#46 – Some Academic Attitudes – 1987

Written by Virginia Hourigan:

On the way back to New York that fall I visited friends who all became excited by my photos of such unusual artifacts. One told me about Oscar Muscarella, a genius in authentication at the Metropolitan Museum of Art who was restudying Schliemann’s discoveries at Troy. He had been invited to Japan a little later to consult with the Japanese government on some finds there, I was told. Someone arranged an introduction, telling him about the discovery and my pictures and artifacts, so when I returned I telephoned him.

He was pleasant and interested. “Can you come this afternoon?” he asked.

“Well, how about tomorrow?” I replied, and we made an appointment.

I found him in a basement office, a tall, thin, dark man smoking a pipe. He unwound himself from the chair to shake my hand and said, “It sounds as if you’ve come across something very interesting. Let’s see your pictures.”

He moved to a sofa on the side and took the pictures. “There are a lot of frauds in this world,” he said. “They turn up everywhere, and unfortunately, even Schliemann wasn’t above a little chicanery…”


“Oh, yes.”

He looked closely at the pictures, turning them over one at a time and puffing on his pipe. He began to talk about Barry Fell. “Now there’s a fraud from A to Z,” he said, meaning Barry.

“Well, never mind him, but you’ll be interested to know he thinks all this is fraud.”

“Oh, he does?” exclaimed Muscarella in surprise. He thought Barry had never heard of frauds.

He began to tell me about a woman who had called on him with a small carving she said she had found in the garden. “It was about the size of the decoration on the top of that table lamp,” he said, pointing. “I told her it wasn’t important. And then, wouldn’t you know, a picture of it turned up in one of Barry Fell’s books, and he said it was Phoenician and had been found at the airport.”

“No! What was it really?

“I told you – it was the top from a lamp.”

“Oh! Did it have threads inside to screw it on?”

He looked away. “I don’t know. I only saw a picture.”

I had brought some of the artifacts, and after looking at the pictures Muscarella came over and examined them.

Then he went back to the sofa and relit his pipe.

“Well. I can see you’re committed to this,” he said, “And I’m really sorry to have to tell you that it’s all a fake.”

“Don’t be sorry,” I said. “I came to get your expert opinion. Please tell me what it is about them that gives them away.”


“Nothing? What do you mean? Surely something leaps to your experienced eye that I wouldn’t notice. What is it?”

“I can’t tell without examining the stones in my laboratory and I haven’t time to do that.”

“But if you don’t see anything fraudulent how can you tell they’re fakes?”

“Because they couldn’t possibly come from Illinois. If you said California I might think it barely possible, but Illinois? No way.”

“And for your information,” he went on, “These so-called scripts are a fraud. There’s no such thing as Iberic script. That was invented by Barry Fell so he could pretend to translate it.

My jaw fell open. “But there’s lots of it in Europe.”

“Where? Spain?”

“Well, sure, Portugal, and…”


“Ogam, too, you say, doesn’t exist?”

“That’s right. An invention of Barry Fell.”

I’ve seen Dr. Muscarella several times since at Archaeological Institute of America conventions, always with his pipe, usually pontificating on something or other. He pretends he doesn’t know me.