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A Fake or Genuine Artefact? The Parian Chronicle and Perceptions of Authenticity in Eighteenth-Century Britain

Lindfield, PN (2019) A Fake or Genuine Artefact? The Parian Chronicle and Perceptions of Authenticity in Eighteenth-Century Britain. Antiquaries Journal, 99. pp. 271-295. ISSN 0003-5815

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Abstract

A remarkable controversy raged in the late 1780s concerning the authenticity of the Parian Chronicle, a supposedly genuine carved fragment recording ancient Greek History that was included in the Arundel bequest to the University of Oxford of 1667 (Fig 1). Drawing in figures in British antiquarianism, including Richard Gough who, as Director of the Society of Antiquaries of London, intervened in the debate with a pamphlet that came out in support of the artefact’s authenticity, this was an important moment in eighteenth-century antiquarian study. Hot on the heels of the now much more well-known Ossian controversy of the 1760s, the Chatterton-Rowley-Walpole debacle from 1770, Chatterton’s subsequent death, and the publication of his forgeries from 1777, the literature variously refuting and supporting the Parian Chronicle’s authenticity strikes at the heart of antiquarianism, in particular opening up to dispute assumptions made about, or accepted interpretations concerning the authenticity of, the fragments upon which subsequent antiquarian work and interpretation was based. This debate took the form of a very public attack upon, and defense of, the Parian Chronicle’s status as a genuine third-century BC antiquarian fragment, and the controversy within antiquarian circles that it occasioned is reconstructed here.

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