Bogus! Why do fakes get made? Why do people fall for hoaxes? Greed, pride, revenge, nationalism, pranks, and gullibility mix in an archaeological setting. Archaeology Magazine examines eight classic cases, and more.
The Great Moon Hoax of 1835. During the last week of August 1835, the New York Sun published a six-part article about the discovery - purportedly by renowned astronomer Sir John Herschel - of fantastical life on the moon, including herds of bison, blue unicorns, "a primitive tribe of hut-dwelling, fire-wielding biped beavers, and a race of winged humans living in pastoral harmony around a mysterious, golden-roofed temple." The public's reaction was a mix of credulity and skepticism. Read the full text of the serialized articles: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6.
"I got more publicity from this little joke... than from all the serious work I ever did over many decades."
A hoax that embarrassed the art world: Pavel Jerdanowitch and the Disumbrationist School of Painting . This "joke on the art critics" was perpetrated by Paul Jordan-Smith, a former pastor who had left his calling after being charged with heresy. He went on to become a writer, editor and journalist, and in 1924 he decided to commit blasphemy against "the strange gods of modern art." The Pavel Jerdanowitch Painting Contest was inspired by the hoax. "The challenge is to produce the worst painting every painted." It's not too late to submit your own entry for 2007. You can check out last year's entries, including the "loser" (winner), for inspiration.