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]

A ‘Lost’ Viking Graveyard Was Discovered in Norway

LMGPhotos/iStock via Getty Images
LMGPhotos/iStock via Getty Images

Contrary to popular belief, Scandinavian Vikings didn't send their dead out to sea on flaming ships. When someone died, they buried the body in the ground just as people have been doing across cultures for centuries. A recent discovery sheds new light on the Vikings' version of the practice. As Atlas Obscura reports, an entire Viking graveyard has been unearthed by archaeologists in Norway.

A survey leading up to a highway expansion revealed the site in Vinjeøra, a town located next to an ancient Viking farm. The graveyard contains several boat burials. While there's no evidence of Vikings ever conducting burials at sea in Scandinavia, they did sometimes load their cadavers onto boats—the boats just happened stay on land and act as coffins rather than watery graves. This may have contributed to the modern Viking funeral myth.

Among the boats, the dig team also found the remains of 20 burial mounds, including one that was especially noteworthy. The mound—which had been leveled by centuries of agriculture—once covered a mortuary house where a body was laid to rest. Archaeologists say the size and elaborate nature of the grave indicate that someone important, such as a chieftain or war hero, was buried there.

The house itself is no longer around for researchers to study, but it did leave behind a rectangular footprint, and a few foundational stones as evidence of its existence. By studying the grave mounds and boats, the archaeologists hope to learn more about a group of people that disappeared without leaving behind any written records of their lives.

Viking grave sites don't just tell us who the Vikings revered and how they treated their dead—they can also tell us what they did for fun. Ancient burial boats have revealed that some Vikings were buried with board games.

[h/t Atlas Obscura]

Civil War Cannonballs Found on South Carolina Beach in Aftermath of Hurricane Dorian

ABDESIGN/iStock via Getty Images
ABDESIGN/iStock via Getty Images

Hurricane Dorian skimmed the United States' East Coast last week, creating a trail of damage residents are still dealing with. But it wasn't just trash and debris the storm surges left behind: As WCSC reports, two cannonballs dating back to the Civil War were discovered on Folly Beach in South Carolina in the aftermath of the storm.

Aaron Lattin and his girlfriend Alba were walking on the beach on September 6 when they saw what looked like rocks nestled in the sand. As they examined them more closely, they realized they had found something much more special. The weathered objects were actually cannonballs that have likely been buried in the area for more than 150 years.

Incredibly, this isn't the first time Civil War cannonballs have been discovered on Folly Beach following a hurricane: In 2016, Hurricane Matthew unearthed 16 of them. Folly Island was used as a Union base a century and a half ago, and items leftover from the artillery battery built there are still scattered around the shoreline. The couple behind this latest discovery believes there are more waiting to be found.

Old cannonballs may look like cool artifacts to treasure hunters, but they should still be treated with caution. Police and bombs disposal technicians were called to the scene at Folly Beach to confirm the cannonballs were no longer functional.

[h/t WCSC]

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