From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Location of Veleia and other Roman cities in the context of ancient Basque tribes and the modern Basque Country

Veleia was a Roman town in Hispania, now located in the Basque Autonomous Community, Spain. The site is located in the municipality of Iruña de Oca, 10 kilometers west of Vitoria. The town was an important station on the Roman road ab Asturica Burdigalam that ran parallel to the coast of the Bay of Biscay. At its apogee, the city could have been inhabited by some five to ten thousand people,[citation needed] and apparently went through different cycles of prosperity and decline into the Early Middle Ages until it was finally abandoned.

It has been argued (e.g. J.M.Lacarra) that the location of Iruña is actually the Victoriacum founded by Liuvigild in his campaigns against the Vascones (581), since only a very small portion of the actual town has been unearthed so far by archaeologists.

The archaeological site of Iruña-Veleia is the most important from the Roman period in the Basque Country.[1] It was alleged to contain the oldest known texts written in the Basque language as well as, allegedly, the oldest representation of the crucifixion of Jesus found to date, but later it was said that the findings were forgeries,[2][3][4] based on the opinions of some scholars. However, other authors favor their genuinely ancient provenance, in agreement with the stratigraphic dating performed by the archaeologists who made the discoveries. The dispute is currently unresolved.


Bronze and Iron ages[edit]

The town was founded in the 8th century BC, in the Late Bronze Age. The houses from this period, rectangular and round with adobe walls and thatched roofs, are similar to those found at the nearby site of Atxa (Vitoria).

Roman period[edit]

In the first half of the 1st century some of these houses were replaced by others of Roman style (domus). This architectural romanization continued as the century advanced.

The late Roman city (3rd and 4th centuries) is better known. It shows signs of decay and the construction of a wall that encloses an eleven hectare area. The town survived into the 5th century after Roman power had disappeared from the region, but by the end of the century only burial plots in abandoned buildings are found.

Modern age[edit]

There was an abbey at the site at least since the 16th century whose buildings remained visible until the mid 19th century.

Sensational findings and forgery case[edit]

The Iruña-Veleia site had been granted 3.72 million euros funding by the Basque regional government. In 2006, a series of sensational findings at Iruña-Veleia were announced to the press by the director of the archaeological mission. These included what would have been the oldest non-onomastical texts in Basque, which were hailed as the first evidence of written Basque.

Also, it was announced the discovery of a series of inscriptions and drawings on pottery fragments, some of which refer to Egyptian history and even some written in Egyptian hieroglyphs. Finally, it was announced the finding of the earliest representation of the Calvary (crucifixion of Jesus) found anywhere to date.[5]

Eventually, a committee of experts, the "Comisión Científica Asesora" ("Scientific Advisory Committee") was constituted by the provincial government of Álava to study the findings.[6] The committee was made up of nine academics, all professors of the University of the Basque Country in Vitoria, along with three members of the provincial government of Álava, the director of the Provincial Museum of Archaeology, and the director of the excavation, and was presided over by one of the members of the provincial government of Álava.

On November 19, 2008, it was publicly announced that all these inscriptions, some 400 in total, were forgeries, a conclusion allegedly reached, unanimously, by the members of the committee who analyzed the data for almost 10 months. According to the press releases, the texts were described in some reports as "crude manipulation," "incoherent," having texts and words both "incorrect and non-existent", and as being so "obviously false as to be almost comical."[7] The case was dubbed by some as the "biggest archaeological fraud in the history of the Iberian Peninsula"[8] and "the product of an elaborate hoax."[9] Ultimately, one of the members of the committee, Prof. Julio Núñez, became the new director of the Iruña-Veleia archaeological excavations [10]

The provincial government of Alava pursued legal actions against the alleged perpetrators of the supposed fraud.[1][11] The sponsors of the project (Euskotren) also brought charges against the archaeological team, but the case was dismissed, and only the lawsuit filed by the provincial government of Alava remains in force.

Expert opinions favorable to the authenticity of the findings at Iruña-Veleia[edit]

The provincial government of Álava, together with several members of the expert committee constituted by it, publicly announced on November 19, 2008, that the opinion reached by this committee had been unanimous, namely that the findings at the Iruña-Veleia site were forgeries. The committee did not produce any formal consensual agreement.[12] Four of the 14 reports authored by its members or their external advisors explicitly asserted that the graffiti found at the site were forgeries.[12] The analyses of physical evidences were inconclusive.[13]

Archaeologist Dominic Perring, who acted as external advisor to the committee, stated that "The final word on the subject must await definitive publication by leading scholars of the epigraphy and textual sources of the period […] Above all, the conclusions drawn need to be peer-reviewed by leading international scholars in the field" and proposed carrying out control excavations at the site by independent archaeologists.[14]

As of 2017 no peer-reviewed study has been published supporting the falsehood of the findings and no control excavations have been performed at the site. Subsequently to the announcement of November 2008, a number of reports,[15] conference presentations, books, journal articles and videos favoring the authenticity of the Iruña-Veleia findings have been made public, many authored by scholars in different fields, including archaeologist Edward Harris, author of the stratigraphic method used by the archaeologists at Iruña-Veleia and by most archaeologists today,[16][17][18][19] epigraphist and Professor of Ancient History at the University of Santiago de Compostela, Spain, Antonio Rodríguez Colmenero,[20][21] linguists Hector Iglesias [22][23][24] and Jean-Baptiste Orpustan,[25][26] Egyptologist Ulrike Fritz,[27][28] palaeopathologist Joaquim Baxarías,[29] and archaeologist and epigraphist Luis Silgo.[30][31]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  • (in Basque) Barandiaran, Alberto, Veleia afera, Elkar, 2010. ISBN 9788497839150
  • Elkin, Mike (2009): "The Veleia Affair" Archaeology Volume 62 Number 5, September/October 2009.
  • (in French) Iglesias, Hector (2009), « Les inscriptions de Veleia-Iruña » {pdf} Les inscriptions de Veleia-Iruña (version entièrement revue et augmentée d'un index alphabétique). Artxiker, bibliothèque numérique d'IKER, Centre de recherche sur la langue et les textes basques du CNRS, Baiona-Bayonne.


  1. ^ a b (in Spanish) "Álava se querella contra los responsables del fraude de Veleia", El País, 2009-03-25.
  2. ^ (in Basque) "Veleia: disparateen zerrenda", Sustatu, 2008-11-20.
  3. ^ (in Spanish) "Tres arqueólogos abandonaron Veleia tras los hallazgos de 2006", El País, 2008-11-22.
  4. ^ (in Spanish) "Iruña-Veleia, culebrón arqueológico", El País, 2008-12-06,
  5. ^ (in Spanish) "Un maestro entre el Nilo y el Zadorra"[dead link], Diario de Noticias de Álava, 2006-06-09; "En Veleia hubo alguien muy culto y de alto 'status', que dominaba la historia egipcia y sabía escribir jeroglíficos", El País, 2006-06-09; "Aparecen en Veleia restos de inscripciones en euskera del siglo III y de temática cristiana" Archived 2007-10-06 at the Wayback Machine., Noticias de Álava, 2006-06-09.
  6. ^ López de Lacalle Arizti, Lorena. "Nota de la Diputada de Euskera, Cultura y Deportes, Lorena López de Lacalle Arizti" (PDF).
  7. ^ (in Spanish) "Los expertos concluyen que los grafitos en euskera del siglo III son 'totalmente falsos'", El Mundo, 2008-11-19.
  8. ^ (in Spanish) "La Diputación alavesa relega a Amelia Baldeón a un museo de segunda fila", El País, 2009-03-04.
  9. ^ (in Basque) Barandiaran, Alberto, «Iruzur bitxiena eta ikusgarriena» Archived 2012-12-07 at the Wayback Machine., Berria, 2012-11-30.
  10. ^ "La UPV-EHU, con Julio Nuñez al frente, redactará el Plan Director de Iruña-Veleia". Gara. 6 November 2009.
  11. ^ (in Spanish) "La Diputación aporta al fiscal nuevas pruebas sobre el engaño de Veleia. Una empresa alemana afirma que los gráficos aportados por Cerdán para autentificar los hallazgos «son una copia» de su manual", El Correo, 2009-03-03.
  12. ^ a b "Veleia: documentación". Diputación Foral de Álava.
  13. ^ Madariaga, Juan Manuel. "Estudio e investigación del yacimiento de Iruña-Veleia. Análisis químicos" (PDF).
  14. ^ Perring, Dominic. "An evaluation of the reliability of the stratigraphic sequences and findings described in the "Report on the discoveries of exceptional graffiti in the Roman city of Veleia (Iruña de Oca, Alava)" prepared by Idoia Filloy Nieva and Eliseo Gil Zubillaga" (PDF).
  15. ^ "Reports on Iruña-Veleia". SOS Iruña-Veleia. Retrieved 26 April 2017.
  16. ^ Harris, Edward. "Iruña-Veleia archaeological assessment" (PDF).
  17. ^ Harris, Edward. "Iruña-Veleia: they did a superb job (1)".
  18. ^ Harris, Edward. "Iruña-Veleia: they did a superb job (2)".
  19. ^ Harris, Edward. "Es imposible falsificar los 400 grafitos de Iruña-Veleia". Gara.
  20. ^ Rodríguez Colmenero, Antonio. "Iruña-Veleia: sobre algunos grafitos singulares aparecidos en las excavaciones arqueológicas de la ciudad romana. Un parecer" (PDF).
  21. ^ Rodríguez Colmenero, Antonio. "Grafitos, textos y diseños de la Veleia romana: la urgencia de una solución" (PDF).
  22. ^ Iglesias, Hector. "Les inscriptions de Veleia-Iruña".
  23. ^ Iglesias, Hector (2012). "Les inscriptions d'Iruña-Veleia: analyse linguistique des principales inscriptions basques découvertes" (PDF). Arse. 46: 21–81.
  24. ^ Iglesias, Hector (22 April 2016). Les Inscriptions d'Iruña-Veleia. Connaissances & Savoirs. ISBN 978-2753903159.
  25. ^ Orpustan, Jean-Baptiste. "A propos des "Observaciones sobre los recientes hallazgos epigráficos paleovascos de Iruña-Veleia (TrespuentesVillodas, Álava)" de L. Silgo Gauche" (PDF).
  26. ^ Orpustan, Jean-Baptiste. La langue basque au moyen âge, IXe - XVe siècles. En annexe: Du basque médiéval au basque antique: les inscriptions de Veleia-Iruña en Alava (PDF). pp. 259–277.
  27. ^ Fritz, Ulrike. "Report about the ostraka with Egyptianizing hieroglyphs and Egyptian names written in Latin on bone or on ostrakon of Iruña-Veleia" (PDF).
  28. ^ Fritz, Ulrike. "Egyptomania in the Roman Empire – The ostraka with egyptianizing hieroglyphs of Iruña-Veleia and pieces of bone with Egyptian gods in Latin" (PDF).
  29. ^ Baxarías, Joaquim. "Informe preliminar de los restos óseos con inscripciones antrópicas procedentes de las excavaciones de Iruña-Veleia" (PDF).
  30. ^ Silgo, Luis. "Observaciones sobre los recientes hallazgos epigráficos paleovascos de Iruña-Veleia (Trespuentes-Villodas, Álava)" (PDF).
  31. ^ Silgo, Luis. "Observaciones sobre la "valoración" del Área de Arqueología de la Universidad del País Vasco sobre los hallazgos excepcionales del yacimiento de Iruña-Veleia" (PDF).

Coordinates: 42°50′32″N 2°47′15″W / 42.84222°N 2.78750°W / 42.84222; -2.78750