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Cylinder seals pose a very particular problem for collectors. Fakes are very numerous. Some fakes are very badly done, others appear convincing to the untutored eye and many are extremely fine pieces of work.
There are many things to look out for with such artefacts, clues which betray their modernity. I do not wish to discuss this here as one does not want to unwittingly inform the faker and assist him in manufacturing even better forgeries!
Fakers have learned how to replicate these little masterworks and often use the correct cutting techniques for the design and for the hole though also often use a technique with a type of seal where they were not actually made that way in antiquity.
Fakers have also refined their skills in artificially ageing their productions and disguising the signs of modern tooling. The best way to determine authenticity is a combinmtion of approaches with emphasis upon the iconography and comparison with the large number of published genuine seals. Many well made fakes make mistakes in design and in particular fail to copy or invent convincingly genuine inscriptions.
This is the reason that the service I provide is having seal inscriptions read by an academic Assyriologist can be so helpful.
Probably the most strange of documented fake cylinder seals are those now said to be "in a private collection" which apparently come from the collection of an American amateur archaeologist who worked in the oil industry in the Middle East in the 1930s and 1940s.
Quite some time after this it is said that the collection was then sold to a local dealer. One is informed that these were then sold on eBay or to other dealers in 2002 and 2003, though it is extremely hard to credit that any dealer would have wanted to acquire any of these.
Of the peculiar "Egyptian" fakes in the published collection it is stated that "a noted American dealer has questioned the antiquity of some of the Egyptian items, so care is called for in judging them" (Only some of them!?)
It also states "Some of his purchases are definitely genuine artefacts; others seem to have been "improved" or are vintage modern reproductions. The museum collections at the British Museum, the Louvre, the NY Metropolitan and so many others were assembled from the same supply of material and at the same time, and even these great collections have found non-ancient items on closer inspection of their holdings" (Well, actually the peole who put together the great museum collections had a slightly better eye! Though undoubtedly there are fakes in museum collections as well.)
One cannot honestly say that any of the cylinder seals in this collection are genuinely ancient.
Here are a few from this collection but you can see the entire collection online here.
These are all quite ridiculous really.
To get a general feel of what real Mesopotamian seals look like have look here.
And also have a look at Olaf's really nice website.
The next page look at a "step up" in forgeries of cylinder seals....
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