Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 27.djvu/324

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

ARCHÆOLOGICAL FRAUDS.
By CHARLES C. ABBOTT, M. D.

IT seems rather hard lines that, even if the archæologist goes personally into the field, and gathers with his own hands specimens of stone implements, he is not quite free from the possibility of being imposed upon.

The cause of this unhappy state of affairs is found in several facts, all of which are of such character that it is well-nigh impossible to avoid being misled by them. In the first place, it requires much less skill and practice than is imagined to artistically shape arrow-heads and other small objects, from fragments of jasper and other minerals having a conchoidal fracture. Many boys, too impatient to gather the relics of the Indians, which requires considerable labor, often practice on broken specimens until they can repoint them, and convert others into handsome examples of scrapers, trimmed flakes, and other forms with which every archæologist is familiar. Unfortunately, the newly-fractured jasper presents a surface scarcely distinguishable from that of objects made centuries ago, so slowly does the process of weathering dull the surface of this flint-like mineral; and the eager collector, who a week before, it may be, charged the boys on various farms to keep all the relics they could find, receives, in his too great eagerness, as genuine, every specimen of known shapes, and is in nowise deceived in the difference in chipping between the ancient and the modern. Indeed, I greatly doubt if any difference can be detected in such simple forms as triangular arrow-heads, scrapers, trimmed flakes, and knives. I have time and again been shown handsome specimens, which I was assured were made by the exhibitors, and, on expressing some doubt, have had other specimens made in my presence. The skill with which one urchin chipped the characteristic beveled edge of a scraper, using only a small quartz pebble as a hammer or chipper, was marvelous, and I have good reason to believe I have been victimized more than once by this same youngster. Still, the prices usually paid for arrow-heads are not such as to warrant boys generally in undertaking the necessary preliminary practice of chipping flint, and the number of modern chipped implements is relatively not large; and being, in all cases, imitations of known patterns, they can not mislead. I do not think any of the Flint Jacks whom I have met ever attempted to design new forms, or copy those found in distant localities, a knowledge of which could only be derived from books. If such should become the case, dire confusion must inevitably arise.

In the case of such implements of stone as were made by pecking away the surface, and subsequently polishing all or portions of the surface, but few attempts to counterfeit have come to my notice. This