10 Fake Archaeological Finds

1. The James Ossuary

Paradiso [English Wikipedia], Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

This limestone coffin was discovered in Israel in 2002 and was thought to be the ossuary of Jesus' (the Jesus) brother James. The ossuary itself dates back to the first century, but the carving on it that claimed that the remains were the brother of Jesus is a modern forgery made to look old by the addition of a chalk solution.

2. The "oldest" star map

In 1999, a disc depicting the stars and planets was found by two amateur metal detectors in Germany. They claimed it was 3,600 years old and tried to sell it to German museums. A professor examined the disc and pronounced it no more than two or three hundred years old.

3. The Calaveras Skull

William Henry Holmes, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

In February, 1866, some miners in California found a human skull buried beneath a layer of lava. It fell into the hands the State Geologist of California, who said the skull proved that humans, mastodons and elephants had coexisted at some point in time in California. However, tests conducted at Harvard showed that the skull was of recent origin and one of the original miners admitted the whole thing was a hoax.

4. Etruscan terracotta warriors

The poor Metropolitan Museum of Art got taken several times by the Ricardis, a family of art forgers. In 1915, the family sold a statue called Old Warrior to the Met. In 1916, they sold a work called the Colossal Head, which "experts" decided had been part of a seven-meter (about 23 feet) statue. The Big Warrior was sold to the Met in 1918 for $40,000. It wasn't until 1960 that tests showed manganese in the glaze, an ingredient that had never been used by the Etruscans. A sculptor who had been involved in the forgeries then came forward and signed a confession that the pieces were all fakes.

5. Forged Persian Princess

In 2000, a mummy was discovered in Pakistani Baluchistan that was apparently Rhodugune, a daughter of King Xerxes I of Persia. The mummy was displayed at the National Museum of Pakistan in November 2000. Studies eventually showed that the coffin was maybe 250 years old, the mat underneath the body was at most five years old and the woman had died only two years before. The body remains unidentified and unburied to this day.

6. Piltdown Man

In 1912, pieces of a skull and a jawbone were found at Piltdown near Uckfield, East Sussex, England. They were thought to belong to a form of early man, but by 1953 scientists agreed that the specimen was actually the skull of a man with the jawbone of an orangutan.

7. Tiara of Saitaphernes

Israël Rouchomovsky, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

This regal artifact was bought by the Louvre in 1896 because they believed it had belonged to Scythian King Saitapharnes. Experts at the museum declared it to be somewhere between late third-century B.C. or early second-century B.C., but quite a few experts challenged those dates. It turned out that a skilled goldsmith had been commissioned to make the tiara for an archaeologist friend. The goldsmith was so good that it passed muster. The museum was extremely embarrassed when they learned the truth and hid the tiara away for years.

8. Mississippi State Capital Forgery

In the 1920s, the Mississippi Department of Archives and History bought a collection of Native American artifacts. Oddly, included in this grouping was an Egyptian mummy. In 1969, a medical student asked the museum for human remains to study and the museum allowed him to study the mummy. He discovered that it was mostly made of papier-mâché, with a few animal rib bones thrown in to make it appear authentic. Whoops.

9. Cardiff Giant

Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

This 10-foot-tall petrified "man" was "discovered" in 1869 by workers digging a well in Cardiff, N.Y. The giant was made from a block of gypsum and shipped to a farm in Cardiff, where it was buried for a year before being "discovered" by the well builders. P.T. Barnum offered to buy it and was turned down, so he had his own built and claimed his was real and the Cardiff Giant was a fake. They were both proved fake on February 2, 1870.

10. Michigan Relics

The Michigan Relics were found by James Scotford in 1890. The relics included a clay cup with symbols and carved tablets. Scotford and Michigan's Secretary of State, Daniel Soper, showed thousands of objects "found" in 16 counties of Michigan. The Detroit News even reported that they have found copies of Noah's diary. Archaeologists agree that the artifacts were made with contemporary tools, and, oddly, no more were found after Scotford and Soper died.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Central Press/Getty Images
Ernest Hemingway’s Guide to Life, In 20 Quotes
Central Press/Getty Images
Central Press/Getty Images

Though he made his living as a writer, Ernest Hemingway was just as famous for his lust for adventure. Whether he was running with the bulls in Pamplona, fishing for marlin in Bimini, throwing back rum cocktails in Havana, or hanging out with his six-toed cats in Key West, the Nobel and Pulitzer Prize-winning author never did anything halfway. And he used his adventures as fodder for the unparalleled collection of novels, short stories, and nonfiction books he left behind, The Sun Also Rises, A Farewell to Arms, Death in the Afternoon, For Whom the Bell Tolls, and The Old Man and the Sea among them.

On what would be his 119th birthday—he was born in Oak Park, Illinois on July 21, 1899—here are 20 memorable quotes that offer a keen perspective into Hemingway’s way of life.

ON THE IMPORTANCE OF LISTENING

"I like to listen. I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen."

ON TRUST

"The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them."

ON DECIDING WHAT TO WRITE ABOUT

"I never had to choose a subject—my subject rather chose me."

ON TRAVEL

"Never go on trips with anyone you do not love."


Ernest Hemingway Photograph Collection, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston. [1], Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

ON THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN INTELLIGENCE AND HAPPINESS

"Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know."

ON TRUTH

"There's no one thing that is true. They're all true."

ON THE DOWNSIDE OF PEOPLE

"The only thing that could spoil a day was people. People were always the limiters of happiness, except for the very few that were as good as spring itself."

ON SUFFERING FOR YOUR ART

"There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed."

ON TAKING ACTION

"Never mistake motion for action."

ON GETTING WORDS OUT

"I wake up in the morning and my mind starts making sentences, and I have to get rid of them fast—talk them or write them down."


Photograph by Mary Hemingway, in the Ernest Hemingway Photograph Collection, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston., Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

ON THE BENEFITS OF SLEEP

"I love sleep. My life has the tendency to fall apart when I'm awake, you know?"

ON FINDING STRENGTH 

"The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places."

ON THE TRUE NATURE OF WICKEDNESS

"All things truly wicked start from innocence."

ON WRITING WHAT YOU KNOW

"If a writer knows enough about what he is writing about, he may omit things that he knows. The dignity of movement of an iceberg is due to only one ninth of it being above water."

ON THE DEFINITION OF COURAGE

"Courage is grace under pressure."

ON THE PAINFULNESS OF BEING FUNNY

"A man's got to take a lot of punishment to write a really funny book."


By Ernest Hemingway Photograph Collection, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston. - JFK Library, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

ON KEEPING PROMISES

"Always do sober what you said you'd do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut."

ON GOOD VS. EVIL

"About morals, I know only that what is moral is what you feel good after and what is immoral is what you feel bad after."

ON REACHING FOR THE UNATTAINABLE

"For a true writer, each book should be a new beginning where he tries again for something that is beyond attainment. He should always try for something that has never been done or that others have tried and failed. Then sometimes, with great luck, he will succeed."

ON HAPPY ENDINGS

"There is no lonelier man in death, except the suicide, than that man who has lived many years with a good wife and then outlived her. If two people love each other there can be no happy end to it."

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
4 Movies, 1 Thing In Common II
iStock
iStock

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios