Along with clothes and weapons, ceramic receptacles are the objects most essential to the survival of every population. Pottery was used to contain liquids and food, as well as for cooking.

Consequently all countries in possession of clay quarries had their own production. Most of these countries limited their own production to the most common shapes for everyday use.

It is not possible to say when copying began. It is logical to assume that an artist who saw a work of art he liked of any era would try to copy it.

Greek and, above all, Roman sculptors and potters already had a great deal of Egyptian and Middle Eastern models at their disposal.

We know for certain that Renaissance and Neoclassicism copyists aged a good part of their works artificially.

The skill and industriousness of fakers already at the beginning of the 19th century is well documented by the book “Hellenistiche Tonfiguren und Nachschöpfungen” (Hellenistic Terracotta Figures and Imitations) published by the Berlin State Museum, which acquired an inordinate number of fake terracotta artefacts in the years between 1870 and 1896 through apparently honest dealers.

Today’s forgers do not have the patience, however, to execute such perfect works.

Fake excavated pottery and 19th century copies often give themselves away at first sight because most of these objects are bigger and more beautiful than the originals.

The forger or the copyist is interested in selling, after all, and his work must be as attractive as possible.

Most of the test that can be carried out to distinguish archaeological pieces from recent copies are surprisingly simple and accessible to the layman.

The humidity in the soil, rich in minerals and plant roots, penetrates the ceramic body. These extensive traces left by the earth offer the surest and simplest means of establishing authenticity.

Unequivocal evidence is provided by a spectroscopic analysis of the encrustations, which a well-equipped laboratory can carry out in a few minutes.

The approximate age of an object can be determined by the Thermoluminescent method.

Detailed descriptions of the single techniques and scientific methods are partly available on our site  and can be found, illustrated with numerous photos, in thirty pages of Volume 3 of our Museum’s handbook.