Jerusalem, Israel – In a surprising turn of events, the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) has announced that a pottery shard discovered earlier on March 2 with an inscription that was thought to have been from King Darius, is inauthentic. They apologised and revealed the mistake was made without malice.
The discovery was initially reported as a significant archaeological find, with experts saying that the inscription was believed to date back to the reign of King Darius I, who ruled Persia from 522 BC to 486 BC. The shard was found by a hiker in Tel Lachish, an archaeological site located in the heart of Jerusalem.
However, after conducting further tests on the artefact, the Israel Antiquities Authority now says that the inscription is a modern-day forgery. In a statement released to the media, the IAA Chief Scientist, Prof. Gideon Avni said that “The Israel Antiquities Authority would like to inform the public that the inscription bearing the name Darius the great is not authentic.”
“Following the publication, the expert who participated in the excavation expedition last August, contacted the Israel Antiquities Authority. She is one of the few researchers specialising in ancient Aramaic inscriptions, and admitted demonstrating to a group of students the manner in which sherds were inscribed in ancient times. She then left the shard on the site, which led to the erroneous identification. She was questioned and said this was done unintentionally and without malice. “The IAA takes full responsibility for the unfortunate event”.
According to him, “The sherd was examined by Dr. Haggai Misgav, a leading researcher on ancient Aramaic script and Sa’ar Ganor, an archaeologist studying the site of Tell Lachish and its region. However, as it turns out, the find does not bear an ancient inscription.”
“As an institution that strives for the scientific truth, we are committed to correcting the mistake that was made and making it known to the public. In terms of ethical and scientific practices, we see this as a very severe occurrence. Leaving the newly inscribed sherd on the site was careless, and led to the mistake done by the researchers and distorted the scientific truth. Such cases in archaeological research are very few in number.”
“The event illustrates the dangers of adding modern scripts on ancient artefacts – a phenomena which troubles the entire scientific community for many years. On top of the paleographic examination of the shard by an experienced epigraphist, the shard was examined in various laboratories and found to be ancient. This once again proves that only finds discovered in controlled archaeological excavations should be considered 100% authentic. All other finds should raise questions regarding their authenticity.”
“As a result of this unfortunate occurrence, the Israel Antiquities Authority will refresh proper procedures and policies with all foreign expeditions working in the country.”
The IAA said that the pottery shard was subjected to a series of tests, including carbon dating, x-ray fluorescence, and microscopy, which revealed that the inscription was created using modern materials and techniques.