An artifact in a viral TikTok from a company-run account that appeared to show an employee destroying a 3,000-year-old terracotta pot has turned out to be fake.
In an email to BuzzFeed News, Tim Marriott, cofounder of Engineered Labs, clarified that the item was in fact a replica and said that the company had “no one to blame for the misinformation except ourselves.”
The business, which operates out of Idaho, designs and manufactures unique science-related gifts and is run by brothers Tim and Cory Marriott. On its official TikTok account, viewers can get a closer look at some of its products and also the odd science experiment.
The short clip that has gone viral and prompted criticism was captioned “this pottery made it 3,000 years without breaking” and ended with the creator tossing the small pot to the ground, where it smashed on impact.
In reference to the now-deleted TikTok, Marriott explained that the employee made the decision to incorrectly describe the replica as a 3,000-year-old artifact “to grab attention.”
“Obviously, we wouldn't break a pristine cultural artifact just for a TikTok video,” Marriott said in his email.
The company describes itself as the creator of the Heritage Personal Museum, a collection of fragments from 33 historical artifacts and rare specimens enclosed in an acrylic case, which it sells on its website for $189.99.
The collection features fragments of items such as Egyptian mummy beads, a woolly mammoth tusk, and Mayan jade, which led to some assumptions from people online that the company was deliberately destroying items solely for the purpose of creating personal museums as advertised on its website.
Mariott said that while the company does indeed include items like the Indus Valley terracotta in some of its personal museums, which is what the replica in the viral TikTok appeared to be, the company would only sell fragments “that are already broken in small pieces” for the product.
“Here's the thing, it doesn't matter if it's all fake,” said TikTok creator @archthot in a duet video to her followers. The archaeologist with 60,000 followers called out Engineered Labs for its “morally and ethically corrupt” business model.
“By posting something like this, you're letting people know this is OK. So many of these artifacts were plundered and stolen from their original countries and these countries are begging to have their artifacts back and you are going to smash it on the floor?” she asked.
The backlash to the stunt has been swift, with people driving down the company’s rating by giving one-star reviews on Google.
“So messed up taking actual historic artifacts and breaking them to sell the pieces. You do better than destroying ancient relics and pieces for a quick buck,” said one review.
“300 years of history, culture and ancestry gone within seconds. And for what? Profit? A few likes on Tiktok?” wrote another.
Marriott described the entire situation as “unfortunate” and acknowledged that the company was unable to “stay ahead” of the misinformation it had caused.