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.There is a delightful book by Edward Tenner titled Why Things Bite Back: Technology and the Revenge of Unintended Consequences. It is full of stories of how intentions go awry. It is well worth a read.
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.
Wednesday, May 6, 2009
Here is an interesting article by Brandon Keim about E-Bay and antiquities from Wired magazine.