October 1, 2010

Iruña-Veleia: civic association demands that analysis are made

[Slightly updated - Oct 3]

Almost three years since the infamous ad-hoc commission decreed in a single session and without any proper evidence nor hearing that the exceptional findings of Vasco-Roman city Iruña-Veleia were false, a parliamentary commission (of the autonomous provincial parliament of Araba) finally gathered yesterday to listen to the civic association (SOS Iruña-Veleia) and its demands that the physico-chemical analysis are finally made in order to demonstrate whether the findings are genuine or not.

The members of SOS Iruña-Veleia explained to the commission:
  • The origin of the association as convergence of concerned citizens on the situation of the exceptional findings. 
  • The patrimonial damages caused by newly appointed site director and "archaeologist" Julio Núñez, including a document not yet available online that is described as very precise and clarifying.
  • The fraud of the Scientific Assessor Commission of 2008: half-done work, impossibility of appeal, not allowing reply by chief archaeologist Eliseo Gil, lack of demonstrating alleged falsehood with independent methods.
  • The demonstration of the existence of many many indications of carbonate crystallizations in the incisions of the inscriptions (which are blatant evidence that the pieces have been buried for a long time, with the texts on them). This is evident in the only chemical report of the 2008 commission (Madariaga) and in the many available photos of the inscribed shards.
They replied to the questions made by the representatives and mentioned that the provincial government has not yet provided the shards to the police, as demanded by the judge, in order to be analyzed.

They attach the graphic panels used in their exposition in PDF format (Spanish language mostly). The document on the patrimonial destruction will be available in few days.


In 2006 it became known that an abundance of highly informative, exceptional findings, with many many inscriptions, largely in Latin (later found to be Vulgar Latin mostly) and Basque (would be the oldest non-funerary texts in Basque), had been found at the Vasco-Roman city of Veleia, later known as Iruña (the city or the capital), SW of modern Vitoria-Gasteiz. They included also what seemed some of the earliest known Christian imagery and also some apparent Egyptian hieroglyphs, as well as other drawings.

Most of the graffiti were inscribed on shards, later used as part of the foundation of a house. There were also some on bone and even on bricks. The findings impressed everybody with an interest in history and linguistics, of course.

However soon rumors of falsehood began circulating by the faculty of philology (linguistics) of the University of the Basque Country: a pope of Basque linguistics, namely Joseba Lakarra, was not happy with the findings because, it seems, they challenged his theories on ancient Basque.

At that time I was an active editor at Wikipedia and created and filled with content the Iruña-Veleia page (see my latest version as of September 2006, later deprecated by anonymous users and certain Mountolive, who is at least a fanatic and stubborn Spanish nationalist). I knew of those rumors by Alan R. King, a linguist and and member of Euskaltzaindia (Academy of the Basque Language), the same as Lakarra, who was then a collaborator at Wikipedia and was persuaded early that the graffiti were false (on no other grounds but linguistic speculation). Notice that I do not think that King is "evil" in any sense but that he was mislead by his colleagues in the internal dynamics of linguistic clubs.

However I do think by now that Joseba Lakarra (left) is an evil (selfish, false, unethical) person and that he has been the main ringleader in the unwarranted persecution by means of rumor mill, camarilla dynamics, conspiration and fraud against Basque (as well as European) history and cultural legacy.

Why? Because, I understand now (but could not some time ago), he feels threatened in his status as pope of Basque linguistics by the discoveries. It is not just a matter of opinion, because that would have been settled easily with physico-chemical analysis and possibly independent excavations. It is a matter of power.

Whatever the case, Lakarra managed to organize enough and sufficiently powerful people by 2008 as to bring on a defamation campaign in the Basque and Spanish media.

Most Spaniards rushed to support the theory of falsehood because Spanish nationalist historiography has always sustained, with little evidence, that the Western Basque Country was originally of Celtic and not Basque language (together with other wacko hypothesis such as the Iberian origin of Basque language and Basques themselves or even the century-old Berber hypothesis). In brief: Spanish nationalist "historians" and "linguists" like to believe that everything is Celtic or Iberian not giving ever proper room for Basque/Vascoid distinctive personality and very much real ancient presence. If Basque would not exist at all they would be happy.

But while (many) Spaniards supported one side like crazy, the plot is genuinely Basque.

A key piece of support for the Veleia falsehood hypothesis was the Deputy (provincial minister) of Culture of Araba (Alava), Lorena López de Lacalle (left). She held the key power seat that ultimately ruled over the archaeological site of Iruña-Veleia.

Whether she was initially persuaded by the smear campaign or was knowing accomplice all along I cannot say. But she was the main responsible of all what happened since 2008.

Under her authority the infamous Scientific Assessor Commission was gathered. This commission consisted almost exclusively of linguists, all professors at the University of the Basque Country. When they gathered, only one report was ready: a linguistic one by J. Gorrotxategi (the second most visible ringleader of the linguist popes camarilla that is behind all this mess - his name is sometimes spelled Gorrochategui). All the others, including the crucial but shallow and inconclusive report by Prof. Madariaga on the physico-chemical evidence were included later.

In spite of the lack of anything but rumors, suspicions and linguistic speculations of no objective value, the Commission gathered once, only once, and decreed without any formality that the graffiti were false. The decision had been taken a priori and the gathering was just a formality, a very shallow, shameless and almost pointless formality.

In spite of that, the media were suddenly persuaded of the falsehood: it was official. For a year or so only silence existed on the Veleia affair. At least for me, who had remained pretty much apart from the debate.

But by the end of 2009, gradually, new information began appearing. I was interested, I wanted to know, and gradually I discovered the dimensions of the fraud, of what can only be described as cultural crime.

First I knew was Hector Iglesias, a French linguist of Galician origin, arguing that some of the supposed evidence of the falsehood of the shards actually supports its authenticity. He argued (PDF) that what people, including those arrogant linguists of the commission, could not believe as genuine are actually extremely rare names only known to exist to a few experts worldwide. They are not Basque words but the Celtic personal name Deirdre (modernly Deidre) and the Phoenician mythological name Miscart, an ill-known but attested version of Melqart, god protector of Tyre and widely worshiped through the Mediterranean once.

The Miscart/Descartes shard

Then came more and more voices supporting the authenticity of the findings: epigrapher and archaeologist Luis Silgo (PDF), world-famous archaeologist Edward Cecil Harris (PDF), linguist Enrique Fernández de Pinedo (PDF download), geologist Koenraad van Driesche (PDF download), linguist Roslyn M. Frank (press interviews: 1, 2), etc.

I have already gone over all this in my old blog Leherensuge, where more information can be found.

But the worst was still to come. Maybe feeling how they were losing ground, how truth was gradually outpouring the mantle of dirt it had been buried under, de Lacalle decided to give the directorship of Veleia to the only archaeologist that had participated in the infamous 2008 Commission: Luis Núñez.

That alone smell very bad but when he announced that his director plan included mechanical removal of as much as 50cm of soil, when the previous team had detected that the agricultural layer was not deeper than 30 cm in most areas and that archaeological remains laid directly underneath this thin layer, then worry and concern spread around.

The 50cm that became 150
But the director plan was in fact benevolent compared with what would happen in reality. As soon as he began working, Núñez started digging not 50 cm but 150 cm in many cases. He directly removed all the archaeological layers and went to the show stuff: the paved road underneath them without the slightest documentation work or anything.

This atrocity is well documented, thanks to the people of SOS Iruña-Veleia, in many photos and videos.

Sad as it may be, it was this barbarity what finally called the attention of the public, the media and some politicians. I don't want to make any political propaganda here but the first one to speak out, as far as I know, was Iñaki Aldekoa, a name that I have often heard at my parents' home because my father, not knowing him personally much, admires him somewhat because he obtained the first place in their promotion at the Engineering School (my father was the second), even if he had to study the whole career or almost from prison (that was under fascism, in the 1960s).

That was apparently enough for the plotting cowards to stop the cultural crime by the time being. Still they present such aggression as some sort of miraculous finding of great cultural value of some sort. They may be ruthless with the treasuries of the past but they are masterfully delicate with the media.

Maybe it is the pressure of the Internet (the media has not discussed the matter too much, although a little more within Araban media maybe), maybe it is the pressure of the provincial elections next year, maybe the unusual situation of the government ignoring the judge's most normal demands, maybe that some still have some dignity, but at least there has been a parliamentary hearing finally.

That is the story so far, at least the way I see it.

Just remind of some reference links:

Update (Nov 25): those who can read Spanish may also want to read this anonymous paper (pamphlet if you wish, but erudite) on Lakarra's career and why he is the center of all this problem: La Filología Vasca pese a Joseba Lakarra Andrinua (Basque Philology in spite of Joseba Lakarra Andrinua).


    1. I was very skeptical about the Veleia findings as I was somehow convinced by Lakarra and Gorrotxategi's explainations. A fact is that after reading Iglesias, it was clear that Lakarra and Gorrotxategi dismissed the findings as such discoveries were destroying their own theories about the Celtic past of these lands or the evolution of the Basque language, which is not intellectually acceptable. Even though I believe that Indo-European languages left a lasting influence in most Iberia and Gaul, I'm also firmly convinced that celticism is a bit of an illness.

      Iglesias can be subject to mysticism sometimes, he's a great linguist but not without his flaws, more precisely, I'm a bit irritated by his "Caucasian" fantasies and I find that he's lacking in Romance linguistics. Yet, his article about the Veleia findinds is reasonable and learned. See his website :


      As for Iberian and Basque, I don't know if I already gave you that link but Basque linguist Orpustan has somehow proved that both languages shared many structures.

    2. What is clear is that authenticity of the findings cannot be even debated from a purely linguistic viewpoint. It is an archaeological matter and all linguists can do is to discuss the findings as such, not their authenticity.

      I've got very pissed off at Linguistics in general with all this. It is, at least in the State of Spain, a very hierarchized zone, more scholastic than really scientific.

      Anyhow, I am of the opinion that Iberian is related to Basque. And, I don't think this changes much, even if Iglesias does not feel comfortable with what the findings imply for his theories.

      What I do not think is that Basque derives from Iberian but just that they share origin, probably in the Late Paleolithic, Epipaleolithic or, the latest, in Neolithic.

      Only in this last case would Basque be derived from Iberian. The other scenarios would make Iberian the derived language and they are indirectly supported by R1b1b2a1a2 (P312) spread, which looks totally centered in the Pyrenean region, as discussed recently at Leherensuge and is highly consistent with post-LGM (or otherwise Franco-Cantabrian region originated) expansion.

    3. Another possibility is that Basque or rather Vascoid is, to the exclusion of Iberian maybe, a Megalithic culture language. This would also be consistent with Venneman's theory, because the Magdalenian and Megalithic zones overlap a lot, but the latter also enters Italy, where some of the evidence is found.

      Another explanation for the Vascoid influence in Italy could be that Chassey-La Lagozza culture was Vascoid speaking with an origin in SE France (all this would be proto-Ligurian).

      Finally another explanation could be that Vascoid languages spread with Neolithic (all branches at least West of the Balcans). Some lesser but still striking Vasconic evidence is also found in the Balcans (Ibar and Hebros rivers, Slavic gora for mountain...) so I would not totally exclude that Vasconic spread with Neolithic, only to be wiped out later by Indoeuropean. In this case it'd be unrelated to R1b, it'd be a new language and could be fit very well with the NE Caucasian or just North Caucasian hypotheses.

      We can only find out, looking dispassionately to all the various evidence and not hiding it in any case.


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