Crystal skulls, imaginative codices, dubious Olmec heads and cute Colima dogs. Fakes and forgeries run rampant in the Mesoamerican art collections of international museums and private individuals. Authors Nancy Kelker and Karen Bruhns examine the phenomenon in this eye-opening volume. They discuss the most commonly forged classes and styles of artifacts, many of which were being duplicated as early as the 19th century. More important, they describe the system whereby these objects get made, purchased, authenticated, and placed in major museums as well as the complicity of forgers, dealers, curators, and collectors in this system. Unique to this volume are biographies of several of the forgers, who describe their craft and how they are able to effectively fool connoisseurs and specialists. An important, accessible introduction to pre-Columbian art fraud for archaeologists, art historians, and museum professionals alike. A parallel volume by the same authors discusses fakes in Andean archaeology.
Nancy L. Kelker is professor of art history at Middle Tennessee State University. She has Ph.D. in pre-Columbian art history from University of Texas, Austin. She has served as pre-Columbian art curator at the San Antonio Museum of Art and as a cultural property consultant on antiquities smuggling cases for the United States and Canadian governments. She has prepared exhibition catalogs and written a variety of research articles on pre-Columbian art. Karen O. Bruhns is director of the Cihuatán/ Las Marías Archaeological Project for the Fundación Nacional de Arqueología in El Salvador and an active participant in archaeological projects in the Andes. She has a Ph.D. from UC Berkeley and has taught at several universities. She is author of Ancient South America, co-author of Women in Ancient America, and author of over 60 papers and monographs.
"Enlightening but frightening, entertaining yet scholarly, this book will give collectors and curators of unprovenienced Mesoamerican art pause for thought. Kelker and Bruhns have done Pre-Columbian art history and archaeology a salutary service in identifying dupes and duplicities that have perverted our understanding of the true achievements of prehispanic artists." -Norman Hammond, Boston University
(Reviewed with Faking the Ancient Andes)
"Both books make an interesting case for how the influx of forged and unprovenanced artifacts into the public and academic world can affect one's understanding of the past. The tone of the books can at times be distracting, but the issues addressed and their complexities are explored effectively. Summing Up: Recommended."
-J. J. Borowicz, CHOICE