by John F.Berner, EIC
Originally Published in the Central States Archaeological Journal, Vol.54, No.1, pg.18
Make no mistake, if a person ages flint or any other artifact, that person is a counterfeiter. There is controversy among archaeologists, investors, collectors and flint knappers whether modern flint knapping is a good thing or not. But one subject stands alone among them; that is concerning the artificial ageing of flint replicas and other stone artifacts.
Arguments have been presented by a number of archaeologists who believe that replication and marketing of flint items “will reduce the desire for looting “while providing an adequate supply of authentic looking items for the marketplace. Then there are others who suggest that learning the lost craft helps one understand how artifacts were created in ancient times. Some investors and collectors think there is too much flint knapping and that produces the temptation for a shady dealer to pawn off a replica at a handsome profit and that is wrong. It is! Lithic reproductionists, as they prefer to be identified, say that they are producing works of art and that those works of art serve an important need!
The only way to judge this scenario is case by case. If the only purpose is to replicate ancient copies and the knapper identifies his work as his own, selling under such circumstances; there is benefit to all. But if the knapper refuses to identify his work with some permanent marking and uses the excuse that the market for his work is minimal if signed and identified, then the replicator is feeding a potentially dishonest market.
If a knapped specimen is fine enough to warrant that specimen as a work of art, then the maker should be proud enough to show his name for all to see!
Unfortunately, the record indicates that more than 5000 persons are engaged in the replication of stone age artifacts, especially flint, to some degree; then it should be obvious to most of us that the art market alone cannot support all of the makers. It has been estimated that the 5000 knappers turn out nearly one and half million replicas per year!
We hear many excuses such as “that is the only way I can support my family” or ” I am not hurting anyone”. How about getting a real job?
Selling illegal substances or counterfeiting U.S. currency is in the same category. And for those who don’t know, nearly 99% of all unmarked replicas end up as marketed fakes. The reason is because there is an underground movement of “aging” unmarked replicas, and for some it has become a full time business. Some agers charge as little as $10 per point, and every trick in the book is used from rubbing grease and grime into the loose flakes to burying the replicas with animal feces, boiling the reproduction in lime and potassium permanganate and many other chemical methods. In some instances the surfaces of the faked specimens are then burnished to give the artifact an appearance of age and having been used.
All of this is nothing less than counterfeiting which is illegal in all the 50 states. If the ager, maker or seller is prosecuted and found guilty, serious time in a penal institution is a real threat. Do it through the mail or wire and the crime is federal. Making or selling fakes is a crime!
“Used by Permission of the Author”
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