THURSDAY

I don’t know which I’m a bigger sucker for: lost treasure or bare-breasted female snake handlers. So you might think a book concerning the mystery surrounding an ancient chryselephantine (that’s part gold, part ivory to you, neophyte) sculpture of a Minoan snake goddess would be right up my alley. And you’d be wrong. Though Kenneth D.S. Lapatin’s Mysteries of the Snake Goddess: Art, Desire, and the Forging of History poses an intriguing question (could a priceless sculpture, one of the jewels in the crown of Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts, be a forgery?), his detective story unfortunately founders in the bog of archaeology-speak. Lapatin places the goddess’ sketchy origins against the cultural backdrop of the early 1900s, when the discovery of the ruins of a pre-classical Minoan culture on Crete excited the imaginations of Europeans desperate to believe that their cultural roots extended as far back as—or further than—those of their “oriental” counterparts in ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia. In the rush for Minoan works, buyers turned a blind eye to the finer points of provenance and further fed an already ravenous appetite for forgery. Given the circumstances, Lapatin could have provided a truly interesting account of the search for the origin of this statue. But I doubt anyone—other than a scholar—will perk up at his mention of “dovetail-in-slot joins” in Egyptian ivories. And I’d rather not meet the person who can claim an interest in Lapatin’s extended discussion of genitalia interpretation. I don’t want to spoil the mystery for you, such as it is; so if you want to find out the truth about the snake goddess, I suggest you show up at 7 p.m. Thursday, April 11, at Olsson’s Books & Records, 1200 F St. NW. Free. (202) 347-3686. (Michael Little)