, he said it could rather be a part of a stone vase, but I never saw this pattern as a decoration.




 I think my artefact is a good example of how collectors can be wrong when they want to believe something.


Truly, I found indeed a lot of ancient things on this spot in Greece (the attached picture show what I found there just walking on the beach - but of course I did not bring those parts home).


But yesterday, I could examine this with a powerful magnifying glass, and it appears there is some kind of fibreous stuff inside the material (at the bottom of the recesses) which can't be stone nor terracotta. So I suspect it is a part of... a modern thermal insulation component, made of a compound of stone or cement and most probably asbestos... 


Let's forget about it, but it's a good lesson for me !!!!



Aha! :o)

Actually  more than  half of  the mystery artefacts people send me pics of never appear on the website as they are clearly not ancient.

It's an interesting psychological mechanism we experienced: you found it amongst obviously old things there, and we somehow assumed......


From Saga


Do you have any ideas when you see the pattern painted in black? There are also three different signs on each of the sides between the bird-looking pictures that I am curious about and they may be to some help. They're obviously not in cuneiform, maybe they're just some brush strokes for decoration.



Doesn't look like any type of pottery from the Ancient Near East that I'm familiar with.

Maybe someone will be able to identify the painted "signs".

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