History is littered with documents, objects and places with the potential to shed light on the murky corners of the past. When a new one is discovered, observers flock to see what it can tell us and historians wipe tears of frustration on tweedy sleeves as they try to rewrite everything they thought they knew.
History is also littered with people who really want something to be true, whether the facts support it or not. Some of those desperate souls are taken in by forgers who gleefully foist upon them the fabricated artifacts they desire. Sometimes they manufacture such forgeries themselves, thinking that if other people believe them they will magically become right.
And finally, fiction and myth can become confused with reality, leading presumably sane people to speculate endlessly or even go in search of things that were never claimed to be real in the first place.
Some fakes or fictions were exposed as such early on, but some have continued to be massively influential, often long after they have been proven false. Nonexistent historical artifacts teach us not only about the human capacity to deceive, but about the human willingness to believe.
Ben Counter is a fantasy and science fiction writer, gaming enthusiast, wrestling fan and miniature painting guru. He was raised on Warhammer, Star Wars and 1980s cartoons that, in retrospect, were't that good. Whoever you are, he is nerdier than you.