5. Drake’s Plate of Brass
Found in Northern California in 1936, Drake’s Plate was an inscribed brass artifact believed to have been a treasure left behind by explorer Francis Drake. Followed by his crew from the vessel Golden Hind, they were stated to have abandoned the piece when they landed on the California coast, ready to claim the territory for England. The plate soon became a part of history, going so far as to be mentioned in school textbooks, as well as exhibited around the world.
This all came to an end, however, by 1977 when researchers doing scientific analysis on the plate learned the artifact was fake, and that it was actually produced in a more contemporary era.
It wasn’t until 2003 that historians revealed the plate had come into being as a practical joke. Colleagues of Herbert Bolton, a UC Berkeley history professor, knew he would be fascinated by such a timeless piece, as he had long been a fan of Drake’s history. So the pranksters created this ‘masterpiece’ and, before they could reveal their secret, Bolton had accepted the plate as authentic and acquired it for the library where he also worked.