The #Nok culture gave the world a glimpse of ancient Africa through their terracotta sculptures, which survived, buried in central #Nigeria, for 2,500 years. In return, we looted their sites and made a bunch of fakes, making it impossible to understand them. A thread. Image
Distinct and stylized, Nok sculptures came to the attention of Western art lovers at almost the same moment Nigeria banned their export. But that didn't stop the art market. ImageImageImageImage
By the mid-'90s, two dealers employed 1,000 diggers to dig ancient sites, searching for Nok sculpture to sell. For more details, see:…
The looting is ongoing - a major investigation was published last week:…
If you're buying a Nok sculpture today, you can't fool yourself that it wasn't looted. Unless, of course, you've been fooled yourself, since there are lots of ridiculous fakes for sale.
Only $5k for this piece that the Barakat Gallery calls "characterful and charming" and I call "like someone dropped an Egg McMuffin." ImageImage
If you want to drop $21,250 on eBay on something that's either fake or looted, well, you're in luck. ImageImage
This thing comes with a lab report, so it can't be fake, right? Well, unless the lab report itself is also a forgery, which has been known to happen for Nok sculpture (e.g.…). ImageImage
These are all available from the same eBay dealer, who is just not even trying. ImageImageImage
The most infuriating part about the sales listings? They all talk about how mysterious and unknown Nok culture is. Why so mysterious? Because looters got to almost all of its sites before archeologists, destroying our chances to learn while filling our lust to own.

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More from @artcrimeprof

Aug 19
[snaps on rubber glove] Let's dissect this museum press release!

Did the Met really determine antiquities in its collections were stolen from Nepal and offer to repatriate them all on its own, as they claim?!?

(Spoiler alert: 🙄) Screenshot of museum press release at https://www.metmuseum.Screenshot of section of museum press release reading "
First up, a 10th c. stone relief of Shiva. The Met claims "recent Museum research" based on a book, Bangdel's Inventory of Stone Sculptures of Kathmandu Valley, "determined" it belonged in a specific temple in Nepal. This book? Published in 1995.
Maybe it took the museum 27 years to get around to paging through one of the only relevant reference books on this type of sculpture? And that's "recent" enough for them? Oh, wait, but let's see if there might be anything else that happened recently...
Read 11 tweets
Aug 19
The Met Museum is complaining that Cambodia won't give it all the info they have about the theft of the art they're claiming. Let's talk about why that's a massive act of solidarity with other countries seeking repatriation. 🧵…
Background: thanks to the confessions of former looters, archeological investigation of sites to discover remaining fragments, and the files of a big former dealer, Cambodia can trace the route of many antiquities exactly: theft to dealer to buyer. But...…
...while Cambodia knows exactly how the 45 antiquities they've asked the Met to return to them were stolen and illegally smuggled out of the country, they've simply given the Met a list, without this info. Why?…
Read 7 tweets
Jun 14
The label on this stunning sculpture in London's Victoria and Albert Museum notes it was "collected by the Ex Younghusband Expedition to Tibet, 1904." A short 🧵 about the horrors this polite wording conceals. Golden statue of the Bodhis...Image
In 1903, Sir Francis Edward Younghusband led a British force to invade Tibet on the flimsiest of pretexts. At Chumik Shenko, his troops used Maxim machine guns to kill c. 600 Tibetan soldiers armed with matchlock muskets. Image
Younghusband eventually withdrew, chided by his superiors and excoriated by the English public for the needless violence. Even the Encyclopedia Britannica is still giving him side-eye: Screenshot from https://www...
Read 15 tweets
Dec 18, 2021
Last week, I saw a sculpture become a god.

Stolen in 1984, the deity Lakshmi-Narayan spent decades as a work of art at an American museum before it returned to its shrine in Nepal. My story is up now at… - here's a thread with more of my photos.
The 10th c. Lakshmi-Narayan, a cojoined avatar of Vishnu and his consort, spent centuries in a small temple in the town of Patan (near Kathmandu), draped in garlands of marigolds and adorned with the vermilion powder dabbed onto its forehead by worshipers. Image
But in 1984, the god was kidnapped. It ended up at auction at Sotheby’s New York in 1990. Stripped of marigolds and scrubbed of color, the god transformed into a sculpture, lent by a private collector to the Dallas Museum of Art. ImageImage
Read 19 tweets
Sep 28, 2021
Saddle up, fans of fake antiquities! It’s time for the Case of the Mysterious Multiplying Mold-Made Artifacts. How did these “Scythian” quadrupeds gallop from Russia to London to China, via eBay and Timeline Auctions? Let’s investigate!
- invaluable observations by others kicked off this research + aided it along the way. I won't tag anyone, since some auction houses send nasty (although legally… questionable) cease and desist letters to scholars
- I’ll put source links at the end of the thread
I saw a commenter who used a reverse image search ( - it's 🔥) noting that Timeline Auctions has offered for sale at least six artifacts apparently made from the same mold* as artifacts offered by an eBay seller based in China.

*more on this later
Read 21 tweets
Sep 28, 2021
I promised a thread on auction house shenanigans today... but I underestimated how much shenaniganery I would uncover. So much that I'm too tired to write the thread. So I'll just leave some of my visuals here, and you'll have to wait till tomorrow again... ;)
You want some more hints? Here ya go...
Ok, ok, one more. And that's it! Bedtime!
Read 4 tweets

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