Wednesday, May 06, 2009

EBay Good for Archaeologists

If you haven't already seen the story in Archaeology Magazine, Science Daily, Yahoo, or a host of other sources, here's the deal. Ebay makes selling faux antiquities so easy that looting of archaeological sites has decreased.

Professor Charles Stanish of UCLA wrote the article called "Forging Ahead, or how I learned to stop worrying and love EBay." It's a really good article; click on one of the links above to read it in full. What follows is my quickie dissemination of his well-researched facts.

Looting works like this: some poor schmuck robs a grave or stumbles upon a treasure. Said schmuck wants cash--usually to do something frivolous like feed his children--so he sell his find to someone, who sells it to someone, and so on and on. The money's made in the middle; the finder gets little and the customer at the end pays big time.

Selling fakes is a little different. In the past, the fake had to be really good to get a high price from collectors. Naturally, high-end fakes cost more to make and involved skilled artisans.

So in comes EBay, where a low-end, cheaply-produced fake--in fact, a mass-produced ton of cheap fakes--can be shipped out regularly to hundreds of wanna-be collectors all over the globe. Why risk arrest and jail by stomping around old burial grounds at night if you can set up a pottery workshop and sell more goods that way? The finder/producer now gets more money, because he's producing more goods--all day, in a shed, with his friends and neighbors helping out. The only middleman might be the shipping/EBay shop in the nearest town. (I bet there's a shipping dock in the back of this bazaar!) Also, because so many cheap antiques are available, the market for looted goods is impacted. Their price declines. A real win-win scenario.

Thanks to the miracle of online auctions. Ah, technology!

No comments: