I crave age.
May 29, 2008 3:25 AM   Subscribe

What's the oldest man-made thing I can buy for €1500-2000?

I remember watching an antiques program years ago and seeing a Native American sculpture that they dated to around the 5th century, being sold for not all that much. I'd really like something like that.
I'm guessing coins are probably my best bet, or maybe arrow heads, but I'd really like a bit of pottery or something. So taking into account the coolness/oldness matrix, could I pick something suitable for a few thousand dollars that was a thousand years plus? If so, what?
posted by greytape to Shopping (15 answers total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
You needn't pay that much. This is your man if you want something online, he updates his store regularly and he has some truly beautiful items. For instance, why anyone would pay serious money for modern designer jewellery when you can buy stunning and wearable jewellery from before the birth of Christ is a mystery.
posted by fire&wings at 3:38 AM on May 29, 2008 [5 favorites]

A google search brought up this site, though I can't say how reliable it is. I particularly like this Sumerian Fossil Shell Amulet, or, even older, this 8,000 year old Neolithic Stone Idol.
posted by farishta at 3:38 AM on May 29, 2008

I'd really like a bit of pottery or something

This is also pretty neat.
posted by farishta at 3:43 AM on May 29, 2008

Stone axe. You should be able to get back to the lower Paleolithic for $100 or so. I don't know about mid/upper - I'd like to imagine all that stuff is sitting in museums, but somehow I doubt it. Who knows, you may be able to find something crafted by Homo habilis.
posted by Leon at 4:42 AM on May 29, 2008

(I got Upper and Lower Paleolithic the wrong way round, BTW).
posted by Leon at 5:50 AM on May 29, 2008

Just FYI, stuff like that $1000 neolithic idol that farsihta linked to are laying around in piles in neolithic sites in Syria. Though much of it is covered under antiquities laws (as is the idol probably) it's not very rare and $1000 is a rip-off.
posted by Pollomacho at 5:55 AM on May 29, 2008

I'm partial to cuneiform, myself.
posted by saladin at 6:34 AM on May 29, 2008

Be careful who you buy from; fakes and scammers abound. Learn about the type of items you are interested in and who the reputable dealers are.

Also, some of the jewelry you'll see may have recently removed from a corpse, if that bothers you.
posted by D.C. at 6:42 AM on May 29, 2008

ancient coins are not very expensive - you can easily get something a couple thousand years old for less than $100 because they were so common. You can even get something that old for a few bucks if you want...

If you become a collector, you would be looking for rare coins, well preserved examples, etc. To get anything old would not take much money, but you could find examples that would cost what you are willing to pay. But it would make more sense to be familiar with the details so that you know why it's worth paying that much for a particular coin, etc...
posted by mdn at 8:28 AM on May 29, 2008

Speaking of antiquities law, please do a bit of research into whatever dealer you're thinking of going with, to ensure that they're reputable and on the up and up. Not because you might get a fake, but because you might get something real that was collected by treasure hunters.

<soapbox>The looting of archaeological sites is a crime that impacts everyone — when an artifact is removed from its context, undocumented, the value that it could impart is significantly diminished. Potentially precious information about a long-vanished culture is immediately destroyed, forever and ever. Purchasing looted artifacts feeds the trade, encouraging further destruction of sites not yet professionally excavated.</soapbox>

So, as one lover of history to another, please do all that you can to ensure that in your desire to possess history, you don't harm it.
posted by mumkin at 8:44 AM on May 29, 2008

What mumkin said.

Flintknappers could easily make you a tool (arrowhead, knife etc) that looks like those made upwards of 10,000 years ago. No-one but another 'knapper or an archaeologist would ever know the difference.

Link goes to google search results. I 'knap myself but I'm nowhere near good enough to produce the cool stuff represented in the link.
posted by elendil71 at 8:54 AM on May 29, 2008

I agree with mumkin, but trading in looted antiquities is different from trading in antiquities. Many artifacts have already been removed from their context by historical acts of humans, war or nature. Also, it is far better to have artifats on the market and documented than to have them sitting under hundreds of feet of water in a Turkish reservoir or entombed in concrete under the fast lane of an Italian motorway or other act of modern man. It is certainly hard to tell the difference. Creating a market for legal antiquities definitely creates value for the illegal, but still, the two are quite different.

To n-th Mumkin and the others, use only a reputable dealer and know the provenance of the item before you buy.
posted by Pollomacho at 1:37 PM on May 29, 2008

Well potentially someone other than a knapper could know that your piece isn't genuine. Obsidian (far more common than flint in the NW for knappers) patinas in a very predictable rate.
posted by sethwoodworth at 2:52 PM on May 29, 2008

They're not going to be as old as the pottery or coins for the price, but I get a kick out of old books. AbeBooks lets you filter by date: http://www.abebooks.com/servlet/SearchEntry
posted by erikgrande at 5:12 PM on May 29, 2008

Sadigh Gallery. Their web site is horrific, but the gallery is reputable (and very much worth a visit if you're in NYC) and has wonderful items - you could get a 2500 year old oil lamp (you mentioned liking pottery) for a few hundred bucks.
posted by judith at 6:30 PM on May 29, 2008

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