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]

26 Fascinating Facts About Fossils

Mental Floss via YouTube
Mental Floss via YouTube

If you’ve never visited the Big Bone Room, you’re in luck. Check out our visit to New York City's American Museum of Natural History for a rundown on fossils, which provide invaluable insight into our understanding of history and its once-living occupants.

In this edition of "The List Show," editor-in-chief Erin McCarthy explains the ins and outs of excavation, fossil follies (extinct giants were a big miss), and the terrorizing prospect of a 3-foot-tall parrot.

For more episodes like this one, be sure to subscribe here!

2000-Year-Old Roman Tweezers and Metal Ear Swab Discovered in UK

Christopher Furlong/Getty Images
Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

The ancient Romans took hygiene seriously. They pioneered indoor plumbing, deodorant, and the practice of bathing daily. A recent discovery made at a bridge construction site in the UK reinforces just how committed to cleanliness the Roman civilization was. As Geek.com reports, workers unearthed an ear cleaner and a pair of tweezers thought to date back 2000 years to the Roman Empire.

The artifacts were dug up by the Ebbsfleet Development Corporation at the location of the new Springhead Bridge in Ebbsfleet Garden City, a development in Kent. One small tool appears to be designed for pinching and plucking small items just like modern-day tweezers. The other object is thought to have been built for cleaning ears—but instead of cotton, the "swab" is made entirely of metal. They're thought to date back thousands of years, but scientific analysis will need to be done to determine the exact age.

Grooming items weren't the only artifacts uncovered at the site. Workers also found a piece of timber believed to have been meant for an ancient structure. The Ebbsfleet River, where the new bridge is being built, was once a shipping hub and a Roman settlement called Vagniacis. Historical finds are so common in the area that the Ebbsfleet Development Corporation employs full-time archaeologists.

The personal hygiene tools have been removed from the archaeological site by experts who will study them to learn more about their origins. The fate of the artifacts is unclear, but the construction company behind the discovery hopes they can remain in the same city where they were found.

[h/t Geek.com]

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