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Online Antiquities

June 2, 2009

Online auction sites have transformed both legal and illegal antiquities markets.


The Internet and ancient relics. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

The black market in ancient artifacts may be taking a hit – from online auction sites like eBay. This according to Charles Stanish, director of the Cotsen Institute of Archaeology at UCLA. Stanish notes that the Internet has made it profitable for people all over the world to crank out cheap knockoffs of ancient relics.

CHARLES STANISH (University of California, Los Angeles):
And they can sell them. They can sell them legitimately as replicas, and they can also turn around and sell them to people who sell them as perhaps, antiquities.

… Which may not be honest, but it beats looting historic sites and causing irreparable damage. Stanish adds that while looting is still a problem, the surge in forgeries has made it harder and more expensive to authenticate any artifact. That’s deflated prices and demand, which may also make looting less tempting in the future. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.