back to article eBay driving world's tomb raiders out of business, says prof

An American archaeology prof says that a long-feared outbreak of eBay-driven tomb raiding has failed to occur. Rather, it seems that the online dross emporium - by creating a huge and profitable new market for forged antiquities - has drawn criminals and charlatans out of looting and into making crappy imitations for eBay. " …


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  1. Eddie Edwards
    Dead Vulture

    Great quote!

    "Even better, you can't be jailed for handling fakes the way you could for dealing in genuine antiquities"

    That's right, fraud isn't a crime.

  2. Brian

    Stupid Professor

    So this guy is a professor and yet he doesnt know the difference between a fake and a forgery ?

  3. Ash

    Greengrocer's of the world take heed!

    It's all in the title.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    ...and then I remembered.

    You only have to look at the "success" of Simon Cowell's X Factor baloney to see what's happening here. People are prepared to buy an album that they know is a mixture of terrible covers and instantly forgettable power ballads. Why? ...because they think their friends are going to buy a copy and they don't want to be left out.

    People will buy just about anything - especially if they think they will be "left behind" by their peers if they don't have one.

    If everyone else has "genuine" Egyptian or Peruvian crockery then they will want some too. In steps eBay.

    Oh to follow the flock, what an aspiration!

  5. Jamie Kitson

    Titter Ye Not

    > What drives this new dynamic is the small fraction of people who actually believe that someone will sell you a real Moche Fineline pot for $200 (actual price: about $15,000)

    What about the people who would like a Moche Fineline pot but can't afford $15,000? Maybe they're not so stupid as to pay $15,000 when they can get something virtually identical for $200.

  6. Anonymous Coward

    Does anyone still buy anything off eBay

    Since they've gone the paypal-only payment route I can barely be bothered to even look, and at least for the things I'm interested in, every time I look I see the same sellers flogging the same things.

    And FWIW, I'm inclined to think that these things are uncommon enough that I'm reasonably certain they are really the same things over and over again that nobody is buying -- not at those prices anyway.

    Then again, the things I'm interested in aren't fake antiquities being churned out by a factory in China, but I suppose it's only a matter of time.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    'Genuine death mask of King Tut'

    $1.99 + $400million shipping from China.

    It really wasn't until I saw that it was in Beijing that I cottoned on it might not be real.

  8. James Pickett


    As PT Barnum (I think) suggested, nobody ever lost money underestimating public taste. Unfortunately, the obvious corollary is also true...

  9. Mike Hocker

    You only need a fake...

    ... that is good enough to fool your friends.

    Although I have to agree at this point, no one would believe it was real even if it was!

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Stupid Brian

    Go one then, explain for the poor chap what the difference between a Fake ancient peruvian vase and Forged ancient peruvian vase.

  11. mark adrian bell

    Positive development

    This is a wonderful development. Not only can local craftspeople make a living by forging rather than searching for whatever is left to loot, they can replace their own real antiquities (all the good stuff was nicked long ago) with high quality fakes at a reasonable price. Alas, it won't help to patch up all the butchered statues that I saw in Cambodia. []

  12. Andy Bright

    I'd rather have a fake

    If I was buying old pots to decorate my home, I'd much rather buy a cheap but real-looking fake than the real thing anyway. Most of us don't really deserve the real thing because we wouldn't know how to look after it properly.

    As for it being fraud as one person suggested, I'm sure in some cases you're correct. But I'm equally sure that most people who live somewhere the police would actually be interested in fraud have worded their ebay ads cleverly to avoid this.

    Because ebay is basically an online jumble sale, I don't see many countries wasting money and resources going after low income forgers who make small amounts of money selling fakes to the gullible. It's not like they're cheating a real industry out of sales.

    And you have to admit, anyone who believes eBay is a reliable place to buy valuable historical artifacts has to be a little bit retarded. No doubt they all come with a certificate of authenticity, numbered 1 - 10,000.

  13. Manas Straw

    What's this again?

    "genuine artifacts will wind up adding to the sum of human knowledge ... rather than being privately fondled by rich degenerates."

    For a moment I wasn't sure if Lewis was talking about antiquities or something else.

  14. Stephen Hunt
    Thumb Up


    As they are created by local craftsmen, surely there will be some value in these pieces in the future. They will become the new antiques.

    Where's my wallet....

  15. Roger Heathcote

    I don't see...

    ...why forging antiquities should be considered a crime at all really. So what if you nd up with a fake so good it takes sophisticated analysis to tell it apart from the real thing? Is it going to look any worse in a display case? Really the only problem I can see is that some people might 'invest' in something believing it's 'real' and then if it turns out not to be they have lost some of that value - well boo hoo - let the buyer beware I say.

  16. John Dougald McCallum


    I knew eBay was good for something,and I agree with all the commentards that are saying define the differance between fake and forgery in this case.

    Definition of fake:-Having a false or misleading appearance.

  17. Andrew Oakley

    Fakes? Or reproductions?

    Are these items actually fakes - ie. the seller claims they are genuine when they are not - or are they reproductions - ie. the seller notes their similarity to the original but is clear that they are not the original?

    I'm not a billionaire and I don't know any antiques thieves. I wanted a good copy of the Mappa Mundi on my study wall. So I went to Hereford Cathedral and paid thirty odd quid for a nice reproduction (and given plenty of choice, I deliberately chose English labeling over the original Latin).

    Was I swindled? No.

    Did I get what I wanted? Yes.

    What the professor seems to not understand is that there is a massive market for reproductions, especially if they can claim some local link with the original. A reproduction Mappa Mundi purchased from Hereford Cathedral is worth more than a reproduction Mappa Mundi purchased from a history museum in London. Equally, a reproduction Egyptian artifact produced by Egyptian craftsmen is worth more than the same artifact produced in a factory in Spain.

    These people haven't gone more illegal (thieves moving info forgery), they've gone more legit (theives moving into craftsmanship).

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