Finds that made Basques proud are fake, say experts





It was hailed as an archeological discovery of global importance showing, among other things, the oldest representation of Christ on the cross and proof that ancient Egyptian influences had survived deep in Roman Spain.

For traditional Basques the pictures, symbols and words found scraped onto pieces of third century pottery dug up near the town of Nanclares, in northern Spain, included miraculous evidence that their unique language of Euskara was far older than ever thought. Eighteen months ago the dig's director, Eliseo Gil, claimed that some finds at the Roman town known as Veleia were on par with those at Pompeii or Rome itself. Basque nationalists bristled with pride. This archeological jewel gave them a far greater claim to a distinctive, millennial and Christian culture than they had dreamed possible.

Now a committee of experts has revealed those jewels to be fakes. "They are either a joke or a fraud," said Martín Almagro, a professor in prehistory from Madrid. "How has something like this been taken seriously for so long?" The hunt is on for an archeological fraudster who defaced fragments of third century pottery with fake graffiti.

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