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Old 15th October 2018, 06:19 PM   #1
shayde78
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Default Bronze Luristan Axe

I love bronze age cultures of the ancient Near East. I have wanted to pick up one of these specific forms of axe heads for a long time, but never could justify the price for something I lack the expertise to evaluate accurately. Fortunately, I found this available for a price low enough that I was happy to pay, if even for a reproduction. The fact that it came from a collection of other high-end items, and that the previous owner had a custom display stand made gives me hope that they, at least, considered it to be of value. For the price of 8 gallons of milk, it was worth the gamble. If nothing else, the stand may be worth that much alone.

I know these are notoriously difficult to authenticate. There are a massive amount of fakes on the market. The real ones also flooded the market, and originated from local folks who were digging simply to find objects to sell. Therefore, there is not much reliable information from academic and methodical excavations.

So, while I would be thrilled if someone could look at the following photos and provide some certainty as to the authenticity (or lack thereof) of the object in question, I am primary posting this to prompt a discussion and to provide ensure some images reside in these archives so that others may compare subsequent pieces.

Thank you all for any opinions you wish to offer
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Old 15th October 2018, 10:58 PM   #2
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Hi shayde:

The odds of finding a genuine bargain for a Luristan axe through online sources must be exceedingly small given the large number of reproductions around. For that reason alone, I think yours is almost certainly a copy. I also think the finish on yours is not very consistent with what is shown in large museums from that period. To me it just does not look as though it has been excavated and is 3000 years old.

That said, I have only a basic understanding of ancient bronze artifacts, which is why I take advantage of online resources that show what are (presumably) authenticated items in reputable museums. This is especially true for Luristan bronze objects for which, as you note, there are a ton of copies floating round.

There is a nice article from the Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery (attached here) that shows many pictures of Luristan bronze artifacts which may be helpful in identifying the surface appearance of genuine objects. Photographs, of course, only tell a part of the story and there is no substitute for direct inspection. I would suggest that you take your axe head to a reputable museum and ask for a professional opinion.

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File Type: pdf Luristan Bronzes.pdf (2.60 MB, 90 views)

Last edited by Ian : 17th October 2018 at 10:03 PM.
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Old 17th October 2018, 04:41 AM   #3
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This is exactly the dialogue I wanted to prompt. Thank you for providing the pdf resource. I have been trying to find good color images of authenticated Luristan bronzes so I can compare the patina. The B&W images in the document you provided look very similar to the object in question, so color images would give us a reference point by which to compare.

Thanks, Ian!

Oh, and the seller had listed this as simply "bronze sculpture", so I don't think it was priced as it would be if they knew what it is intended to look like.
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Old 17th October 2018, 09:13 PM   #4
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Pictures of two Luristan axe heads from the Birmingham Museums catalogue are attached. It's not clear from the article how these were treated after acquisition and what they looked like when they were acquired. One assumes they are authentic given the provenance, but even museums can be wrong. The lack of other responses to your post would seem to indicate how hard these items are to evaluate from pictures alone.


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Old 17th October 2018, 09:40 PM   #5
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Another interesting article of a technical nature about evaluation of Luristan swords has been published by the British Musuem. They X-rayed the objects, scanned the surfaces at very high resolution, and also used X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) to analyze the composition of the swords. They reported mixed metal constructions, including iron and bronze, and noted recent restorations of antique items leading to "pastiches" of elements (even those in museums and reputable collections). Caveat emptor indeed for Luristan swords!

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Old 17th October 2018, 09:54 PM   #6
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And another technical article from the Belgian Archaeological Mission in Iran (BAMI).


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Old 19th October 2018, 05:03 AM   #7
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Great stuff, Ian!
Thank you for making them available all in one thread. I am not one who likes throwing up my hands and saying "we can never know!" There are some very learned folks on this site, and I'd like to think we can at least attempt to develop our capacity to distinguish fakes from authentic relics
I appreciate you contributing to this effort

Here are a few pictures of items currently in museum collections. I'll provide the name of the museum, and let folks speculate as to their authenticity. It may be helpful to compare the condition and patina present.

To start, some items from the Allard Pierson Museum's Luristan collection. In order, you have axes, 'daggers', and 'swords'. [note the similarity of the second blade from the left in the third picture to the example here ]
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Old 19th October 2018, 05:06 AM   #8
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Next, we have an axe from the Metropolitan Museum of Art and two axes from the Museum of Fine Arts.
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Old 19th October 2018, 05:13 AM   #9
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Finally, I am including two pictures of examples of ancient bronzes from the Royal Ontario Museum. These are listed as 'Cycladic', and date to about 2000BCE (or about 1000 years earlier than the time to which Luristan artifacts are dated). I include them for further comparison of bronze patination and excavated condition. As artifacts from Cycladic culture do not have the same reputation for forgeries, we may (perhaps!) trust the museum's attribution to both culture and date.
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Old 20th October 2018, 12:11 AM   #10
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Mine was disucussed and has a bit more info HERE
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Old 22nd October 2018, 10:54 PM   #11
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Thank you, Konckew! I saw your thread when I was researching these. I was hoping you'd weigh in, because I wanted to ask if you based your handle reconstruction on any known renditions of these. I have had a devil of a time finding carvings of axes in use that show the hafts. I like how yours turned out, and was considering something similar (if I can determine mine to be a reproduction with any certainty).
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Old 23rd October 2018, 09:05 AM   #12
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I post this mostly as a warning. Do not buy these from ebay thinking they are originals. You might get a real one from a reputable dealer, but check the provenances before shelling out a few hundred bills.

I almost bought an ash dowel. I had a carved walking stick I bought for a few pounds via ebay that was narrower than I'd hoped. I stuck it in the socket more to check how the dowel might look. it stopped where you see it and the grip looked right somehow, so I cut the excess wood off, bedded it in resin and it is comfortable and feels like they belong together. the carved swell fits my hand perfectly & as it was a vintage used cane, the grip area was patinated a bit darker and smoother than the rest by it's past and looks like it was made for the head and well used...

I couldn't find any examples of how the originals were hafted, but this was serendipitous. It is of course, a parade/display item, these fancy ones probably were even with the originals from the early iron age. I still wouldn't want to get hit with it. I have seen a reproduction shiny brand new looking one from a company in Australia that had what looked like a dowel handle with a slow twist spiral groove carved in it. Fairly sure it was not 'historic'. Bit over my budget for the whole thing too. see below. Most of my true antique ethnic axes have a bit of a swell at the hand end, or a ball to keep your hand from sliding off.

As purchased (on ebay & very cheaply too) the head had a few shiny golden areas in places where it shouldn't & couldn't have been from wear. After seeing a few just like it for sale cheaply I feel safe it is a fake. I've seen the same ones sold there for silly money.

The bronze head was then cleaned with salt and vinegar to get rid of the thin layer of yucky green cow dung verdigris, then properly 'aged' to the dark brown it is now.

As in all things, CAVEAT EMPTOR! If the deal looks too good to be true, it probably isn't.
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Old 26th October 2018, 10:18 PM   #13
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Very much agree, Kronckew. I avoid these on ebay. This was from an estate sale that included high end items. Even so, I wouldn't have paid a dear price because of the volume of reproductions. I limited myself to a price that would be appropriate for a reproduction, but of course, I still held hope that it might prove to be authentic.

I guess short of consulting with a museum, there is no other way of finding out. I'm not far from the Met in NYC, or the Univ. of Penn (which has a great department of near eastern studies). How does one even go about asking for a consult from such large institutions?
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Old 26th October 2018, 10:51 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by shayde78
... How does one even go about asking for a consult from such large institutions?


I'd just walk in the front door, walk up to the nearest staff member and ask for the middle eastern antiquities section offices.

You might be able to phone them and find someone.

The Met:

email: communications@metmuseum.org

Or write them at

1000 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10028
Phone: 212-535-7710
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