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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 Country, 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 abandoned definitely.

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 soon after the findings were deemed to be forged.[2][3][4]


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, all these inscriptions turned out to be a fabrication, as concluded by the 26 experts who analyzed the data for almost 10 months, and that went public on November 19, 2008. The texts were described as "crude manipulation," "incoherent," having texts and words both "incorrect and non-existent", and as being so "obviously false as to be almost comical."[6] The case was dubbed by some as the "biggest archaeological fraud in the history of the Iberian Peninsula"[7] and "the product of an elaborate hoax."[8]

The regional government of Alava pursued legal actions against the fraud perpetrators.[1][9] The sponsors of the project too (Euskotren) brought charges against the archaeological team, but the case was filed, and only the lawsuit opened by the regional government of Alava remains open.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]



  1. ^ a b (Spanish) "Álava se querella contra los responsables del fraude de Veleia", El País, 2009-03-25.
  2. ^ (Basque) "Veleia: disparateen zerrenda", Sustatu, 2008-11-20.
  3. ^ (Spanish) "Tres arqueólogos abandonaron Veleia tras los hallazgos de 2006", El País, 2008-11-22.
  4. ^ (Spanish) "Iruña-Veleia, culebrón arqueológico", El País, 2008-12-06.
  5. ^ (Spanish) "Un maestro entre el Nilo y el Zadorra", 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", Noticias de Álava, 2006-06-09.
  6. ^ (Spanish) "Los expertos concluyen que los grafitos en euskera del siglo III son 'totalmente falsos'", El Mundo, 2008-11-19.
  7. ^ (Spanish) "La Diputación alavesa relega a Amelia Baldeón a un museo de segunda fila", El País, 2009-03-04.
  8. ^ (Basque) Barandiaran, Alberto, «Iruzur bitxiena eta ikusgarriena», Berria, 2012-11-30.
  9. ^ (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.

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