Explorations, culture, nature


A beautiful Axum Ceramics piece. On Ebay!

Posted by Marco on November 7, 2013 at 11:45 PM

I found a beautiful head from Axum on Ebay and commented on the Horn of Africa studies,

an active facebook group frequented by some real experts of Ethiopian art and artifacts:

An idea of where this item has been stolen from?

Photo from Ebay

I do Not like posting this, I know it may have implications,

not so much legal, no one will catch them, but moral, or something.

It hurts me. Someone in the group or the group's acquaintance may... purchase it for probably less than 150 UK Pounds.

Give it back here, or, at least, make sure it is in the hands of a person with better knowledge than those sort of guys?

If you do this, I will offer you a two day stay in Addis Ababa in which you will be honored for offering it to the National Museum, promise and will guarantee personally. As you imagine, the piece must be authentic. It will be interesting to see which proof has the seller. In any case, not heard of many fakes of Axum pottery, it can sure be... done with today's ovens, easily.

Dust not, thou, learned woman or man, feel empatic with this ancient cry! If you are the one to purchase it, let me once, once only, see it from near.

Soon, an expert British archeologist who has worked in Axum indicated the head is molt likely a fake, judging from the form of the patina rills. Patina rills betray false aging and non traditional materials.

I decided to inform the seller, with rather strong tones, warning him:



This item is most likely a falsified copy.


pls see also this conversation on Facebook about your item.

I would, in general, not advise you treat objects from excavations or findings in Ethiopia, we are seriously tracing unwise buys,

this is not the case, we repute this to be a fake.


Prof. Marco Vigano, Addis Ababa, Misrak Kirs association chair.

As a result, the Itam was immediately putt off Ebay, and still is in the hands of the seller, who proved to be a correct, exquisite person,

I publish willingly excerpts of our mail conversation,

Dear Professor Vigano,

Thank you very much indeed for your advice, I have removed permanently the head from sale. I can confirm that this is not a culture I understand or normally deal in so I will avoid anything in future without bona fide legal export papers. This head was acquired in a box of general antiquities a few years ago at auction, if it is of interest to you I would be happy to try to find the references for your records.

Thank you again and kind regards, Name and adress of vendor.

Dear Rxxx,


Yours is a very appropriate, in many ways gentle and correct gesture.


We have no direct legal right to stop sales of antiquities from our Country, as You imagine,

but seeing stuff we presume illegally excavated or acquired touches us.

The supposition the item is fake has come from an expert valuating the rills in the patina covering it, that appear dried to imitate normal aging.

I had proposed, on the Fb page of noted Ethiopian and Horn of Africa experts and interested social networkers a personal, special prize for he who should have acquired the object, in case it was proven original.

Two days in Addis with us, a tour of locations and the pride to offer it to our National Museum.


This applies to You, definitely, should the object be proven authentic, instead, e.g., after a visit to your local Museum or the nearest PAS, portable antiquity scheme expert!

Dear Professor Vigano,

Thank you very much for your kind response also, I appreciate that it is no easy task to safeguard heritage for the future and it must be an overwhelming task at times. One day I would be absolutely delighted to take up your extremely generous offer but I think that it would have to be some years in the future as we have our hands full with a young baby at the moment!

A good friend visited Ethiopia 4 or 5 years ago and I regretted not joining the trip but it is of course a place which holds fascination for anyone with a broader cultural interest. If the head can be of use to your institute in any way please let me know and I would be happy to donate it including shipping costs.

Kind regards,


We have recently seen a rare illuminated ancient Harari book sold on ebay.

STILL ON SALE FOR AROUND 50,000 USD, Harari, we presume illicitly acquired!

This is a lucky, unusual happy ending.



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