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Fakes & Facts – Wrong Tracks in Archaeology

„Unicorn“, © Ars Mundi
© David Macaulay, Motel of the Mysteries [1979]

November 24, 2018 - May 26, 2019

To err is human - this even holds true for respected scholars. From November 24, 2018 until May 26, 2019, the special exhibition "Fakes & Facts - Wrong Tracks in Archaeology" will revise popular but outdated assumptions about past epochs. More than 200 exhibits will illustrate spectacular cases of misjudgment and fraud from all over Europe. Interactive media stations will invite visitors of all ages to probe their investigative skills.

Are fossil bones from the Harz Mountains really remains of a unicorn? Is it true that Heinrich Schliemann excavated traces left by the heroes extolled by Homer, the famous Greek poet? And is an archaeological object found in Xanten really the crown of a Frankish lord?

The visitors of the exhibition "Fakes & Facts - Archaeology on the Wrong Track" will not only learn why some errors or fakes were initially perfectly convincing. They will also get insights into the methods underlying archaeological work, and they will realize: even modern research is not immune from errors.

In retrospect, some errors and fakes are actually amusing. The famous tiara (headdress) of the Scythian ruler Saitaphernes is a good example. It was said to be a masterpiece of ancient goldsmithing, and believed to be authentic by experts when the Louvre bought it in 1896. However, when its forger gave a live demonstration of his skills, the tiara inspired countless caricatures in newspapers. And an alleged Egyptian mummy found in the attic of a single-family house in Diepholzen turned out to be an elaborately bandaged plastic skeleton.

Another event that triggered scorn and ridicule was the sensational news on Hitler's diaries in the weekly Stern - a particularly brazen fake from the sphere of modern-period archaeology. "Original" diaries made by the forger Kujau will be on exhibit in Hildesheim for the first time.

Such errors and fakes are prone to happen today and in the future as well. This becomes apparent from the humorous presentation on the subject by U.S. author and graphic artist David Macaulay. Based on his graphic novel "Motel of the Mysteries" he will design an excavation site of the future at the RPM: How will anthropologists judge our time two thousand years from now? What traces will be left by the 21st century, and how will archaeologists interpret these finds in AD 4,000?

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