Demi Lovato, our favorite social media chaos harbinger, is finding themselves ensnared in another controversy. This time, it’s not involving extra-terrestrials (Demi’s preferred term for aliens) or a conspiracy theory website, but ancient Egyptian antiquities.
In an Instagram Story over the weekend, the singer shared an unboxing video showing a trove of ancient Egyptian antiquities, along with a certificate of authentication. “OK, I’m so excited, some really incredible things came in the mail today,” they narrated. “These are ancient Egyptian artifacts,” which The Hollywood Reporter identified as ankhs and glazed shabtis — mummiform figurines that elites in pharaonic Egypt would place in their tombs to serve them in the afterlife, along with clay tablets.
“Some of these pieces are literally thousands of years old,” Lovato said. “Like, what? My mind is literally blowing right now, and I’m so excited.” The narration accompanies the caption “starting my own museum ya’ll.”
Where to start?! Experts immediately started debunking the certificates on Twitter.
“It is not illegal to own old things. The legal antiquities trade is valued > $2 billion annually. However, there is a significant trade in illicit antiquities which draws on looted materials from Egypt, Iraq, Syria, Italy, etc. And within that is a trade in fakes and forgeries,” archeologist Peter Campbell wrote on Twitter. He continued: “This paperwork does not look like any provenance paperwork I have seen before and lacks all the critical data. I would advise any buyer to conduct due diligence before purchasing ancient objects, something that this paperwork does not fulfill on its own.”
Other people in academia further broke down Demi’s post, particularly the Microsoft Paint-quality of the certificates of authentication.
“These are not so much ‘cuneiform tablets’ as ‘pre-gnawed dog biscuits.’ Also, you'd better hope they're fakes - genuine tablets like this have frequently been looted from Iraq, including to support insurgent groups like ISIS,” wrote art crime professor Erin L. Thompson on Twitter.
But of course it’s not just that Demi bought probably fake artifacts. Owning ancient cultural artifacts at all isn’t a great look. The trading cultural artifacts has been banned since 1970 — the date of the UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property.
Of course, there’s still a black market for items, which definitely has some celebrity participation. Lest us not forget that Kim Kardashian ordered a Roman-era marble bust that was smuggled out of Italy and confiscated by law enforcement before it reached her.