Distorting the corpus: scholarly interaction and the erroneous authentication of the Sheikh Ibada fakes
thesisposted on 28.03.2022, 20:09 by Richard A. D. Bott
Far too often antiquities purchased on the market without verifiable provenance information enter scholarship as authentic antiquities only to be later exposed as modern creations. When this occurs, the scholarly discourse surrounding these events tends to treat these fakes as singularities and focusses on the methods used to uncover them. Largely ignored during these discussions are the processes by which these fake antiquities were erroneously authenticated by scholars in the first place. It is this deficit in the scholarship that this thesis contributes towards. Through a careful study of the Sheikh Ibada fakes, a group of sculptures once heralded as important examples of early ‘Coptic’ sculpture, this thesis explores the erroneous authentication of fake antiquities by scholars. It is demonstrated here that the methods by which scholars approached the Sheikh Ibada fakes, devoid of archaeologically recovered provenance, were highly problematic and led to the fakes being erroneously authenticated. There was a lack of what should be routine suspicion regarding the authenticity of antiquities acquired not from scientific excavation, but rather the antiquities trade. As a result, the Sheikh Ibada fakes were authenticated and entered scholarship as authentic antiquities.