A couple of years ago I wrote about the discovery of “inscriptions in the Basque language that could date from as early as the third century”; at the time I said “I’m afraid my first response is skepticism,” and that skepticism turns out to be well founded. Giles Tremlett in the Guardian reports:

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.
The fraudster seems either to have buried the pieces or planted them in a laboratory where experts sifted through finds. The fakes left the first people to see them swooning…
The words in Euskera, if genuine, would have predated by 700 years the previous earliest known written form of the language. The hieroglyphics caused speculation about the existence of third century Egyptologists who might have created the inscriptions to teach children.
Now experts who have studied the pieces in depth say the fakes, some of which used modern glue, should have rung warning bells immediately. References were found to non-existent gods, 19th-century names and even to the 17th-century philosopher Descartes.
Words in Euskara used impossible spellings. The hieroglyphs included references to Queen Nefertiti which would have been almost impossible to make prior to the 19th century.
The Calvary scene, meanwhile, included the inscription “RIP”. “It is a formula that can only be applied to people who are dead,” Almagro told El Correo newspaper. “To say that Jesus Christ is dead would be a heresy. I haven’t seen anything quite so funny in the whole history of Christianity.”

Hat tip to Glossographia.


  1. I am afraid the “discovery” owed loads to the politics of the nationalist regional government and its will to subsidize or finance any “research” (i.e. pseudo-science) that can set the Basques apart from Spain. The first Basque written words that we have so far appeared in the same place as the oldest Spanish written words.

  2. Thanks for the link! Now that the hoax has been revealed I’ll be even more interested to see photos of the so-called Basque inscriptions.
    – Steve Chrisomalis

  3. ‘Nonexistent gods’! Any other kind?

  4. Siganus Sutor says

    It must have been a Dravidian conspiracy. (We all know that Muruga is alive and kicking.)

  5. Michael Farris says

    What’s the world coming to, I never thought I’d live to see trickery and dishonesty in the field of Basque studies….
    What’s next? Crackpot theories about Dravidians?

  6. I wonder if the mass-media will report about the fake as eagerly as they reported about the “sensational discovery”.

  7. John Emerson says

    It really sounds more like a practical joke than a hoax seriously intended to deceive.

  8. John Emerson says

    It really sounds more like a practical joke than a hoax seriously intended to deceive.

  9. Yep, Emerson, especially taking into account something actively omitted in the 1st intervention here (by alfanje): The provincial culture department in charge of funding/managing this research (Diputación Provincial de Alava) has been for years under the control of the Spanish Popular Party (“non-nationalist” only in the sense of being proud and sound Spanish nationalist)…

  10. In any case, introducing graffittis reading “DESCARTES” or “NEFERTITI” into a corpus trying to be historically deceptive is, in my humble opinion, too much even for committed hoaxing separatists…

  11. Could be both.

  12. So much more ambitious than “Manlios me fefakhed”.

  13. Please, that’s med, with the Ancient Endingd, and fhefhaked, with the Ancient Redupliduplication!

  14. David Marjanović says

    And Manlios would make sense, but IIRC it’s just Manios.
    For the fh, see modern Māori wh

  15. John Cowan says

    ‘Nonexistent gods’! Any other kind?

    Well, previously unheard-of gods, then, like Denial E. Dunnit’s introduction of Feenoman the forest god. Those who believe in him are Feenomanists; those who probably don’t believe but study Feenoman as an object of worship are, of course, Feenomanologists.

  16. Bradbury the prophet taught us that gods exist as long as a human being believes they do. I shall leave the question of whether hieroglyphologers believe anything they read as an exercise to the reader.

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