Anyone who has tried to get into the hobby of collecting Egyptian antiquities
will quickly come to realize just how many fakes
are out there. It can feel a little overwhelming at times, but there are a few good
ways to tell what's real and what's not, as long as you can inspect the artifact closely.
I'll post a few images here that I feel may be helpful for anyone trying to identify if an ancient Egyptian
artifact is real or fake
Sometimes simply checking under a microscope is a good
way to determine if it's real when other observations fail. This is most helpful for faience
, but can help
with many forms of ancient ceramics.
In this case, I examined a pair of faience amulets
under a microscope. One amulet
was genuine, the other a clever fake
. Both amulets
looked similar at first glance.
The differences are shown in the below images, which I made during a project several years ago.
Above: These magnified images are from a real faience
bought from a reliable antiquities
dealer at private auction
. Take note of the uneven glazing, variation of color, and dust in all of the little nooks and crannies. The faience
glaze is opaque, due to the high amount of impurities in the ancient formula. You'll have a hard time seeing air bubbles in the glassy parts. Any rough areas have been filled with caked-on dust, which even the most protected amulets
will accumulate over time.
The fourth slide is a magnification of a small hole in the amulet
. The dust is fibrous and caked on thickly. This is likely "mummy dust," although it could also be the remains of a string. It is a complex mixture of many materials, fibers, dust, resin, etc. Sellers who try to fake
mummy dust tend to use one material, which causes the dust to seem to be a uniform composition under magnification. Some sellers will sprinkle their amulets
with real mummy dust, but it will fail to get into all the nooks and crannies, leaving some areas with clean, glassy holes where bubbles caused flaws in the glaze.
Below you'll see images of a fake amulet
. Take note of the clearly visible bubbles in the glaze, and the overall uniformity of color and cleanliness of the surface. You'll notice you can see the bubbles deep below the surface, due to how clear and pure the glaze is - a sign of industrially refined chemicals.
This is not what you'd see on an object that has been collecting dust for thousands of years. Even the best preserved artifacts will have some build up. On higher magnifications with a better microscope, small flecks
of shiny dust, likely metal flakes, can be seen. These most likely would have corroded away in the ancient samples.
Above: Magnified images of a fake faience Anubis amulet
sold by the notorious
seller of fakes
." (I knew it was fake
when I bought it, although he insisted it was genuine.)
Fakers have been getting better at making convincing fakes
, but hopefully this will help
collector weed out some of the less obvious fakes
Thanks for reading!