Angie Blumberg
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Archaeology and authenticity
in British literature and archaeology, 1880– 1930
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Chapter 3 tracks a powerful and pervasive connection between archaeology, desire, and wider discourses of authenticity at the fin de siècle. This chapter considers such spurious objects as the Tiara of Saitaphernes, the Neolithic implements of Flint Jack, the medieval ecclesiastical ornaments of Louis Marcy, Victorian Tanagra figurines, the dubious Neolithic discoveries at Dumbuck, Scotland, and the forged artefacts possibly pedalled by Howard Carter, and the stories that circulated around them. Delving into archaeological handbooks and articles in the popular press by a range of archaeologists, anthropologists, art collectors, and critics (such as Scottish archaeologist Robert Munro, English archaeologist John Evans, and fantasy writer Andrew Lang), and reading these discussions alongside aesthetic debates about realism and aestheticism, this chapter ultimately reveals how the fragmentariness of the material record and the subjective experience of archaeological encounter helped rewrite conceptions of intellectual hierarchy, legitimacy, the sanctioned historical narrative, and who gets to write the stories of the past. The chapter concludes by examining Damien Hirst’s controversial exhibit and documentary film, Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable (2017), offering a new way to read this provocative project through the lens of the Victorian archaeological imagination and the fin-de-siècle discourses of authenticity that it shaped.

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