In France large private collections of Paleolithic artifacts were built up during the late 19th and early 20th century. This can be explained by the wealth of extremely rich archaeological sites and due to legal aspects that allowed a land owner to excavate archaeological remains and become the legal owner of all artifacts that were found.
In 1913, Senator J. Audiffred proposed a bill that would give control of excavations standards to the state, making authorizations compulsory. The law never passed, the common opinion being that these regulations would have hampered the work of honest archaeologists, while being easily broken by those less morally inclined. Anyhow a law concerning historical monuments was passed in the same year. It proposed the establishment of a list of “monuments and sites “supervised by the Historical Monuments Service. Unfortunately, the monuments listed in this way were defined very narrowly and therefore did not hinder large private and legal exploitations of important sites. Ironically this situation remained unchanged until the days of the Vichy regime (1941), when a new law outlawed such private excavations.
In France there were was always a relatively large market for enthusiastic collectors of paleolithic artifacts, which was feeded by the large (and legal) private collections, which were inherited in certain families, but also by were fed by plundering of archaeological sites by clandestine operations. During the last 15 years, the prices for Paleo items raised enormously, which can be interpreted as the interest of a new generation of collectors in a scarce market, which has been globalized by the World Wide Web. During 2000 until 2009 there were sometimes hundreds of artifacts from French collections that were sold on eBay per week. Regarding Paleolithic items, the fraction of authentic items was relatively high (about 40%), but the extraordinary artifacts were soon sold out and really high valued items were newer sold on this market. Some dealers used their contacts to their new eBay customers to offer more rare and extraordinary items.
The “Font-Robert-Point”, displayed here, was offered on this “gray market” in 2010 for about 3000 Euros. The dealer directly made a reference to a similar and authentic point that was at this time offered by the reputable MB Abram Galleries. An expert of the Paleo scene saw the “Abram-point” around 1995 and remembers that it was an unprovienced authentic artifact found in S/W-France. The point was later sold to an American and finally resold to the MB Abram Galleries. During 1995-2009 someone added the inscription on the dorsal side. (“Authentificated by J.P Casper, University of Leuven, in 1999”).
The point shown in this post has some traits, which make this piece suspicious for a forgery. First, this piece looks typologically very uncommon for a Font-Robert-Point (for example the retouches at the tip are clearly to steep for a Font-Robert Point). The point looks very fresh and like as if the “Abram point” served as a template. It is of almost the same raw material, which is also strange, because this type of raw material has only rarely observed on original findings from the type locality, stored at Museum at Brive.
Second the dealer added a similar inscription on his point but falsely allocated the reputable prehistorian Dr. Casper working at the University of Leuven to the University of Leiden.