As we approach the centenary of the start of the Great War this year and the landings at Gallipoli there will be increasing attention paid to what the Australian and New Zealand troops did overseas, and not just their military adventures. An early entry into what is likely to become a crowded field is a nifty little blog posting developed by Dr Brit Asmussen of the Queensland Museum as part of National Archaeology Week 2014.
The Bric-a-brac of war looks at Egyptian material acquired by the Queensland Museum or held privately by descendants of diggers, and includes some excellent images of both ancient and modern style fakes.
Some of this material and the same sort of stuff collected during World War II seems to have ended up either accidentally or deliberately fooling people into believing the presence of ancient Egyptians. In the Secret Visitors Project we have already explored a number of these and concluded that they were very modern artefacts.
At the time the importation of fake souvenirs was recognised as targeting the more gullible, but there were also large numbers of ‘authentic’ artefacts being imported for sale with no restriction. My research found a few leads on an otherwise untold story.
The Gordonvale Scarab – discovered around the end of the Great War, and very likely to have been a hoax that still continues to have its defenders. Part of the joke was that Egypt and Gordonvale, where scarab beetles were devastating the sugar cane crop and were subject to a bounty, were the two places on earth where you could make money from digging up scarabs.
The Daly River scarab – likely to have been brought back during the Second World War and found in the early 1960s.
The Geraldton Plate – dug up in the early 1960s, at seemingly great depth in the Western Australian port town.
The Ptolemaic coin found at Barron Falls is likely to also be a hoax or the mis-remembering of something that happened decades earlier.
Asmussen’s work reminds us that these are not things that happened a long time ago. There are still many artefacts in peoples’ personal collections and, as the story of their origin is lost with passing lives, the vacuum is all too easily filled with stories of ancient Egyptians and false discoveries.
My thanks to Steve Spillard for drawing my attention to this.
Dr Brit Asmussen 2014
The Bric-a-brac of war, Queensland Museum – http://blog.qm.qld.gov.au/2014/06/30/the-bric-a-brac-of-war/. Can be accessed here.