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Excellent synthesis of the situation of the Iruña-Veleia controversy at Noticias de Alava

Historian Estitxu Briñas (also member of the SOS Iruña-Veleia association)  has today published an article at Noticias de Alava, in which the pitiful and highly embarrassing situation of the Iruña-Veleia scandal is synthesized masterfully.
Those readers with knowledge of Spanish language may want to read the original article: Iruña-Veleia: todavía estamos a tiempo. For the rest, I will try to synthesize here the main points.
Briñas congratulates for the cessation of the former Deputy (provincial minister) of Culture, Lorena López de Lacalle (on unrelated political issues) because she is clearly the main political actor in this shameful abuse. She expresses her hope that this circumstance offers an opportunity to straighten the wrongdoings of the last two years.
The first and main wrong was the Foral Order of November 19th 2008 by which the former archaeological company in charge of the Vasco-Roman urban site, Lurmen, saw its excavation permit removed, the site was closed and the state attorney is asked to proceed against the archaeologists.

It would be too long to describe the many irregularities in which the Provincial Government incurred in such fateful day, suffice to say that the decision was adopted when only one of the ten reports of the Commission had been handed in and that the final conclusions, included in little more than half a sheet, were written by a provincial public servant; these needed to be redacted before the meeting because they were given to Eliseo Gil [the chief archaeologist] at the exit and the signatory public servant was present in that meeting.

The fact that the judge in charge has been demanding for some time that scientific analysis of the exceptional findings are performed is clear indication that the alleged falsification is not proven at all.
She proposes that the Provincial Government sends the artifacts (mostly inscribed shards, in Basque and Vulgar Latin, along some drawings) to some European laboratory specialized in archaeometry.
She also says that the ten Commission’s reports do not at any moment prove the alleged falsehood of the graffiti. (Actually most are only linguistic speculation with zero probatory value). In contrast, there are 16 reports, performed by prestigious scientists, that support that the artifacts are most likely genuine, including one by prestigious Bermudan archaeologist Edward C. Harris. These reports add up to 1800 pages have all been created altruistically without pocketing a single cent, while those of the Commission are of barely 400 pages and each one had a cost of €1800 to the taxpayer.
A further issue, denounced also by me, is the method of excavation of Julio Núñez, the new director of Iruña-Veleia and a member of the Commission (the only archaeologist in a mostly linguistic array of “experts”). As you may know Núñez mechanically excavated in few days a whole section of the site down to 1.5 meters, dumping all the archaeological layers without any consideration into rubbish piles, which cannot anymore produce an stratigraphy of any sort and even damaging some of the structures (see video below).
Also, Briñas informs us that SOS Iruña-Veleia has contacted a reputed European laboratory which would perform the analysis, with guarantee of conclusive results and no damage to the pieces, on ten key items for the price of €12,000, cost that SOS Iruña-Veleia offers to pay. This analysis could well be complementary to the one by scientific police, ordered by the judge but delayed by the Provincial Government, which has ignored the order. 
Finally, the historian retakes the question asked by the former Deputy López de Lacalle: how would the reputation of the University of the Basque Country end if a new commission of experts is called and new analysis are performed? Precisely that is the crux of the matter: how the Basque academy has been able to bring such a shame on themselves, not clarifying the doubts but performing a mere, corrupt, paperwork routine to make sure that the findings would be declared false without any evidence.
Further information in English:
In other languages:
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Some new events in relation with Iruña-Veleia and Basque linguistic "popes"

De Lacalle fired
L. Lpz. de Lacalle

First and foremost, for its huge potential, is the cessation of the Deputy of Culture of Araba, Lorena López de Lacalle (EA), one of the ringleaders and the most visible political actor of the inquisitorial process brought against the extraordinary findings at this site (2006-07). 

It is a hopeful development that allows to place some serious manager on top of the archaeology of this Basque region. However it is an event that has not been caused by exposure to the Iruña-Veleia scandal: but by partisan politics on matters unrelated and of purely political nature. At least apparently, this case of cultural nepotism and shameless manipulation has not been denounced by any politician but the former third coalition partner Aralar, and that only because some of its members seem just too honest to do otherwise.
Now the Deputy General (provincial “prime minister”), Xabier Agirre (EAJ-PNV) has the chance of appointing someone who is not motivated by the, sadly too usual, corrupt second motives but by genuine interest in clarifying the matter with truth as the only parameter. After all, Agirre, as the direct boss of de Lacalle, shares some responsibility and now has the occasion to clear his name in this murky matter. 
I have many doubts on what direction will take the Culture department after the remodeling that will happen next week. But let us hope that Agirre has learned something from all this scandal and takes the opportunity to clear his own name by appointing a serious and honest new Deputy.
In the worst case, he can appoint a “clone” of de Lacalle. But, if he does, so, I and many others will hold him and his party directly responsible. So I believe it would not be a smart move because throwing one’s political fortune along with the dishonest bunch that have organized this inquisitorial scandal for no reason at all sounds totally stupid. 
I have seen many stupid things done in Basque politics but this would be one of the most idiotic ones, I believe. So I do keep some hope, the same that I stubbornly keep some hope on Humankind. 
(Ref. Gara[es])
Lakarra’s bad linguistics fierily denounced in anonymous linguistic paper-pamphlet

J. Lakarra

The other development, that I do welcome, is the denunciation made by some Basque-language philologist against the ignorant lingistics of Basque Language Academy member Joseba Lakarra, the main ringleader against the

While in general academic publications are signed and peer-reviewed, in this case there are many reasons to remain anonymous: Lakarra’s power in the Basque linguistic establishment is immense and of mafioso style, and that has been confirmed to me often in private communications, and counts with the interested support of the most reactionary schools of Spanish pseudo-historic and pseudo-linguistic scholarship, not less affected by cronyism and lack of scientific method in many cases. 
So any linguist, or in general scholar, throwing these truths around better does from the vintage point of anonymity, at risk of losing income and job. Additionally, anonymity allows the author to be more blunt, direct and even often sarcastic. In this particular case at least, I believe it is totally justified. 
The paper/pamphlet (in Spanish language) is titled: La Filología Vasca pese a Joseba Lakarra Andrinua (Basque Philology in spite of Joseba Lakarra Andrinua) and can be found HERE (downloadable PDF manuscript).
I think it is a must-read for anyone interested in Basque philology. It should be also a must-read for anyone with a honest interest in clarifying what has happened in relation to the Iruña-Veleia graffiti, because this Joseba Lakarra academic guy is the boss of all ringleaders in the cultural genocide and pseudo-scientific inquisition exerted in the case of the Western Vasco-Roman city.
However it has the handicap for international readers that it is only available in Spanish (this should not be a problem for most linguists anyhow). So I am advancing here some translated excerpts:
One can be a horrible philologist in two ways: one à la Gorrochategui, namely: being a professor of Indoeuropean, not to be any epigrapher, and get into trying to interpret an inscription in a non-Indoeuropean language. This way of being a philologist carries the risks usual of all imprudences: to read DESCARTES in an inscription of the 3rd century.
It is a way of doing philology that is laughable and entertaining, specially for those among us who are indeed philologists. It is also a way of exerting the discipline that is luckily harmless, for as much as the clumsiness committed are so obvious that all possible damage to philology is effectively aborted by putting an end to the credibility of whoever this day exerts our discipline. 
The other way of being a horrible philologist is à La Lakarra, that is: to know two or three things, but not knowing when to close your mouth. This is in itself the more harmful way, specially when our big-mouthed philologist manages to become editor of some pseudo-academic publication, moment when every attempt to make him shut up becomes hopeless. And this is the way in which our character, Joseba Koldobika Lakarra Andrinua, wants to exert the philological discipline. 
That our character is person of bad faith was already pondered by Luis Núñez Astrain when, in his work, El euskara arcaico: extensiones y relativos, page 122, wrote of the somewhat Olympian tone of that this professor styles usually. The Olympian tone expression is nothing but an euphemism that means insulting
The paper-pamphlet is too long and erudite for me to make an extensive criticism but what it unveils is very important to understand how Basque native linguistic science has been kidnapped by a petty academic mafia in which this individual of mediocre knowledge, excessive egomania and power-mongering instinct has played a central role.
It is specially important to understand why he and his pseudo-scientific and academically-entrenched minions have attacked with such might against the extraordinary findings of Iruña-Veleia, with the help of some irresponsible politicians such as the aforementioned former Deputy of Culture, Lorena López de Lacalle.

After quoting a 2006 paragraph from Lakarra, the “masked philologist” writes:

Take note of the expression falsifying reality. And take note of it because it is precisely in the year 2006 when Reality throws its first kick right to the mouth of our bellowing Lakarra: the discovery of the Iruñea-Veleia graffiti, dated in the 2nd and 3rd centuries. (…)
After all, when the unsuspecting archaeologists unearthed thousands of pieces with texts in Basque language, what they were doing in fact was nothing less than burying all the Lakarra project (…)
… what do the Iruña-Veleia graffiti say against the philological rantings of Lakarra, that so much panic and anxiety cause? Why that obsession for burying what archaeologists dug up?
It is enough to read the replies by Juan Martín Elexpuru (2009), Héctor Iglesias (2009) and Luis Silgo (2010), along with the Lakarrian program to get the exact idea of why for Lakarra the graffiti of Iruña-Veleia should have never existed. The story that such graffiti tell could support or deny, or not at all affect the Lakarrian program of copy-paste that Lakarra wants to make out for the Basque language out of the ideas of von der Gabelentz, Skalicka, Lehmann, Donegan, Stampe, Gil  and Plank. But prevention is best, and better to ignore the facts, essential evil of philology, and prevent others from contrasting them. For those who emit theories without the previous step of formulating hypothesis, facts are nothing but a nuisance, as every messiah knows. 
The Lakarrian, so boringly repeated in each and all of his tiresome essays, rests on the following premises:
  1. That glottochronology and comparative genetic reconstruction are a devilish instrument destined for the idlers.
  2. That Ruhlen, Greenberg and Venemman are the Devilish Trinity.
  3. That only the internal reconstruction method of Michelena is valid, not just for Basque but for whatever other language one wishes to study, and this one rests on the criterion of canonical form as typical of the reconstruction at the deepest level.
 (…)
This new reconstructing paradigm is not exempt of some fascist stench and, notice, that everyone who does not embrace the new faith will be excommunicated and hold as lazy and idler or even worse: as etymologist, Nostraticist, glottochronologist, practicer of lexicostatistics or god knows which other abominable appellative.
(…)
What is left of the pompous Lakarrian plan that he has been using to torture us for more than a decade? Only the opportunist Lakarra, the one who learned a couple of things from here and there, the Lakarra that has not been able to learn in these ten years to stop insulting others, to be less demeaning with those he likes to call “my enemies”. (…) No excuses! What one has to do is to work more and better, and, if one cannot for whatever reason, at least to work in silence. He had just outside his home’s yard excellent material to begin working: the Iruña-Veleia shards. 
(…)

General background resources:

For further extensive information on the Iruña-Veleia scandal you can read (mostly in Spanish) at SOS Iruña-Veleia. They include a large collection of images of the controversial graffiti, kept so far hidden from view and scientific analysis by the provincial government of Araba.
You can also read several articles in English at this blog and at my old blog Leherensuge. I would particularly recommend this extensive post I wrote in October, which deals also with Lakarra and de Lacalle, as well as the demolition archaeology of Julio Núñez, and discusses the whole matter in some depth.

Update (Nov 28): if you are fluent in Spanish, maybe you’d like to go back to the not so distant past, the year 2007, and listen to this interview with Carlos Crespo, the third archaeologist of Lurmen, when the exceptional findings of Iruña-Veleia were still considered real by all… except the rumoring camarilla around Lakarra. Courtesy of Hala Bedi Irratia, found via Ostraka Euskalduna.

 

Iruña-Veleia hearing at the Western Basque Parliament

Finally the greatest archaeological scandal of our time, at least in the Basque Country, the Iruña-Veleia graffiti controversy, has reached the Basque Parliament.
I have explained this matter earlier in great detail at For what they were… and also in several posts at my old blog Leherensuge, so I will not extend for long here. 
Just to remind here that the “expert Commission” which suddenly decided in 2008 that the graffiti were falsifications did so based only on intellectual opinions, almost all of linguistic nature, and not on any physical evidence. 
As geologist Koenraad van Driesche and philologist Juan Martin Elexpuru explained to members of Parliament yesterday, the Commission and the Provincial Government of Araba have all the time avoided dealing with the physical evidence, which quite clearly, even from mere photographs, demonstrates that the graffiti are genuine. However the physical analyses have not been performed yet because the Provincial Government is blatantly ignoring the repeated demands by Court number 1 of Vitoria-Gasteiz to turn over the archaeological materials so scientific police can perform the appropriate tests, on them, which should settle the matter. 
The Commission, made up mostly by linguists, also decided not to perform any scientific physical tests, without doubt because these would have debunked their working hypothesis, their preconception, that the graffiti are falsifications, hypothesis based only on very questionable linguistic speculations. 
All the documents explaining why civic association SOS Iruña-Veleia thinks that the graffiti are most probably genuine are available at this association’s website: van Driesche’s link and Elexpuru’s link (both in Spanish, though Elexpuru’s exposition is also available in Basque). They contain many photos of the graffiti and experimental comparisons with modern day graffiti as well,  all of which clearly shows why these most valuable evidence of ancient Basque and Vulgar Latin, as well as (often Christian) iconography, are not likely to be  falsifications but rather genuine ancient material. 
Elexpuru’s exposition also includes links to all reports available on this matter, both against and in favor of the shards’ authenticity (all them in Spanish language, except one which is in French).
The current situation, in which a Machiavellian academic-political camarilla has attained control of the rich archaeological site in order to destroy all evidence is simply unacceptable. There should be heads rolling all around, first of all that of Lorena López de Lacalle, provincial Deputy of Culture and main political actress in this matter. But the complex political situation and the massive propaganda campaign promoted by the institutions have made this natural evolution of things quite difficult to achieve. 
Still I do believe that eventually truth shall prevail. As the motto adopted by SOS Iruña-Veleia reads: Scientia vincere tenebras (science defeats darkness) but  for now the battle between the two forces is still ongoing.
 

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.

Background
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).