This article was translated by John R. Bopp

In our “Basque Chronicles” section, we think there should be reference to and reflection on one of the biggest historical and scientific controversies that we’ve lived through in the Land of the Basques in the last few years; a controversy that has to do with the presumed findings uncovered at Iruña-Veleia

We recognize that from the start, we’ve been completely ignorant of these matters, but there are things that always call to our attention:

The first is the ease with which some professionals reported on others as responsible for a fraud of this caliber.

The second is the difficulty we have imagining that these esteemed professionals, those who were excavating at this site, carried out these supposed falsifications in such a clumsy way, especially given that they are recognized experts in these matters and had no pressing need for an “extraordinary find”.

The third is how long the legal process is taking: 10 years since the finding and not one trial or sentence.

It also makes us uneasy the feeling that in this matter, there is an attempt to eliminate proof or indications that a priori affect what is taken for granted in the History of the Basques, which, when faced with this, some chose to take the easiest path: deny authenticity, using arguments, in 2008, that eight years later seem a lot less serious and deep than when they wanted us to believe when they destroyed the prestige of the scientists who presented them.

We are not experts, but we know someone who is, and we turned to him to ask him for his thoughts on the matter.


Xabier Ormaetxea has a Law Degree with a Master’s in History
Xabier Ormaetxea has a Law Degree with a Master’s in History

IRUÑA VELEIA

 

   is one of the most important archeological sites in the Basque Country.  In 2006, the team that was digging uncovered some ostracas, or pieces of ceramic, that had interesting writing on them; that is, written in the ceramic with a burin.  The scientific community and public opinion were surprised by how important the findings were.  In the epigraphs, text in Latin, text in Basque, and primitive Christian figures appeared.  For some specialists, the whole set seems to be from a paedagogium or school where several subjects were taught; others don’t believe such an idea is possible.

If the epigraphs were true, they would shine an incalculably important light on the Latin of the time, the Basque of the time, the early (and not late) Christianization in Basque lands, but they would most importantly destroy a series of paradigms of Basque linguistics that seemed untouchable, and would negate some theories that today have a certain good standing about the late Basquization of Biscay, Gipuzkoa, and Araba.  Some “gurus” at the university hurried to declare that the epigraphs were a falsification, and ordered a series of reports that concluded they were false, and refused to perform a series of scientific tests that could date the age of the inscriptions beyond doubt.  The director of the excavations, Eliseo Gil, and his collaborator Idoia Filloy were accused, discredited, fired, and sent to trial (which, as of 2016, has still determined nothing).  The Government of Araba, afraid of being accused of being complicit in the supposed fraud, positioned itself on the side of the university establishment, which in turn ordered that the reports favorable to the fraud thesis were completed by “friends”.

One of the “ostraca” found at Iruña Veleia and which is now in the center of an intense debate
One of the “ostraca” found at Iruña Veleia and which is now in the center of an intense debate

Over the years, university professors, epigraphy specialists, linguists, and even the creator of the modern archeological method of stratigraphy, Professor Harris, have being bringing up doubts about the supposed falsification, and have shown that almost all the arguments that proved the forgery were wrong or not performed correctly.  The matter, far from being closed as some would like, is still alive.  One easy example, the inscription VELEIA was found on an ostraca, and it was said that that was totally impossible given the supposed date of manufacture.  Recently, a new team digging at the same site, a team that is of the same opinion as the “deniers”, found an ara at the excavations on which is the undeniable inscription VELEIA.

All this brings us to write the following manifest:

The findings at Iruña-Veleia mean a revolution in many fields of history and linguistics, but beyond that, they mean the collapse of a series of paradigms that were considered “dogmas” of faith, and which are defended by the intellectual establishment at the University of the Basque Country.

The scientific method, by definition, must be open to all possible ways and means to prove and show the veracity or falseness of the “ostraca” and inscriptions that were found, and that those who most strongly defend the carrying out of these exhaustive tests were the discoverers of the findings, and that those who refuse to carry them out are those who decided they were forgeries beforehand.

The main arguments that were used to prove the forgery, even when dressed up with the “scientific appreciations” of supposed experts, have been shown, bit by bit, to have been carried out with glibness and even frivolity.  The impossible writings, the unknown signs, the nonexistent words, have been held as hasty conclusions, with poor foundations, and ignorant of existing contemporary examples which show just how rushed the conclusions were.

Institutions and politics are not exempt from responsibility, since, by either commission or omission, they were fundamentally motivated by an inferiority complex that certain sectors of Basque nationalism have.  In that mentality, it was considered that defending the veracity of the findings at Iruña-Veleia would be considered chauvinist and retrograde, while supporting or allowing those who attacked the findings from the University was more progressive and “left-wing”.

It would be necessary to restore Eliseo Gil and Idoia Folloy, the directors of the digs, and allow them to porpose a list of scientific tests and international experts to draw up a scientific report that is impartial, separated from ideological complexes and prejudices.


It’s obvious there are two opposing sides: one that denies the authenticity of the findings and another that is asking for an independent study and the guarantee that the pieces that began the controversy are in the same condition they were originally found in.

There’s a website, www.sos-irunaveleia.org, that is full of information about this important matter in the history of the Basques.  We can undoubtedly place it in the latter group; that is, it’s in the group of those who ask for the pieces to be reinvestigated in a calmer, deeper way.  But, curiously, despite being “partial” in this matter, they offer us a collection of the reports that have been published, both the ones in favor of the authenticity of the findings, and those who believe they are forgeries.

It’s worth taking a look at.  We’d like to highlight three sections:

 

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