Don't Buy Ancient Artifacts You See Online—Most Are Looted or Fake

ALBERTO PIZZOLI/AFP/Getty Images
ALBERTO PIZZOLI/AFP/Getty Images

While browsing eBay for vintage finds, steer clear of anything that looks like it once graced an ancient tomb, temple, or palace. As The Wall Street Journalreports, up to 80 percent of antiquities on the online market are likely either looted or forgeries.

The illicit trade of antiquities is nothing new, and unscrupulous dealers and smugglers have plied their wares on the internet for years. But recently, there's been an uptick in fake or stolen artifacts sold on the web. Neil Brodie, a senior research fellow in endangered archaeology at the University of Oxford, estimates that at least 100,000 antiquities are listed for sale online on any given day. Collectively, they’re worth more than $10 million, according to the Journal.

This boom could be chalked up to a variety of factors, including the growth of social media and e-commerce platforms and the large-scale plundering of sites in Syria and Iraq. Groups like ISIS sell these stolen antiquities to collectors, and use the proceeds to fund terrorism and criminal activity.

Thanks to social media, it’s easier than ever to sell illegal goods directly to potential customers. But in addition to potentially funding terrorist activity, there’s a good chance that collectors' objects of desire are either illegal or fake, as an estimated 80 percent of the so-called antiquities have sketchy provenances, Brodie said.

Tech giants like Amazon, Facebook, and eBay all forbid the sale of stolen objects, and they also remove suspect ads, content, listings, and even users. But overall, regulation is lax, although heightened scrutiny by international organizations and officials might prompt these companies to take extra security measures.

eBay—which sells five collectibles per second, according to Artnet News—is reportedly trying to thwart trafficking by providing customs officials with the identities and contact info of suspicious sellers. Experts have also suggested that the e-commerce company adopt other anti-trafficking measures, like posting prominent warnings about stolen or fake goods on the site. Meanwhile, undercover agents have taken to monitoring apps and websites in search of potential criminals.

For now, if you're a collector, you can help by ignoring those ads for "uncleaned" ancient coins that look like they’ve just been dug up. Both your wallet and conscience will thank you.

[h/t The Wall Street Journal]

The ChopBox Smart Cutting Board Has a Food Scale, Timer, and Knife Sharper Built Right Into It

ChopBox
ChopBox

When it comes to furnishing your kitchen with all of the appliances necessary to cook night in and night out, you’ll probably find yourself running out of counter space in a hurry. The ChopBox, which is available on Indiegogo and dubs itself “The World’s First Smart Cutting Board,” looks to fix that by cramming a bunch of kitchen necessities right into one cutting board.

In addition to giving you a knife-resistant bamboo surface to slice and dice on, the ChopBox features a built-in digital scale that weighs up to 6.6 pounds of food, a nine-hour kitchen timer, and two knife sharpeners. It also sports a groove on its surface to catch any liquid runoff that may be produced by the food and has a second pull-out cutting board that doubles as a serving tray.

There’s a 254nm UVC light featured on the board, which the company says “is guaranteed to kill 99.99% of germs and bacteria" after a minute of exposure. If you’re more of a traditionalist when it comes to cleanliness, the ChopBox is completely waterproof (but not dishwasher-safe) so you can wash and scrub to your heart’s content without worry. 

According to the company, a single one-hour charge will give you 30 days of battery life, and can be recharged through a Micro USB port.

The ChopBox reached its $10,000 crowdfunding goal just 10 minutes after launching its campaign, but you can still contribute at different tiers. Once it’s officially released, the ChopBox will retail for $200, but you can get one for $100 if you pledge now. You can purchase the ChopBox on Indiegogo here.

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Explore Two of Pompeii’s Excavated Homes in This Virtual Tour

A photo of the Pompeii ruins from November 2019.
A photo of the Pompeii ruins from November 2019.
Ivan Romano/Getty Images

It’s been nearly 2000 years since the eruption of Mount Vesuvius decimated Pompeii in 79 C.E., and archaeologists are still uncovering secrets about life in the ancient Roman city. As Smithsonian reports, they’ve recently excavated two homes in Regio V, a 54-acre area just north of the Pompeii Archaeological Park—and you can see the findings for yourself in a virtual tour published by the Italian Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities.

The 7.5-minute video comprises drone footage of the houses and surrounding ruins, along with commentary by park director Massimo Osanna that explains what exactly you’re looking at and what types of people once lived there. Osanna’s commentary is in Italian, but you can read the English translation here.

The homes, both modest private residences that probably housed middle-class families, border the Vicolo dei Balconi, or “Alley of the Balconies.” The first is fittingly named “House With the Garden” because excavators discovered that one of its larger rooms was, in fact, a garden. Excavators pinpointed the outlines of flowerbeds and even made casts of plant roots, which paleobotanists will use to try to identify what grew there. In addition to the garden and vibrant paintings that feature classic ancient deities like Venus, Adonis, and Hercules, “House With the Garden” also preserved the remains of its occupants: 11 victims, mostly women and children, who likely took shelter within the home while the men searched for a means of escape.

Across the street is “House of Orion,” named for two mosaics that depict the story of Orion, a huntsman in Greek mythology whom the gods transformed into the constellation that bears his name today.

“The owner of the house must have been greatly attracted to this myth, considering it features in two different rooms in which two different scenes of the myth are depicted,” Osanna says. “It is a small house which has proved to be an extraordinary treasure chest of art."

To see what Pompeian houses would’ve looked like before Mount Vesuvius had its fiery fit, check out this 3D reconstruction.

[h/t Smithsonian]