Monthly Archives: June 2006

Going Up in the World….

After a long, sad time of constantly falling, it appears that this little blog is again moving up the TTLB Ecosystem. No longer am I a Lowly Insect; I am a Slimy Mollusc once more. And who knows? Perhaps I will soon be a Flappy Bird again! 

(If the system breaks again, that is.) 


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Veleia website’s news page in English

I experienced a lot of difficulty getting onto this page because of bad Javascript. (Or my browser's bad handling of it.) So here's the URL for you, and a copy.

Archaeologists in the site of Iruña-Veleia have discovered an epigraphic set "among the most important of the Roman world," with a series of 270 inscriptions and drawings from the 3rd century and a representation of a Calvary, "the most ancient known up to this moment."

The managers of the archaeological site, located near the Alavan town of Nanclares de Oca, have officially unveiled these findings, identified and analysed last summer.

The tools with the inscriptions and drawings, most of them ceramics, were found in a room of the "Domus de pompeia valentina," one of the urban residences of the old city of Veleia, built up in the last quarter of the first century and inhabited until the fifth century.

A 57-square metre room was found in that town, sealed as in a "time capsule with its contents untouched," and inside there were feeding remains and fragments of different recipients and other tools that had been used for writing.

The Egypt expert of the University of Barcelona Montserrat Rius has explained that some Latin inscriptions refer to the ancient Egyptian history and its divinities, and has noted there are also hieroglyphic inscriptions "with a perfect layout" that make experts think they were taught to children.

In the findings, the "early and extraordinary testimonies of Christianisation" stand out. For instance, the presentation of a Calvary, "the most ancient known up to this moment," a small piece "between eight and ten square centimetres."

Archaeologists also highlighted that "this is one of the most important epigraphic sets in the Roman world," as important as those in Pompeii, Rome or Vindolanda (northern England).

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Speak No Snark of the Dead…

My grandma was recently very ill and underwent surgery. Afterwards, she was very restless and reluctant to follow doctor’s orders. She ended up giving herself a relapse. Apparently, the patience of my dad and his sister finally snapped, and trenchant remarks were spoken as to the advisability of following doctor’s orders if she ever wanted to be well.

Apparently, Grandma then snapped, “I don’t care; I’ll just be an invalid like my twin sister.”

Said twin had passed away a few years before. But in my family, we don’t take that sort of thing lying down, even if we’re in the grave.

And sure enough, that very night, Grandma had a dream in which her twin told her to eat, follow doctor’s orders, “and stop being so obnoxious!”

Which is even funnier, because Auntie B. was not exactly great at following doctor’s orders herself…. 🙂

Anyway, Grandma is much better and eating like a horse for the first time in years. So don’t discount the power of the Communion of Saints, especially those in your own family. Since nothing can separate us from the love of Christ, and we are all part of His Body, we are always together.


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The Vatican sent folks to Iruña Veleia

The Vatican sent various emissaries to substantiate the Iruña Veleia materials

The Holy See shows its interest in all the fragments

The Christian-themed inscriptions in Basque and images from Jesus' life are unique in the world

By Elena Arteagoitia

VITORIA: These days, the international archaeological community looks, with astonishment, to Alava, where they have found the world's oldest epigraphic representation of a scene from the life of Jesus — the Veleia Calvary — as well as inscriptions on Christian themes in Basque, at least a half millennium earlier that those which made the monasteries of Suso and Yuso in San Millán de la Cogolla get named Humanity Heritage sites. The expectation has come to such a point that even the Vatican has shown its interest in one of the most important epigraphic groups from the Roman world, which archaeologists at the Alavesan site have found.

According to what ecclesiastical sources have told this newspaper, emissaries of Pope Benedict XVI knew of the appearance of these materials several weeks ago. But the relevance of the fragments found, over all in their date (the third century after Christ and in a time of persecution of the Christian faithful), made the Holy See send some specialists in the Roman era from the Curia to the Alavesan enclave, to substantiate in situ the importance of a piece like the Calvary, the ostrakas with asaetado(?) pagan gods, as well as the graffiti in Basque on other materials that point to this same time.
The Vatican emissaries certified that, in spite of their simplicity, the epigraphic material found in Iruña Veleia that dated from the third century before Christ, is of great historical value, because no other graphic representation so early of the Son of God's death is known. Not even on the walls of the catacombs in Rome, according to the director of the archaeological site, Eliseo Gil, does one find a recognizable figure of Christ drawn on his road to Mt. Golgotha and crucified on the cross, as reported by the Diario de Noticias de Alava.

All the same, the discovery requires a historical revision of the hypotheses that were held about the origin of Christianity in the Basque Country that, until now, were only testified to by archaeological sites 200 years more recent; that is to say, from the fifth century after Christ, with the church discovered in Salinillas de Buradón.

Also, in spite of the image disinterred in Iruña Veleia having been made public this week, the Diocese of Vitoria already knew beforehand of the appearance of the piece and its relevant significance. Representatives of the Diocese made the discovery known to the highest levels of the Holy See, which immediately sent its own observers to the Alavesan site.

During the visit, the emissaries could substantiate in situ the value of the precious find, as well as praising the state of conservation of the pieces in front of the archaeologists. And this carried weight, in that they had still not made public that the pieces had passed the carbon 14 and particle accelerator detection tests in various European labs.

At that time, the conclusion of the visit of the Holy See's emissaries was kept under the strictest secrecy. But the material discovered already had surprised the most eminent ecclesiastical specialists, accustomed to preserve and study materials from this Roman epoch found in other sites of the first importance over everybody in the world, and which usually end up in display cases under intense security measures.

From the period that the Calvary is dated, the third century, when Christian communities were persecuted in the Roman Empire, they only knew until this time that logo images had appeared, mainly, decorating the walls of the catacombs, though with little figure detail. At the moment, the finds that have galvanized investigators, politicians, and various personalities of the academic world, are in the Museum of Archaeology in Vitoria.

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Translation of Iruna Veleia article: Other Early Christian sites in area.

From Diario de Noticias de Álava, June 8, 2006

Sacred Footprints
The oldest archaeological remains of Christianity in Alava date from the fifth century. In Salinillas de Buradon — 38 km from Vitoria and only 8 from Haro in La Rioja — an early Christian church was discovered from this time. Also, Iruna Veleia also offered, years ago, a "lamp practically complete of African Sigillata, made in Tunisia, decorated in a mold, with the picture of a Chrismon in a disc" from this same time. What's more, according to the book Romanization, "there are two graffiti with Christian symbols" (a monogram of the name of Christ with the letters X and P, principally).
The experts deduced then that in late Roman times there existed, at least, a firmly established parish community. Doubtless, the hypothesis that was argued because the doctrine of Jesus as installed in the territory in a slow way, and later, was demolished by the latest discoveries revealed at the Iruna Veleia site.

The array of epigraphs recovered in Iruna Veleia point out that already in the third century — that is to say, 200 years early than seen before — followers of Christianity existed in Alava. The finds from this Alavesan site have been profound. Detailed images of Calvary give the idea that at this time, with the Christians subject to fierce persecution, worship was already being rendered to Jesus.

All these ceramic shards, worthy of study, in good certainty will rewrite the history of Christianity in Alava. Were Christians in the territory, in a city under Roman rule and in a time when the followers of Jesus suffered martyrdom in the circus arena or in other ways equally cruel? Until what point was Christianity tolerated by Rome? What is the value that these iconographies have if they take into account that the first images, venerated in the Vatican are from various centuries later than these pieces of extraordinary simplicity? The best part of these unknowns can be cleared up after the relevant studies. But what's clear is that Christianity implanted itself in Alava with great rapidity. Before 300 years had passed from the death of Jesus on the cross, already there were devotees of the new faith in the territory. A devotion that in after centuries would become more obvious with the finds and pieces that they exhibit in the Diocesan Museum of Sacred Art of the Catedral Nueva, as in the Alavesan Museum of Archaeology.

Churches and Hermits

Oldest buildings

In principle, the early Christian church of Salinillas de Buradon [I think this is a picture of the church mentioned, but they're cool pictures, anyway] had the honor, until now, of being the oldest Christian find in Alava. In fact, it is the oldest church that we know of in the Basque Country. Discovered while prospecting before beginning the construction of new highway, the Christian building even contained a baptismal font. It was about 80 meters square. With the centuries passing, they added an additional front to the building (ninth-tenth centuries) and they transferred the altar to this new construction.

Other worship places more emblematic of the territory can be found in Faido (Penacerrada). The hermitage of medieval origin of Our Lady of the Rock, declared a monument of the Basque cultural heritage, has the uniqueness of being excavated into the rock and converted centuries ago into a refuge for hermits.

From the exceptional pieces from the Diocesan Museum of Sacred Art, there's also the tablet of Bolivar, where the inscription makes reference to Albaro, Bishop of Veleia and Armentia. This stone dates from the 9th century, in a time when the Muslim invasion of the Ebro Valley forced the flight from the Diocese of Calahorra to other areas where there was no permanent presence of the Crescent.

The major and minor lattices of Obecuri date back a millennium. In this same place is also found an altar with a place indicated (a hole in the stone) to put relics. Also, in the 1st and 2nd museum rooms are found other elements of the funerary world (steles, sepulchres), religious furniture (altars), and architectural elements where sculptural work exists (capitals, large windows, gates, canecillos, mensulas). What's more, inside are the remains of buildings or pieces of a Christian character from Kripan (10th-13th century) or Otazu (14th-15th century), among others.

Details of the past, however, that require, with the latest discoveries from Iruna Veleia, a profound revision. And so Christianity in Alava has suddenly gotten more than two centuries older.

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Translation: Iruña Veleia lab tests

From Diario de Noticias de Alava:

Toulouse and Groningen laboratories certify the authenticity and dating of the piece

The shard has been submitted to Carbon 14 tests in France and Holland

By Begoña Apellániz
VITORIA: The authenticity of this iconographic representation, unique in the world, found in the Alavesan Roman city of Veleia, passes with flying colors. Two foreign labs submitted the piece to various carbon 14 and particle accelerator tests to certify their initial suspicions with certainty. And in effect, the material sent from Iruña Veleia has been confirmed to be more than 1700 years old, and situates it in the middle of the third century after Christ.

The certification of this Calvary artwork was first declared by the University of Groningen (Holland). There they tested the piece for carbon 14, as well as all the "bone remains and carbonized wood" that are usually found in archaeological sites of a certain value, according to what was pointed out yesterday by the director of the Alavesan excavation, Eliseo Gil. In principle, they submitted all organic materials to the carbon 14 test.

Of course, these pieces also have passed the particle accelerator test, which certifies that the age of the piece is the same as the outline that has been impressed in it. For this purpose, the materials have been sent to the isotope center of the University of Toulouse, located in France.

All the same, with certain elements, as Eliseo Gil stressed yesterday, the materials require many more specific interventions and are submitted to specialists to analyze. In Toulouse they have also certified all the hypotheses, and the experts have declared that the piece dates from the third century and that its outline also corresponds with this same time. "At times they require much more precise analyses — to the letter," explained Gil yesterday, about the methodology of the work that they followed after finding these finds in the excavation.

According to the director of the Alavesan site at the Culture Commission of the General Councils of Alava, "all which is not dirt is processed. We study it all as if at the scene of a crime". This formula of work, in Gil's judgment, assumes the unique form of not ignoring anything and that, however small the piece is, it's noted down and contributes a detail or some kind of information in the array of finds that they discover, for as long as the excavation work goes on. However, as soon as they obtain any material that's likely to contribute some relevant information, they send it to the labs.

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Translation of Iruña Veleia article

From Diario de Noticias de Alava, June 8, 2006:

In Alava, They Discover the World's Oldest Representation of Jesus' Crucifixion

It Proves Christianity's Arrival in Alava Two Centuries Before It Was Thought

Iruña Veleia appears to be among the most important remains of Roman times

by Begoña Apellániz

VITORIA: A key piece for solving the jigsaw puzzle of Christianity's origins in Alava has been found. The dig at Iruña Veleia has uncovered an ensemble of epigraphs in which, among other valuable pieces, is found a picture of Calvary — the death by crucifixion of Jesus Christ together with the two thieves, and at his feet, two figures that could be the Virgin and St. John — the oldest in the world. Simple in outline, without too much detail, the picture of Jesus' death on the cross is taken as an extraordinary find, as much for the place in which it has been discovered, as for the dating revealed by the different carbon 14 and particle accelerator tests that this piece of ceramic has been subjected to.

The drawing of Calvary found in Veleia from the third century after Christ, has become, in principle, the oldest picture in the world of a scene from the life of Jesus. No other graphic representation of the Son of God's death exists that is as early. Any allusion to the crucifixion scene which took place on the mount of Calvary, either in paintings or on ceramics, is much later than the 3rd century after Christ.


But this picture disinterred in Iruña Veleia isn't important only for its date. More, it demanded a historic revision of the hypotheses about Christianity's origins in Alava that were held until now.

In principle, various experts guessed that the introduction of faith in Jesus happened in a later way, in the Middle Ages. Without a doubt, the appearance of a detail like Calvary reveals that followers of this Christian doctrine already existed, long before it was suspected.

In fact, the Christianization of Alava (a place in the heart of the Roman Empire) had to have occurred, to fit with this piece, very soon after Christ's death — barely 200 years later — and in spite of the difficulties that his followers had in spreading their faith.

In this manner, without suspecting it in the least, the remains of Iruña Veleia have set the clock forward for the time of Christianity's beginnings in Euskadi. [Basque name for the Basque country.] The pagan gods of Rome had already been turfed out by the worship of the One God in the third century, and not two hundred years later, as the archaeological data obtained in different parts of the territory would have had it until now.

In the Diocese of Vitoria, they declined yesterday to make any statement about these archaeological finds discovered in a ruin situated within ten kilometers of Alava's capital. Sources in the Diocese assured that they knew beforehand about the appearance of this piece and its significance. Doubtless, they avoided making pronouncements about the revision of history that is now being considered and which is, in their judgement, the value that they would grant to the precious find.

In any case, the archaeologist team that will offer more details today about this discovery also counts on the presence of a representative of the Diocese, that will attentively follow all the explanations and evaluations that the historians make, according to what was declared yesterday from the episcopal see.


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