Copper alloy male figure; bearded human figure, with shoulder-length hair in a pigtail, knee length dress with wide waist band and double ribbing down the front; upper part of body naked; by analogy with other figures of the type, it is thought that the hands originally held weapons.
- Excavated/Findspot: Gezzine
- Height: 25.5 centimetres
- Width: 7.2 centimetres
Warrior god, from Gezzine, Lebanon, c. 2000 BC
This figure, acquired in 1957, is one of a group of figures known to come from the Lebanon. After examination, however, the Museum's Research Laboratory concluded that it was a modern fake on the grounds that its surface seemed to have been artificially roughened, that the edges of the front ribs of the corset were unworn and almost razor sharp, that the patination was thin and scant and that the metal almost pure copper. Both the then Keeper of Western Asiatic Antiquities at the British Museum, Dr Richard Barnett, and Henri Seyrig, a French scholar who had published a group of these figures in 1953, were convinced that it was genuine, and pointed out that a similar piece, which had been in the Cabinet des Médailles, Paris, since the mid-eighteenth century, was also made of nearly pure copper. Nevertheless, the Research Laboratory persisted, after a second examination, in concluding that the object was probably false.
Barnett was deeply concerned by this conflict between scientific and academic opinion. It was therefore with some pleasure that he was able, ten years later, to report that a new examination by the Research Laboratory had concluded that 'the balance of scientific evidence must therefore now be considered as being no longer incompatible with the age assigned on stylistic grounds'.
What had changed in the interim? The results of the 1968 examination simply confirmed the previous ones. But the second of the earlier reports had concluded that 'if objects of known provenance and great age could be examined which were made of similar oxygen-free high purity copper . . . it is possible that the situation would be altered', and this is exactly what had now occurred.
This affair is a reminder that inferences drawn from scientific analysis, like those drawn from historical or archaeological analysis, are only as reliable as the evidence on which they are based. The Research Laboratory had concluded - reasonably but wrongly - that pure copper was not likely to have been used in the second millennium BC. Where the evidence for declaring an object a fake depends on contextual evidence such errors can never be entirely ruled out.
7 July 1998
Reason for treatment
Previously cleaned in an uneven manner leaving mud bonded into corrosion in some areas and bare ,abraded metal in others,the whole burnished smooth and possibly waxed.Metal very porous with many pits,some filled with white powder.Large sample taken from tang beneath one foot.The face and eye sockets particularly disfigured with mud.
Cleaned manually using scalpel.
Deposited on 7/12/56 (WAA deposit book, entry 1065).
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Object reference number: WCO24886
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