Faked or Changed? Using Science to Reconstruct Object Biography

Protecting Cultural Heritage Sites and Artifacts
Sunday, February 14, 2016: 8:00 AM-9:30 AM
Marshall Ballroom North (Marriott Wardman Park)
After artifacts are made and used, they are often discarded, buried, and later, excavated or otherwise looted for financial gain. Each of these stages of an artifact’s life imprints it with telltale material characteristics that can be discerned through careful scientific examination. This symposium addresses the theme of object biography, to demonstrate the ways that culturally significant artifacts can themselves serve as evidence of their original context and use. The material analysis of such objects can shed important light on when they were removed by looting or collection, altered through repair, or deliberately faked or forged. In particular, the symposium highlights how forensic science can be used on art and archaeological artifacts to aid law enforcement. It will show how compositional datasets of Chinese porcelains are helping to root out misattributed objects and fakes; how analyzing glass from a window from Canterbury Cathedral in the U.K. demonstrates the use, reuse, and change of a single object over time; and how carefully reconstructing painted surfaces reveals new information about how and where Roman-Egyptian portraits were made. The session explores how the humanities employ these data to better understand manuscripts and papyri that may have been intentionally forged to alter the historical record for ideological aims.
Marc Walton, Northwestern University
Katherine Faber, California Institute of Technology
Francesca Casadio, Art Institute of Chicago
Bonnie Magness-Gardine, FBI Headquarters
Forensic Science Approaches to Art and Archaeology
Marc Walton, Northwestern University
Romano-Egyptian Mummy Portraits from Tebtunis, Egypt
Anikó Bezur, Yale University ; Ian McClure, Yale University
The Discovery of A Major Early Work