A Spanish archaeologist has been sentenced to more than two years in prison and fined US$ 14,000 for forging some of his most famous findings.
Eliseo Gil, the former director of excavations at Roman archaeological site Iruña-Veleia, was handed a prison sentence and fined for having “manipulated” writings considered historical at the time, either by himself or “through third persons,” according to sentencing documents.
In 2005 and 2006, Gil announced that his team had found pieces of clay at the site, near the city of Vitoria-Gasteiz in Spain’s Basque Country. The artifacts, he said, dated back to the third century AD and contained Egyptian hieroglyphic references, representations of the crucifixion and signs of the Basque language, Spanish newspaper El Pais reported.
At the time, the discovery was considered revolutionary, and was thought to show the first written example of the Basque language, 800 years earlier than previous examples, El Pais reported.
However, two years later, a multidisciplinary committee of linguistics, ancient history, archeology, chemistry and philology experts deemed the discovery to be a fake, the Reuters news agency reported.
Experts who studied the pieces found inconsistencies such as the absence of syntax, modern spellings of words, and names and phrases inconsistent with the supposed time period, El Pais previously noted.
According to the newspaper, experts in philology and ancient history questioned the appearance of Latin words with more modern features, such as the use of the letter J in Jupiter in place of the Latin spelling, “Iupiter,” or “Octavian Augustus” to refer to Emperor Augustus.
At first, Gil and his team defended their controversial findings from the “great stir” they were causing.
In a statement seen on an archived version of the excavation team’s website, which is no longer active, Gil and his team defended the findings, which they said consisted of “a voluminous set of graffiti — inscriptions and engraved graffiti on various media — of an exceptional character from the texts and themes represented.”
In February, Gil maintained his innocence in statements made to the press.
On Wednesday, the head of a court in Vitoria-Gasteiz found Gil guilty of forgery and fraud, sentencing him to two years, three months and 23 days in prison.