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Verifying Antiques and Artefacts

It is an indisputable fact that trading in antiquities or artifacts (man-made ancient objects or works of arts) is indeed one of the hobbies, and businesses that is profitable and rewarding. That of course is if all went well.

It is a business that deals with hidden treasure (Often referred to as Treasure troves) that often have very high economic values as all antiques are usually very expensive. A good example is the limestone statue of Sekhemka, an Egyptian inspector of scribes who was recorded to have lived some 4,500 years ago that was sold  at Christie’s in 2014, for £15.7m!

Another example of antiquity is the oldest Acheulean hand axes found at archaeological site Kokiselei 4 in the Kenya and are dated to about 1.76 million years ago.

In the United Kingdom and surrounding Isle, for instance, gold and silver objects have been classified as Treasure Trove.  The law recognizes Gold and/or silver and precious metals which had been deliberately hidden with the intention of recovery and where the original owner/s or heirs are unknown.

Almost every country have persons who are involved in antiquity collections and/or trade. It is one of the markets that has cross boundary connections easily. Markets for antiquities are therefore often linked internationally.

Generally, objects or materials that are classified as antiquities must have the following characteristics:

1.     It must be regarded as being almost timeless or ancient; (objects that are a few years old from creation or discovery don’t match this description). It should have a grand history of being in use or as being the prized possession of ancient people, more preferably owners in the middle ages or earlier than that.

2.     It should be able to pass the test of having contributed to the richness and acceptance of a culture historically known to be ages ago or centuries ago.

The major source of artefacts for today's’ market comes from archaeological sites excavations. The archaeologists who finds them must of a necessity also have recordings with details of its history, its site of find (location) and anything other interesting information about the object. For example, a gold cup or silver plate found in archaeological sites in Egypt and successfully dated and linked historically to an ancient Pharaoh.

Need for Verification of antiquities

History has shown that there is a lot of stealing, looting and deception n the antiquity market.  Despite the fact that many antiquities are kept in Museums and other secure places, there are often cases of theft, vandalism and importation without due license and proof of ownership.

Today, there are cases of artefacts and antiquities from Africa, Turkey, Iran, Iraq, etc still held up in most foreign nations. The process of repatriation had begun for most of them while some are yet to be verified.  This has prompted the enactment of many international as well as many national laws that makes it imperative for those in the antiquities market to ensure the objects that pass through their hands are properly verified.

In art, it is called provenance. Provenance is defined as is the history of the ownership and transmission of an object. Today, everyone involved in antiquity trade is interested in the provenance of any piece they want to buy or sell.  Provenance documentation can prove that the item has not been stolen and that the current owner has a clear title for the item that can legally be passed to the buyer upon purchase. The principle of documented provenance ensures that the antiquity item in question is authentic.


Included in a provenance document that a prospective buyer of any antiquity should demand for is invoice, receipts of first purchase if any, evidence of the inclusion of the item in a legally organized auction with evidence by photos if any, evidence of its accession number in a local museum of the originating country if any etc.

Other ways to Verify Antiquities

Many countries now have special units in their respective ministries that deals with cultural heritages and do officially scrutinize and verify  the ownership of objects that come up for public sale.

Universities and Colleges do have Research centres domiciled at the departments of Archaeology that are dedicated to provenance studies on antiquities. Often they do collaborate with antiquities departments at museums and Historical institutions that help verify the time of use of these objects and more. Forensic science also is employed in verifying authenticity of the antefacts.

Verification software for artifacts and antiquities have now been developed and in used in many countries such as the USA, and UK. These software make the process of provenance easier, faster and more verifiable.

Obtaining Legal Information

Many countries now offer to make information concerning Antiquities available to their citizens. This is to ensure that they are not defrauded or deceived into buying an item that has no value as an artefact or can be described as an object of antiquity. The following national offices from different countries do offer free advisory information on issues relating to antiquity trade and transaction:

UK office ,       Scotland,     USA, 

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