Tracing the manufacture and use of artefacts illuminates aspects of the society by which, and for which, they are made. The account of the different stages of this process, and the identities which the objects assume, has sometimes been called the ‘object biography’. This type of narrative has been used to consider antiquities and what they can reveal about the ancient world, but it often stops short of exploring how antiquities are understood in the modern world.
This chapter explores the collection history and life while in the museum of a chryselephantine figurine, bought as a genuine Minoan antiquity by the Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto, in 1931. The authenticity of the artefact has since been questioned, because of its unique appearance and lack of recorded excavation context, leading to the figurine being regarded by many as a fake manufactured in the early 20th century. However, the unresolved status of the artefact makes it ideal for exploring issues such as the practice of collecting and authenticating antiquities, and the creation of a demand for fake Minoan objects as a result of the excavations conducted by Sir Arthur Evans at Knossos at the beginning of the 20th century.