Following the trail of Simonides to the State Library of Victoria

Recently we visited the State Library of Victoria (who we thank for their help and hospitality) to inspect a small archive of papers relating to the mid-nineteenth century manuscript forger Constantine Simonides. The papers once belonged to the London chemist and prominent microscopist Henry Deane, and chronicle his attempts to test the authenticity of some of the manuscripts which had been alleged to have been forged by Simonides, principally the palimpsest manuscript of the Kings of Egypt by Uranius, as well as some of the papyri from the Joseph Mayer collection in Liverpool.

Wyburd, Francis John, 1826-1893; Henry Deane (1807-1874), President of the Pharmaceutical Society (1853-1855)
Henry Deane Sr, a painting by Francis John Wyburd (1826–1893) in the Royal Pharmaceutical Society Museum (https://artuk.org)

Although these manuscripts are now universally agreed to be forgeries, and the Uranius had already been declared to be such by German scholars well before Deane began to examine it in 1862, the issue of their authenticity was very much alive in England in the early 1860’s, chiefly promoted by John Eliot Hodgkin, a Liverpudlian businessman and collector antiquities, who was the chief supporter of Simonides and his manuscripts in England at this time. Hodgkin engaged Deane, as well as his fellow scientists Francis Wenham and Richard Beck, to determine the authenticity of the manuscript. While the others declared it a forgery, Deane wrote a report asserting it was genuine. The manuscript of Deane’s report, along with briefer reports from Wenham and Beck, is now contained in the State Library, along with a small archive of letters, mainly from Hodgkin to Deane, concerning the latter’s work. These range over 1863 and 1864, and chronicle the progression in Deane’s opinions on the Uranius from his firm statement of its authenticity in 1863, to a complete reversal of this position – to the dismay of Hodgkin – in the following year.

1250 Deane
The old Deane and Co building, Clapham. Source: http://paintedsignsandmosaics.blogspot.com.au. Image: Sebastien Ardouin

What are these papers doing in Melbourne, far from Clapham Common in London where Deane had his Pharmacy (which functioned as a chemist up until 1986, and whose sign can still be seen at 17 The Pavement Clapham)? Deane’s son, Henry Deane Jr, emigrated to Australia in the 1880’s, where he worked over the succeeding decades to build the railway network in New South Wales, including the (now sadly dismantled) Sydney tram system. He retired to Victoria, and made a gift of his father’s papers on the Simonides affair to the then Public Library of Victoria. His name lives on round Sydney in Henry Deane Plaza in the city, and a swish cocktail lounge in Millers Point.

These papers help tell a small part of the story of the attempt to scientifically authenticate the Simonides manuscript, which will be supplemented by the other side of the correspondence, which we will read again in the British Library when we visit England in September. And as we continue this work, we’ll bear in mind this connection with 19th century Australia, and the story behind these letters being in Victoria.

Malcolm and Rachel.

Markers of Authenticity Seminar, 2/6/17

This Friday 2nd of June at 4:00–5:30 pm, the Markers of Authenticity seminar series continues in X5B 321 (Museum of Ancient Cultures Seminar Room, Macquarie University), with a paper sharing insights from the first six months of work on the new  Australian Research Council Discovery Project ‘Forging Antiquity: Authenticity, forgery and fake papyri’.

‘Forging Antiquity: Insights from a new ARC Discovery Project’

Malcolm Choat, Rachel Yuen-Collingridge, and Vanessa Mawby (Department of Ancient History, Macquarie University)

The Australian Research Council Discovery project ‘Forging Antiquity: Authenticity, forgery and fake papyri’, a collaboration between Macquarie University and the University of Heidelberg, began in early 2017 with a study of two early modern scholars, Pierre Hamon and Jean Mabillon, and the earliest forged papyrus in the modern age. The treatment of the papyrus by these two scholars illuminates the emergence of methods and resources for the authentification of documents which are still in use today. By comparing the techniques developed to both construct and uncover the forgery, we will demonstrate how the two processes are entwined and provide salient lessons about the communication and reception of scientific practice.

2017 Seminar Series: Semester 1

Dear all;

The interdisciplinary seminar series “Markers of Authenticity” continues in session 1 2017 with the program of events listed below. Please join us for these seminars, for which we will send out reminders and abstracts closer to their respective dates.

Friday May 26, 1:00–2:30 pm W6A 308 (Ancient Cultures Research Centre Seminar Room)

‘On Authenticity and Race’

Adam Hochman (Department of Philosophy, Macquarie University), with a response by Andrew Gillett (Department of Ancient History, Macquarie University)

Discussion connecting race and authenticity tends to focus on the issue of ‘authentic’ racial identity. In this conversation, Hochman will explore some other, under-examined connections between the concepts. making the case that social constructionism about race – understood as the view that race is a social kind – creates a range of authenticity problems. It is unclear which groups count as de facto races under a social definition of the concept. Is there, or has there ever been, a Jewish race? A Muslim race? Consequently, it is unclear who has the appropriate expertise to speak about race. This problem appears especially in debates about whether race is modern. In other words, who are the ‘authentic’ race scholars? Hochman will suggest a solution to these authenticity problems, which involves a thoroughgoing rejection of racial ontology, and the replacement of race with the category of the racialized group.

Friday 2 June, 4:00–5:30 pm, X5B 321 (Museum of Ancient Cultures Seminar Room)

‘Forging Antiquity: Insights from a new ARC Discovery Project’

Malcolm Choat, Rachel Yuen-Collingridge, and Vanessa Mawby (Department of Ancient History, Macquarie University)

The Australian Research Council Discovery project ‘Forging Antiquity: Authenticity, forgery and fake papyri’, a collaboration between the Macquarie University and the University of Heidelberg, began in early 2017 with a study of two sixteenth century scholars, Pierre Hamon and Jean Mabillon and the earliest forged papyrus in the modern age. The treatment of the papyrus by these two scholars illuminates the emergence of methods and resources for the authentification of documents which are still in use today. By comparing the techniques developed to both construct and uncover the forgery, we will demonstrate how the two processes are entwined and provide salient lessons about the communication and reception of scientific practice.

Friday 9 June, 4:00–5:30 pm, X5B 321 (Museum of Ancient Cultures Seminar Room)

‘The Internet Antiquities Trade: Insight into an Invisible Market?’

Lauren Dundler (Department of Ancient History, Macquarie University) and Iain Shearer

In the past two decades, the emergence of an Internet market for antiquities has invited new challenges and concerns for policing and regulating the trade of cultural artefacts. Surprisingly, few have responded to these issues with research output. The Internet is a public archive which offers a unique and unprecedented glimpse into the trade of antiquities. There are, of course, still limitations in our understanding when viewing the market through this lens, but this does not detract from the valuable insight we can gain through providing rigorous analyses of the Internet market for antiquities. This discussion will examine how traditional market values of provenance and authenticity have been translated to an Internet forum, creating a market that is parallel, yet distinct, to the existing trade of antiquities.

We look forward to seeing you there and continuing the discussions which emerged in our 2016 seminars.
All are welcome!
Best regards,
The Markers of Authenticity team, Rachel Yuen-Collingridge, Lauren Dundler, and Malcolm Choat

CfP: Panel on Forgeries at SBL Annual Meeting

Papers are invited for a panel on forgeries to be held at this year’s Society of Biblical Literature Meeting in Boston in November as part  of the ‘Papyrology and Early Christian Backgrounds’ program unit. The panel will feature papers by members of two international projects on forged ancient manuscripts, ‘The Lying Pen of Scribes’, and ‘Forging Antiquity’, and further papers are invited on topics related to the theme: these could be examinations of forged ancient manuscripts or narratives of forgery, discussions of the relationship between provenance and authenticity, or other related topics. The call for papers closes on 8th March 2017. To propose a paper in the panel, head to the SBL site; questions about the panel may be directed to Malcolm Choat.

2016: The year in Authenticity and Provenance

2016 was a big year for issues of the authenticity and provenance of antiquities. Below are some of the highlights as they seemed to us. There were many others of course, such as many reports of art forgeries and deauthentication; or Matt Sheedy’s leveraging of his reading of Aaron Hughes’ Islam and the Tyranny of Authenticity into reflections on ‘Trump and the Tyranny of Authenticity’. There were also many other excellent commentaries on the events we discussed below in addition to what we link.

Locally, our Markers of Authenticity seminar series had an excellent year – you can read a summary here. Watch out for the new book by one of our 2016 presenters Margie Borschke, This is not a Remix: Piracy, Authenticity and Popular Music, in 2017. Elsewhere, the ‘Lying Pen of Scribes’ project based at the University of Agder in Norway held two outstanding conferences, on ‘Manuscript Forgeries and Counterfeiting Scripture in the Twenty-First Century’ in April and ‘Fragments of an Unbelievable Past? Constructions of Provenance, Narratives of Forgery’ in September (read Roberta Mazza’s report on the latter here). As well as the Macquarie-Heidelberg project ‘Forging Antiquity’ (funded by the Australian Research Council 2017–2019) and the Norwegian ‘Lying Pen of Scribes’ project, other concentrations of research of the forgery of antiquities became apparent, such as the Rice University Seminar program for 2017–2018 on Forgery and the Ancient: Art, Agency, Authorship. Alongside Christopher Rollston’s forthcoming book Forging History in the Ancient World of the Bible & the Modern World of Biblical Studies, the study of forgeries is progressing very well in many places.

Isis, the antiquities trade, and digital replicas

The trade in looted antiquities, the destruction of cultural heritage, and the replication of destroyed heritage, was kept in the news by ISIS’s occupation of Palmyra until March, when they were driven out by the Syrian and Russian armies (as they were by the Iraqi army from Nimrud, which also suffered heavy damage); yet by December, ISIS had regained control of the city. Much of the media coverage reproduced the hyperbolic assessments of the financial scale of ISIS’s trade in antiquities, (see the discussions by Chris Jones and Fiona Rose-Greenland), and occasioned debate over whether the West cared more about ancient ruins than living people (see e.g. Michael D. Press here and here). Alongside the trade in looted antiquities (often attributed to ISIS regardless of whether that was chronologically plausible or not), a large upsurge in the production of forgeries coming from Syria was also reported.

In response to the destruction of iconic Palymyrene artefacts such as the monumental arch, a replica, created by the Institute for Digital Archaeology, was displayed in London and New York. While many praised the potential of such replicas to restore destroyed cultural heritage (for another initiative see here), others questioned the ethics of the industry of recreating lost heritage (see the article by Sarah Bond here). Earlier in the year, digital replicas had been in the news when two artist released a 3D scan of the head of Nefertiti in the Neues Museum Berlin which the artists involved, Nora Al-Badri and Jan Nikolai Nelles, claimed had been ‘scanned … clandestinely … without permission of the Museum’. Yet it soon became clear that what had been distributed was the Museum’s own high resolution scan, raising issues about the ownership of such digital reproductions.

Here too, in the realm of looting and the antiquities trade, dedicated academic interest is heartening, such as the Past for Sale and MANTIS projects at Chicago.

Unprovenanced and forged papyri

Roberta Mazza continued her focus on papyrological provenance, including a presentation at the International Congress of Papyrology in Barcelona. There were also some excellent contributions on the post-2002 ‘Dead Seas Scrolls’ by Eibert Tigchelaar, Kipp Davis, and Årstein Justnes. By far the biggest splash in the year was Ariel Sabar masterful unmasking of the owner of the “Gospel of Jesus’ wife”. Sabar focused his investigations not on the authenticity of the papyrus itself, but on the provenance, demonstrating that – as a number of people had suspected – at least one of the documents attesting to the acquisition history of the papyrus appeared to be itself a forgery. Much more remains to be told of this story (see our thoughts on the implications here), and we were pleased to learn Sabar is working on a book about the whole affair.

In October, a sensational papyrus was publicised, which purported to be ‘the earliest extra-biblical source to mention Jerusalem in Hebrew writing’, dated by the editors, by palaeography and C14, to the 7th century BCE. No sooner had it been made public, then its authenticity was questioned. The papyrus provided scholars with many of the elements which not uncommonly (but not always) point to forgery: an obscure and contradictory provenance story (which was promptly problematised further), sensationalist claims in the media (including its immediate use in controversy over the UNESCO resolution on Occupied Palestine, illustrating the continued and troubling use of antiquity in modern debates), language which was at points unexpected, and oddities in the layout of the text on the papyrus. These suggested to a number of commentators, notably Christopher Rollston (here, with follow-up here), that it could be a forgery.

Late in the year we saw the return of the ‘Jordanian Lead codices’, who most academic commentators had assumed were forgeries when they were first publicised in 2011. They certainly seemed to have many of the same hallmarks of forgery pointed to on the ‘Jerusalem’ papyrus, though here, the relationship with previously known text and images seemed even more clear. Yet the reemergence of these texts in the media drew forth comment from those who had been studying the codices at the Centre for the Study of the Jordanian Lead Books, in particular a statement by Samuel Zinner which accused David Elkington (the source of the media coverage) of both sensationalism and plagiarism, and set forth a case for authenticity for at least some of the codices (the statement was posted on academia.edu, but has now been removed; a cached version may be viewed here). Notwithstanding the new testing of the lead, it’s fair to say some remained to be convinced (including us), but we should await (hopefully not for too long) the outcome of the proper investigation of the material.

Policy

In policy terms, the big news was the signing by the US and Egypt of a Memorandum of Understanding on cultural property protection in late November, which placed limitations on the import of a large range of antiquities (listed here) dating from the Predynastic to the incorporation of Egypt into the Ottoman Empire (1517 CE). While it was (predictably) decried by antiquities trade advocates, the MOU constituted an important limit on the trade in illicit antiquities, and those who advocated for it deserve thanks. This overshadowed the passing of a new German law on the protection of cultural property, which had implications for the trade in antiquities.

Over the last three years, Malcolm has had the privilege of sitting on the Society of Biblical Literature’s Task Force on Unprovenanced Artifacts, which had considered how the SBL should respond to this issue: in September, the SBL announced that it was endorsing and adopting the American Schools of Oriental Research Policy on Professional Conduct, which includes sections on the stewardship of archaeological material and unprovenanced artifacts. The statement distributed by the SBL focused on moveable artifacts, and noted that section III, parts D and E were to be applied to SBL’s Programs and Publications in the future: yet sections III.B and C, on Stewardship and Discovery, also contain very important principles which it is hoped members of the SBL will follow in the future. The SBL policy will be reviewed in two years, and there are many aspects to ponder in that time, including the degree to which the Stewardship and Discovery sections of the ASOR policy will observed by members of the SBL, and whether or not anything like the ‘cuneiform exception’ in the ASOR policy would be considered for textual artefacts commonly discussed at the SBL, especially papyri: without wanting to telegraph our position or pre-empt the debate, we are not clear on what grounds such an exception could be credibly argued. As Michael D. Press noted in two excellent posts on the SBL policy (here and here), it is unlikely that the SBL community will move quickly (if indeed at all) to totally restrict the presentation of unprovenanced artifacts in SBL venues: but if the policy helps (as it seems to be doing already) to promote awareness of the problems associated with the use of such artefacts (especially those which have appeared on the market recently) then that will have been a very useful outcome.

The adoption of this policy by the SBL means that most professional associations and societies for the study of ancient world have some form of statement which regulates their members’ interaction with antiquities. An exception has been the International Association for Coptic Studies, but at the July meeting of IACS, Malcolm and Paola Buzi were charged with developing such a policy for future considering by the membership.

It’s been a big year of developments in discussions around authenticity, forgery, provenance, and the antiquities trade, and we look forward to seeing what emerges in the New Year. See you all in 2017!

Malcolm, Rachel, and Lauren.

The Year That Was

Our inaugural year of Marker’s of Authenticity is coming to an end and so it seems timely to reflect on the discussions stimulated and developed throughout our new seminar series.

The first two seminars were presented by our two co-founders, Rachel Yuen-Collingridge and Malcolm Choat. Rachel’s paper started the series off with a confronting yet productive discussion of how different disciplinary stances identify and police authenticity. In doing so, Rachel raised questions of the re-enactment, restoration and the recollection of the past within an interdisciplinary framework. These questions stayed with us for the entirety of the series and were re-addressed in Rachel’s timely discussion of cultural appropriation in our final seminar of the year.
 In our second seminar, Malcolm introduced our audience to Constantine Simonides, the 19th century master forger and his creation of a series of fake papyri which validated his own theories about the translation of hieroglyphs. Setting his research within a discussion of the legal definition of forgery, Malcolm provoked questions about our relationship with authenticity and the tools used to generate distinctions between “fakes” and “copies.”
mc
Associate Professor Malcolm Choat (Department of Ancient History, Macquarie University)
These legal themes followed through in the next seminar, presented by Lucas Lixinski, from the Faculty of Law, University of New South Wales. Lucas’ provided a fascinating challenge to existing legal definitions of tangible and intangible cultural heritage by identifying how the vocabulary of “authenticity” has negatively impacted on the experiences of local communities and other traditional owners of heritage. Ultimately, he concluded that the only real solution to these ethical issues would involve abandoning this existing vocabulary and moving forward with more collaborative strategies involving the perspectives of the typically neglected stakeholders.
Our next seminar saw the discussion move to a very different, albeit fascinating, context: authorship and the drafting process. Marcelle Freiman (Department of English, Macquarie University) located her analysis of drafting and revision within the problematizing of concepts of authenticity, authorship, and authority in 20th century literary studies, using her work on cognitive processes and the extended mind to reinstate the writer in the creative process, focusing on the drafting visible in manuscript copies of 19th century literature.
mf
Dr Marcelle Freiman (Department of English, Macquarie University)

Our final seminar for semester one saw the return to ancient world studies and was presented by Javier Alverz-Mon (Department of Ancient History, Macquarie University). Javier highlighted the damage done to our understanding of history by the trade in looted antiquities, the problematic response to the issue in some academic quarters, and the duty of academics studying the ancient world to speak ethically on its behalf, and on behalf of the nations on and in which we conduct research.

Semester two started with a panel titled “The Authenticity of the Museum Experience”, featuring representatives from local museum institutions. The discussion started with Arul Baskaran, Digital Studio Manager at the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences, asking if we were trading off realism vs the authentic in the context of the production and display of digital reproductions of objects. As the objects themselves are a critical part of the stories museums tell, how much do we take away from the story by removing the object itself? Next, Craig Barker, from the Nicholson Museum at the University of Sydney, discussed the value of replicas within a museum context, if labeled as such. He noted changing perspectives in this regard by discussing the extensive (and now lost) plaster cast collection the Nicholson had up to the 1960’s, which are themselves artifacts of the view of antiquities in the Victorian era. Finally, Andrew Simpson, who teaches Museum Studies at Macquarie University, dealt with the privileging of the original within museum culture, and the multiple layers of authenticity, some dependent on context, which objects possess.

In the following seminar, Louise D’Arcens (Department of English, Macquarie University) spoke about the ‘marketplace of Authenticity’ produced by the commercialisation and commodification of cultural heritage and heritage tourism, examining this through the lens of Michel Houellebecq’s The Map and the Territory. After the paper, we discussed whether the idea of an authentic past can co-exist with the demands of heritage tourism for an authentic experience of the past.

lda
Professor Louise D’Arcens (Department of English, Macquarie University)
Then, in a special seminar co-sponsored with the research seminar series of the Department of International Studies, Meg Mumford (School of the Arts and Media, UNSW), and Ulrike Garde (Dept. of International Studies, Macquarie University) presented the examination of the Berlin theatre movement discussed in their book Theatre of Real People: Diverse Encounters at Berlin’s Hebbel am Ufer and BeyondTheir discussion introduced us to Knaller & Muller’s argument that authenticity is ‘constituted by performative act and observation.’ Through this framework, authenticity is not given, fixed nor static but rather the product of agreement that needs to be renewed with each authenticating act.

In the same week we hosted Margie Borschke from the Department of Media, Music, Communication and Cultural Studies (Macquarie University). Margie discussedthe aesthetics of circulation, asserting that an understanding of what it means to be a ‘copy’ was crucial to a proper understanding of the internet. She problematized various descriptions of ‘copy’ in the digital age, locating her discussion within both theoretical work on authenticity by Walter Benjamin and Charles Taylor, and consideration of notions of the authentic and genuine in popular music and music communities, drawing on material from her forthcoming book This is not a Remix: Piracy, Authenticity and Popular Music (Bloomsbury, 2017). Please check out her Storify presentation here.

The 2016 series ended with a roundtable forum on ‘Markers of Authenticity across the disciplines’, in which the 2016 speakers, as well as Dr Natalie Seiz (Curator, Asian Art, Art Gallery of New South Wales) addressed two questions provided by the convenors: “What use do you make of the concept of authenticity in your research and/or practice?”, and “How can this concept be ethically applied to the rules and practice of your discipline?”

group
(L-R) Louise D’Arcens, Ulrike Grande, Meg Mumford, Marcelle Freiman, Natalie Seiz, Malcolm Choat, Javier Alverz-Mon, Andrew Simpson, Margie Borsche, Lauren Dundler and Rachel-Yuen Collingridge
Over the ten seminar sessions we hosted, we found ourselves constantly redefining our understanding of authenticity in the context of an array of interdisciplinary frameworks. For some presenters, authenticity was a legal tool used to shape discussions around ownership. Others drew attention to the malleable nature of authenticity, which is reliant on the negotiation of social contracts for its identity. What we were left with was an understanding of our narrow our previous focus had been and a glimpse into an exciting future of interdisciplinary collaboration around these ideas of authenticity, authorship, forgery and identity.
We’d like to end this reflection with a note of appreciation to our presenters and faithful audience and also with a call for papers. We intend on continuing these discussions in 2017 and if you would like to be a part, reach out to the team with your proposal.
All the best for the festive season,
from Malcolm, Rachel and Lauren

Semester 2 Seminars

Our interdisciplinary seminar series continues in semester 2 and we have a dynamic program on offer designed to extend the discussions we have shared so far in Markers of Authenticity.

Have a look at the upcoming series and come join us for an afternoon of interdisciplinary conversation and refreshments. Also, if you are interested in attending the workshop on ‘Scripture, Reception, and Authenticity,’ held on the 9th of September, please get in contact with us.

All are welcome! We look forward to seeing you and hearing your thoughts once more!