Forging Antiquity

The website for the Australian Research Council Discovery Project: Forging Antiquity: Authenticity, forgery and fake papyri

October 13–14, 2017, Macquarie University Museum of Ancient Cultures

Speakers and Abstracts


Campus Map

Getting There

Food & Drink




Sponsored by the Australian Research Council, the MQ Ancient Cultures Research Centre, the Australian Centre for Ancient Numismatic Studies, and the Macquarie University Faculty of Arts ‘Modes of Communication’ Research Theme.

Authenticity gives our experience of the world salience and purchase. The idea of a single real past, anchored in material culture and transmitted by cultural practices, remains cherished in popular culture even as it is steadily eroded by academic discourse. The notion of a stable distinction between true and false continues to the widely held, even as everything from fake news to forged objects dissipates this certainty.

All pasts are imagined, competing constructs of what should, or could, have been. Present relevance is, after all, the final arbiter of the shape of memory. The authenticity of an object, text, or idea, is constructed by the viewer, and does not inhere within it. As the security of an authentic material past is disrupted by forgery, so too do fake objects bring forth fresh imaginings of past and contemporary experiences, lives, and cultures. Forgeries may be in this way carriers of a more authentic representation of the significance of the past than real artefacts, dependent as they are on affinities with contemporary discourse. Authentication techniques, from ancient processes of legitimisation to modern scientific techniques, and from humanities to scientific approaches, rest on expertises and authorities that are routinely contested.

This symposium examines contested objects from a range of genres and periods; traditional and emerging techniques used to authenticate them; and the discourses of authenticity and modes of knowledge that both enable their creation, and frame competing understandings of them.

Attendance will be free, but rsvps are necessary for catering purposes. A [registration form](/

2017#Registration) may be found below. For other inquiries, please contact

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Speakers and Abstracts

John Melville-Jones (University of Western Australia)

‘Forgeries or not forgeries? A range of situations’

The motive for some forgeries is simple: criminal greed. But there are other situations. An artist may make something to show how good he is, to make up for the fact that he has not been successful in selling his work. Another artist or writer may create a work of art to show that he can match the work of the wonderful artists of the past, with no intention of deceiving anyone, but when something that he has produced gets out of his hands, it may not be recognised as being a contemporary piece of work, or marketed as much older than it is by unscrupulous dealers. And sometimes an artist may create something that no one could be expected to accept as genuine, but nevertheless it is accepted by careless persons. There is also the attitude of the victims. Who are sometimes unbelievably willing to accept something that is not the authentic artistic or literary creation that it purports to be.

Årstein Justnes (Department of Religion, Philosophy and History, University of Agder)

‘Authenticating Forgeries 101: The Post-2002 Dead Sea Scrolls-like Fragments’

Since 2002 more than 75 new so-called Dead Sea Scroll fragments have surfaced on the antiquities market. The majority of these have been bought by wealthy collectors and American evangelical institutions for astronomic prices. Several fragments have been published by major scholars in the field. In this paper I will use the story about these fragments to illustrate how forgeries are introduced, “authenticated”, published, and accepted as part of the dataset, and discuss the role of the scholarly community in this process.

Margie Borschke (Department of Music, Media, and Cultural Studies, Macquarie University)

‘Copies, a brief history’

What does it mean to deem an artifact a copy? Does it matter that copies and replication are central to the functioning of contemporary network culture? In this talk I will highlight some pivotal ideas about copies and copying in ancient and contemporary philosophy. In doing so, I distinguish debates about the problem of universals (also known as the problem of one over many) from a) questions of mimesis, and b) notions of authenticity in debates about copies and originals in art theory and aesthetics. I show that the Western understanding of what it means to be a copy itself has a history, one that was influenced by media forms and technological innovations as well as the development of romantic notions of creativity. To begin to glimpse this history, I take special notice of the role that media technologies play in the etymology of copy and how it has shaped ideas about copies in aesthetics and everyday life. Although difference has preoccupied post-structural thinking about copies, I suggest that, when we talk about copies today, we should also pay attention to debates in philosophy that teach us to pay close attention to differences between similarity and identity when considering sameness.

Malcolm Choat (Department of Ancient History, Macquarie University)

‘How do we edit a forged papyrus? Problems and prospects’

Both the ‘Forging Antiquity’ and ‘Lying Pen of Scribes’ projects have proposed producing editions of forged papyri as part of their projects. While forgeries on papyrus (and related media) have been edited in the past (both as forgeries and as genuine texts) their edition poses challenges for traditional editorial practice, including the restoration of lacunae and uncertain letters, and the reproduction of some of the nonsensical alphabets which are used in some examples. I will address these issues by concentrating on two forged papyrus fragments of the Gospel of John: the Lycopolitan Coptic fragment which accompanied the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife, and a Greek papyrus of the end of Gospel forged by Constantine Simonides.

Maree Clegg (Department of Art History, University of Auckland)

‘Eighteenth-Century Restoration of Ancient Marbles: Questions of Authenticity in the Collections of Charles Townley and the Marquis of Lansdowne’

The restoration and repair of sculpture has been ongoing since ancient times but from around 1750 until 1816 restoration became the norm in Rome and many thousands of altered ancient marbles were sold to Englishmen on their Grand Tour. During this limited time period sculptures were reimagined or reconfigured to represent a different subject, pastiches were created from disparate marble pieces, and entirely fake antiquities were manufactured. Scientific techniques to ascertain more about ancient marbles have advanced considerably in recent decades; however, they are not a panacea in determining antiquity. This paper examines commonly used scientific tests, and addresses the authenticity of ancient sculptures from the collections of Charles Townley and the Marquis of Lansdowne, using specific examples and documentary evidence from the collections.

Ken Sheedy (Department of Ancient History, Macquarie University), Floriana Salvemini, Scott Olsen and Vladimir Luzin (Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation)

‘Minting official “fakes” or the logic of plated coins’

It has been traditionally argued that plated coins were produced by forgers hoping to pass off their devious products as official coins. There is now mounting evidence that state mints, under the direction of public officials, produced plated coins. It seems, however, that the production of these coins was done in secret. Were plated coins regarded as official currency in this context? Were they in fact the first fiduciary coins – circulating at face value and not by the value of their metal? There is considerable evidence that the inventors of coinage – the Lydians of Asia Minor – also invented plated coins at the same time (the last quarter of the 6th century BC) as ‘true’ coins were being announced to the world.

Clementine Vanderkwast (Department of Music, Media, and Cultural Studies, Macquarie University)

‘The Conspiracy of Art: Louis Vuitton and Jeff Koons’

Contemporary art does not come from a natural impulse, but from a calculated and considered artifice. This is apparent within the 2017 collaboration between Louis Vuitton, and Jeff Koons titled the ‘Masters Collection’. I use the theory of Jean Baudrillard, and Walter Benjamin to interrogate the role of art when it conspires with luxury. By proposing that art should be viewed as a commercial production system, I look at the way in which the Baudrillardian concept of ‘authenticity’ is problematized within collaborations between the fields of luxury, and contemporary art.

Rachel Yuen-Collingridge (Department of Ancient History, Macquarie University)

‘Fabricating Authenticity: Reflections on the theme’

This paper will close the workshop and reflect on the themes of the papers.

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The conference will run from 3.00–5.30 pm on Friday 13th, with a reception to follow the keynote lecture by John Melville-Jones on Friday afternoon, and 10.00–3.30 pm on Saturday 14th of October. All sessions will be held in the Museum of Ancient Cultures seminar room on the third floor of building X5B (room 321) at Macquarie University.

Friday 13th October

3:00–3:15 Welcome

3:15–3:45 Margie Borschke, ‘Copies, a brief history’

3:45–4.15 Afternoon Tea

4:15–5:15 Keynote Lecture: John Melville-Jones, ‘Forgeries or not forgeries? A range of situations’

5:15–6:30 Reception

Saturday 14th October

10.00–10.40 Ken Sheedy, Floriana Salvemini, Scott Olsen and Vladimir Luzin, ‘Minting official “fakes” or the logic of plated coins’

10.40–11.20 Malcolm Choat, ‘How do we edit a forged papyrus? Problems and prospects’

11.20–11.50 Morning tea

11.50–12.50 Årstein Justnes, ‘Authenticating Forgeries 101: The Post-2002 Dead Sea Scrolls-like Fragments’

12.50–1.50 Lunch (provided)

1.50-2.30 Maree Clegg, ‘Eighteenth-Century Restoration of Ancient Marbles: Questions of Authenticity in the Collections of Charles Townley and the Marquis of Lansdowne’

2.30–3.10 Clementine Vanderkwast, ‘The Conspiracy of Art: Louis Vuitton and Jeff Koons’

3.10–3.40 Rachel Yuen-Collingridge, ‘Fabricating Authenticity: Reflections on the theme’

3.40–4.00 Afternoon tea and close

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Campus Map

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Getting There


Train: Macquarie University is accessible by the Macquarie University train station (see map, U26), on the Northern Line. There is an approximately 15min walk between the station and conference venue.

Bus: Macquarie University is accessible by a number of bus services. There is an approximately 5–10min walk between bus stops and the conference venue.

Parking: Free parking permits are available upon request for parking in the West 3 carpark (R11) throughout the symposium. Contact to be sent a permit.

For further information, see the Macquarie University website and Transport NSW website.


The symposium will be held in the seminar room of the Museum of Ancient Cultures, Building X5B, level 3 (O11). Level 3 can be accessed by stairs or elevator (N11), from the ground level if approaching from Wally’s Walk or from Level 2 if approaching from the West 3 carpark. On Level 3, enter through the glass door opposite the elevator and proceed through the red door of the museum to the seminar room at the rear of the building. Toilets are available on every level of the building.

Arrival Time

Registration will begin from 2:30pm on Friday and 9:30am on Saturday. Please arrive as early as possible to collect your name badge and program.

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Food & Drink

Refreshments will be provided at afternoon tea and the reception on Day 1. Lunch, morning tea and afternoon tea will also be provided on Day 2.

Additional food and drink options can be found on campus at the Campus Hub food court and Ubar (L17), or at a range of cafés and coffee carts. Piccolo Lane (R21), the Library Café (R16), and Wally’s Walk Coffee Cart (N14) are en route from the train station to the symposium venue. For further information, see the Macquarie University website, but note that a number of outlets will not be open on Saturday.

Nearby Macquarie Centre (S28) also has a range of fast food and sit-down options, and is an approximately 15min walk from the conference venue.

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The university store MacShop is currently closed, but Macquarie Centre offers many shops and services. ATMs are located in the Campus Hub and at Macquarie Centre. If presenters require any printing, please contact

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We are pleased to announce that registration for the conference ‘Imagining the real: Alternative (arte)facts from antiquity to the present day’ is now open. The conference will take place on Friday 13th and Saturday 14th of October 2017 in the Museum of Ancient Cultures at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia. Although there is no charge for attendance we ask all participants to register by 30 September to assist us with planning. If you have any questions about conference registration, attendance, or accommodation in Sydney, please contact the team at

Note that this conference cannot be used to gain points for the Macquarie University Global Leadership Program, and the organisers will not sign certificates or provide letters proving attendance for Global Leadership Program students.

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