Antiquities Identification and Dating

When confronted with an unfamiliar or previously unstudied object from the past the first steps will involve the identification and dating of the piece. This means discovering where the object was made, when it was made, and what it is. These early inquiries also involve another key element: ensuring that the object is, in fact, an antiquity, and not a modern forgery.

Properly identifying an object and its place of origin is critical to later estimations of value. An anonymous portrait from antiquity can be a very valuable object, but if it happens to be a portrait of a famous individual—an ancient emperor, for example—then its value can increase twenty-five fold. Something valued at tens of thousands of dollars may then be worth hundreds of thousands. Having knowledgeable experts in their respective fields thus becomes critical for the most accurate and thorough evaluation of an object.

Because of some recent controversies surrounding antiquities, most archeologists, curators, and scholars will rarely identify or evaluate objects for private individuals. This can make finding a reliable, skilled, and trustworthy expert difficult to find and hire.

At Antiquities Experts, we have researchers located worldwide to assist you in evaluating your object. Our team members have years of hands-on experience in the following areas:

  • Near Eastern
  • Egypt
  • The Greek World
  • The Roman Empire
  • The Americas (Pre-Columbian)

Our researchers have access to major libraries, universities, museums, and scientific laboratories across the world. For every claim we investigate we perform the highest quality identification, authentication, and dating possible. To learn more, please explore our website or contact us for more information.

Dating

The dating of an antiquity is a critical part of its identification. Indeed, knowing the date of a piece can provide clues to its subject matter, area of production, and more.

In dating antiquities, there are several broad methods of approach, each of which requires specific knowledge and expertise. The most traditional means of dating, and one that is still used very often, is dating by stylistic analysis. This is essentially a historical approach, in which an object’s appearance is compared to other objects that have been securely dated. If an object’s excavation and discovery history are known then that can provide further information on dating; i.e., certain dig sites or strata have certain dates associated with them.

More recently, scientific testing has provided additional tools in the dating process. Metallurgic tests for metals and carbon-14 for organic materials have both proven useful for dating certain pieces. Pottery and any ceramic pieces can also be dated via thermoluminescence, which tells us the last time a piece of clay was fired.

It is important to remember that identification and dating are interrelated areas of inquiry. Dating a piece to a particular era can help determine the culture of its production, and the opposite is often true, as well. Our researchers work closely on all aspects of investigating a claim, ensuring that we are aware of individual details and the larger picture and connections at every step of the process.

Authentication

Part of the process of identification is the authentication of an object. Essentially, this is determining whether an item is a genuine antiquity or a forgery. The best approach to authentication makes use of all the tools at a scholar’s disposal: stylistic analysis, historical research, and—when possible—scientific testing. The difference in value between a genuine antiquity and a forgery is enormous, even if some forgeries—such as nineteenth-century works—are beginning to find a market of their own. We employ all necessary methods to build the strongest possible case for authentication. If we determine an object is authentic, we will issue a Certificate of Authenticity (COA) along with a report detailing our research and findings.