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5 Ridiculous Archaeological Frauds (That Fooled the World)

#2. The Tiara of Saitaphernes

Wikipedia

As any cultured individual will tell you, the Louvre is one of the world's most respected museums, so it would be safe to assume its collections are bullshit-free. In addition to housing things like the Mona Lisa and that armless statue, they also adopted a mint-condition third century crown from a Greek colony near Russia in 1896, scoring big when less French places like the Imperial Court and British Museum passed on it for some weird reason. The Louvre, assuming these dumbasses had made a huge mistake, immediately rushed in to claim it in the name of their proud nation. After analyzing it for a total time of "Fuck it, why bother?" hours, their leading experts tossed 200,000 francs at the tiara's owner, put it on display and toasted each other for their genius decision-making skills.

Wikipedia
"No one will ever make fun of us now!"

But Wait ...

But no one else was congratulating the museum on their awesome deal, mostly because the world was too busy laughing in their faces. Among the people waiting in line to spit on France's dreams was Adolf Furtwangler, a specialist of Greek archaeology and professor from Germany, who found this flawless tiara business to be kind of suspicious. When he called it out as a hoax, the Louvre responded in the extremely mature manner you'd expect from a world-class institution: by crying "RACIST!" and telling the press how this German guy was a baguette-hating, uncouth dick.

Wikipedia
Also, we're pretty sure "Furtwangler" translates to "sausage wrestler."

But aside from being covered in obvious traces from modern tools and soldering, there was also the problem of the ancient third century artifact not looking the tiniest bit disheveled after so many centuries supposedly spent in a crumbling cave.

So where did the tiara actually come from? It was made by a Russian guy named Israel Rouchomovski, whose buddy had asked him to whip up a fresh fake antiquity "as a gift for an archaeologist friend."


You can make a fake Taj Mahal this way if you have a spare hot air balloon.

Once Rouchomovski proved his tiara-faking skills, the Louvre finally fessed up to their error. The embarrassing crown was hidden away in a back room and spoken of only in hushed tones of total humiliation for years, until they decided that putting it on display in the 1954 Salon of Fakes exhibit was the best way to save face.

andrejkoymasky
It's a dumb tiara anyway. Hand us our glitter glue.

#1. The Persian Mummy Princess

Wikipedia

Digging up a mummy is just about the biggest deal in the dick-measuring contest that is archaeology. So when the 2,600-year-old body of a Persian princess turned up in Pakistan wearing a kickass golden crown and a breastplate with an inscription that translated to "I am the daughter of the great King Xerxes," people got pretty excited, because until then, making mummies was thought to be purely an Egyptian hobby.

archaeology
"Also, I'm totally not fake. Ask Dave, he'll tell you."

The Persian princess became an instant worldwide celebrity, causing an international incident about whose museum would get to take her home. Iran and Pakistan both wanted to claim it, and even the freaking Taliban wanted it. But while everyone was bickering over ownership of a really old rotted corpse, some scientists decided they wanted to take a look at it, and that's where things started to really get strange.

Getty
Moving in single file with both hands visible turned out not to be a purely Egyptian habit.

But Wait ...

Somebody who was an expert at this kind of thing happened to notice that the grammar in the mummy's inscription was terrible, like it was written by someone from a first year undergraduate course on ancient Persian. Deciding that this warranted deeper investigation, researchers began to uncover some more interesting facts about the princess:

1) The coffin was not ancient, but a modern forgery no more than 250 years old.

2) The mummification process was hack work, like someone cobbled the process together from what they remembered from school classes on ancient Egypt and Brendan Fraser movies.


"When fighting a poorly CGIed mummy, never focus on the same thing as your sidekick."

3) The woman had only actually been dead for two years.

4) She'd been murdered, possibly for the purpose of making her into a fake mummy.

In what was the weirdest black market scheme ever concocted, it appears that someone actually murdered a person in an effort to make money from mummy fraud. That kind of dedication makes us wonder why they didn't go to the effort of studying the Persian language and how to mummify people. Once you've killed someone, we'd say you're well past the point of half-assing it.

sciencemag
"This is officially a murder investigation. Somebody whip off a pair of sunglasses and scream 'YEAAAAAAH'."

The victim hasn't yet been identified, nor have the perpetrators of what resembles a rejected plot outline for a Weekend at Bernie's sequel.

When she's not writing comical tales and drinking her weight in tea, you can find Josie making fun of/studying hipsters at Obscurity in the Wilderness.

For more hoaxes that people won't let go of, check out 5 Myths That People Don't Realize Are Admitted Hoaxes and The 6 Most Bizarre Medical Hoaxes People Actually Believed.

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