FORGING HISTORY: MOTIVES, METHODS, AND EXEMPLARS OF FORGED TEXTS [1]

Posted in: Antiquities Market, Epigraphy, Inscriptions
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Christopher A. Rollston, crollston@ecs.edu

Toyozo Nakarai Professor of Old Testament and Semitic Studies, Emmanuel Christian Seminary

I. MOTIVATIONS FOR THE PRODUCTION OF FORGERIES

            Forgeries have been produced for many centuries (Metzger 1997, 125-139; Rollston 2003; 2004; 2005; 2012; Ehrman 2011) and it would not be prudent to believe that the future shall be different from the past in this regard.  After all, there are timeless, discernible motives for the production of forgeries, and these motives can be detected on the basis of actual forgeries from Antiquity, the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, and the Modern Period.  (1) Of course, venality is certainly a motivation for the production of forgeries.  During the modern period, for example, non-provenanced inscriptions (i.e., from the antiquities market) routinely sell for four, five, and even six figures.  Some recent non-provenanced inscriptions have been valued at seven figures.  Prior to the modern period, forgeries also garnered substantial amounts of money as well (cf. Metzger 1997, 125-126).  (2) Some forgeries are arguably the result of “sour grapes” (e.g., a student purged in the modern period from an epigraphy program) or professional rivalry, with the forger hoping to “dupe” or “correct” the “offender.”  (3) Similarly, sometimes a forgery can be a prank, a Witz of some sort (e.g., Coleman-Norton’s “Agraphon”).  (4)  Moreover, there is a certain amount of prestige associated with being the person who “collects,” “vets,” or “finds” a significant “ancient epigraph” from the market.  (more…)

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5 Comments for : FORGING HISTORY: MOTIVES, METHODS, AND EXEMPLARS OF FORGED TEXTS [1]
  1. Thank you for this survey of sorts, Dr. Rollston. It seems the import of such discussion is all the more pertinent considering the situation of places like Syria. I.e., not only are there field-specific ramifications (academic), but political (as you suggest) and personal. I look forward to the full monograph.

    All the best,

    Patrick

  2. Dear Patrick,

    Thanks for the very nice note…I am very grateful.

    All best wishes,

    CR

  3. "According this document, the Emperor…"

    "…specialists must begin to begin to be more intentional…"

    "Fortunately, forgers often still make mistakes…"

    (My corny way of telling you I enjoyed reading your article!)

    • Eldad Keynan
    • April 21, 2012

    We all agree that forgers cause heavy damages to the various fields of study. But what abnout antiques thieves, Prof. Rollston? When will serious scholars try to explain the "missing ossuary"? Gibson uses these very words in his NEA 69 (2006) issue. Why didn't the IAA accuse Golan of stealling, in addition to forgery? Perhaps they were afraid that he will expose the James ossuary source? Ignoring will not promote the subject more than obscured references to alleged forgery, which a court of law dismissed.

  4. Pingback: Fakes and Forgeries – Part 1 الأثار الحقيقية والمزورة – الجزء الأول – خلفية نظرية « خانقاة الأثاريين

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