By Creating Market in Fakes, eBay Protects Archaeological Treasures

Retrieved from: Wired.com

When eBay was founded ten years ago, archaeologists feared it would create a convenient global marketplace for stolen antiquities, spurring the looting of archaeological sites. Their fears proved unfounded.

By creating a market for fake antiquities, the online auction giant has actually reduced looting pressures, writes UCLA archaeologist in Archaeology.

According to Stanish, communities that would once have supported themselves by raiding nearby ruins now devote themselves to churning out forgeries. “Chinese, Bulgarian, Egyptian, Peruvian and Mexican workshops are now producing fakes at a frenetic pace,” he writes.

By using eBay to sell directly to customers and cutting out middlemen who once transported their finds to black-market buyers, forgers actually make more money than before, and have little incentive to loot.

Their fakes are increasingly well-made, to the point where Stanish often can’t distinguish them from genuine items, and have flooded the global antiquities market. Stanish estimates that 95 percent of eBay’s purported archaeological treasures are forgeries, up from 50 percent a decade ago.

Would-be buyers of authentic artifacts are more skeptical than ever, further driving down the price of genuine antiquities.

“The value … of illicit digging decreases every time someone buys a ‘genuine’ Moche pot for $35, plus shipping and handling,” he writes.

See Also:

Image: Flickr/Theilr

Brandon Keim’s Twitter stream and Del.icio.us feed; Wired Science on Facebook.

Out In Africa is a great team, consisting of Nodi (the festival director), Sharon (the deputy director), Theresa (Administrator), Maureen (Production Assistant), Carol (Financial Manager), Arthur (see the Out With Art section) and many others. For the complete list, see our "About Us" page.
Email this author | All posts by Out In Africa