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Red and Green Flags (British History)
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Mick Harper
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A certain reprobate but close relative of mine wrote to me today in the following terms

What I’d like to see is a table with two columns ‘Forged’ and ‘Not Forged’. Then perhaps the Red Flags of the forged documents suggesting inauthenticity. Are there some for genuine documents? If AE is to be any use, it ought to have some easily-applied rules of thumb.

Unusually, I agreed with him. So this thread is not for the identification of forgeries -- or laying waste to both the forgers and their academic dupes -- but simple rules of thumb that anyone can use to lay waste on their own account.

We might begin with the one that Hatty has just been elucidating, the presence of 'mystery scripts' eg Ogham, Pictish, Runic (and maybe Etruscan). At present 'scholars' -- I put it in quotes not for irony but to indicate that the people who discover these things and make them their life work tend not to be academics -- (a) assume they are genuine and (b) reject any they think forgeries.

We might join Suggs by going one step beyond and say that not only are they all fakes but the people who discover them are the fakers. Which provides us with another red flag...
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Grant



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Finding stuff in skips
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Mick Harper
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Excellent, Grant. Forgeries are never found in skips, only the real McCoy. Which is why forgers use skips as fake provenances. Here's an example from HistRev

Apart from Magdalene College’s holdings, the Bodleian Library in Oxford has twenty-five volumes of ‘miscellaneous papers’ and other books including dockyard account-books from the time of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I

Oxford could not claim to have Pepys or any of his close relatives on their books but they did have his dustman

These were bequeathed to the Bodleian by Dr Richard Rawlinson (1690 – 1755), a nonjuring bishop and ‘a great collector’ who ‘rescued’ a mass of Pepys material ‘discarded in a waste heap’ and subsequently bequeathed the papers to the Bodleian. ‘His collections in the Bodleian Library defeat the most persistent attempts at analysis.’

From rubbish comes forth rubbish.

This is considered so compelling that nobody has bothered to enquire of the Bodleian how 'Pepys material' can survive for fifty years before being chucked out with last night's empties. Unless rubbish heaps survive for decades in eighteenth century London. On the other hand...
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Mick Harper
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In a back street in the city Jennings discovered in workshop rubbish the marble “Jennings Dog” and bought it from the sculptor, restorer and dealer in antiquities Bartolomeo Cavaceppi for 400 scudi

I know what you’re asking yourself. “Why is he paying good money for a marble dog that was done so badly it’s been chucked on the reject pile?” You’re forgetting that the locals, surrounded as they are by Classical clutter, are absurdly complacent about antiquities

The stone sculpture was discovered at Monte Cagnuolo, near the ancient Lanuvium, the site of an imperial villa of Antoninus Pius, 32 km south-east of Rome. The sculpture became famous on its arrival in Britain, praised by Horace Walpole among a scant handful of masterly Roman sculptures of animals, with replicas that were thought to make “a most noble appearance in a gentleman’s hall”, in Dr Johnson’s words. The Sarah Campbell Blaffer Foundation at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston had attempted to purchase it (the sculpture had been shown in the US in the 1980s), at the price of $950,000

Would you pay a million bucks for something that was (a) worth four hundred scudi and yet (b) had been chucked out with last night's empties? Well you did. The British public had to come up with the scratch to prevent the Yanks nicking one of our best fakes.
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Mick Harper
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Which provides us with another red flag... "Once a faker, always a faker". People at the industrial end of fakery, providing gazillions of items for museums et al, run the risk that with such a massive sample to examine, even the boneheads that run our museums might spot the odd hookey one. This need not be a problem in itself -- even the best collector can be foisted with a fake from time to time -- unless the 'collector' is getting his gear all from one source. This is why the Franks Casket gets a whole chapter to itself in RevHist, finishing with this paean

We have the BM’s own testimony they have tried unavailingly to persuade the Bargello to release their useless and neglected panel and the only conclusion to be drawn from this unprecedented absence of fraternity between two titans of the cosy confraternity of national museums is that the Bargello cannot afford to have the Carrands outed as crooks, they are responsible for providing many of their best exhibits. The British Museum cannot afford to have Franks outed as a crook, he is responsible for providing twenty thousand of theirs. Both museums know the panel will not fit the casket so they have agreed

o to have a ‘cast’ made that does
o never donate, sell or loan panels to the other
o always employ staff and trustees who know nothing about it.

Honest, Guv, we just work here.

It is amazing that, for example, Welsh medievalists can spend their whole lives examining the wonders that are contained in The Book of Llandaff and be clever enough to spot that half of the charters that it lists are fake but not clever enough to realise that twelfth century charter-compilers are hardly likely to make a list of genuine charters and then imperil their own reputation by following a policy of 'one genuine one, one fake one, one genuine one, one fake one...'

As Abraham Lincoln said 'They can all be one thing or they can all be other thing but the one thing they can't be is half one thing and half the other thing.'
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Wile E. Coyote


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Mysteriously washed up and found on a beach etc, is a bit of a flag for Wiley. True, if there has been evidence of an ancient shipwreck, then it might be genuine, but otherwise.

Tara Brooch, Noggin the Nog, both fall into this category.
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Mick Harper
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There are two problems that need to be solved: where has it been all the time and why now? Being found on a beach solves both but at a cost: it can only ever be a one-off. Slightly better is 'brought up in fishermen's nets' since, if pushed, that can be several items plus "Well, all the fishermen come to me, I'm the local strange artefact go-to person." The price here though is too many potential witnesses. In the post-aqualung age many of these problems can be obviated.

The question of what immersion in the sea for hundreds/thousands of years does to artefacts is so inexact a science that, even now, pretty much anything goes. However, as sure-fire red flag/green flag indicators, I'm not sure that any of these really hold water.
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Wile E. Coyote


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On the Franks...The quilting of styles, and subject matter "The adoration of Magi", "The enslavement of Wayland Smith" (the killing of the king's sons and rape of his daughter), along with the mixing of Latin and Runes is a bit of a red flag to Wiley, those Anglo Saxons had a lot of trickster/riddler qualities, bit like forgers.
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Mick Harper
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More than a red flag, it's a flat-out no-no. But it works in the opposite direction for academics -- there's something for everyone! You might be able to beat a lone academic, you might be able to beat a lone specialty, but when they've teamed up you've got no chance.

I'm not sure forgers are quite so AE-savvy as to be using this consciously. Mostly it would seem they get there by just shoving on anything they've seen in museums that looks vaguely olde worlde. Academics just lurve deciphering the results eg on the Bargello panel of the Franks Casket

The runic text of this panel presents many problems as well. For some reason, most of the vowel-runes have been replaced with new, and seemingly arbitrary, runes, and many of the spellings are unusual, making the translation somewhat difficult. It may be read as: Her ltos sitafo on ltarmberga; regl(re) drigip; swa ltiri ertre egi sgrref, sarden sorga rend sefa lorna. A possible translation is: ‘Here a host sits on the mound of grief; misery endures; so to (her or them) Erta prescribed dread, a sad grave of sorrow and troubled heart.’
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