The Forger's tale: An insider's account of corrupting the corpus of Cycladic figures

Christos Tsirogiannis, David W. J. Gill, Christopher Chippindale

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Many of the known Cycladic figures - the late prehistoric human-shaped sculptures from the Aegean archipelago - came from twentieth-century illicit excavations, especially in the 1960s and 1970s. It is also known that figures were being faked at the time and perhaps also earlier: a few fakes have been identified, whilst other figures are under suspicion. Interviews with a man who faked Cycladic figures in the 1980s and 1990s give us a first insider's autobiographical account of the forging business. This article offers, step-by-step, the method that two forgers developed to create fake figures, to treat them so that they appeared ancient, and to sell them on. The forger has identified a few of these forgeries from photographs of figures; his story is consistent with other information and seems to ring true. By verifying various elements in the forger's testimony - from names of well-known figures in the modern antiquities market to small details and dates - we have been able to evaluate the validity of the narrative; to use it in order to uncover the true paths that fake objects followed into various collections; and to highlight valuable provenance information that no one involved in trading these objects was ever willing to provide.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)369-385
Number of pages17
JournalInternational Journal of Cultural Property
Issue number3
Early online date9 Dec 2022
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • Cycladic figures
  • Illicit antiquities
  • Forgeries
  • Antiquities market

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