AN ANCIENT sheet thought to be the oldest artefact of its kind found in Spain has turned out to be a forgery, according to researchers.
Academics at the University of Jaen have been examining the text, which features writing in the Greco-Iberican script, since Guardia Civil officers seized it in the city.
Police found it while working on an operation which saw six suspects arrested in Jaen, Mancha Real, La Guardia and Andujar.
The sheet was initially thought to date from the 3rd Century BCE, which would have made it the oldest item ever found with writing in the Greco-Iberian script.
Officials representing the Spanish government in Andalucia said its value would be “incalculable” if the find was authentic.
Researchers at the University of Jaen’s Iberian Archaeology department found some of the Greek letters on the sheet did not match those that would have been used at the time.
Police investigating the find now believe the item was forged for sale on the black market. Officers seized another almost 750 items during raids as part of Operation Alfaibero.
Police claim the items were collected by a ring who arranged for them to be sold to collectors on the black market.
Other items include Greek and Roman sculptors and artwork and a coin. The coin was also a forgery, of a Roman denarius piece almost 2,000 years old.
The Iberians were a culture that lived in modern day Spain and Portugal before the arrival of Greek and Phoenician settlers, the latter from what is now Lebanon and Tunisia.
The native Iberians traded and exchanged traditions and religion with the settlers leading to the formation of hybrid cultures such as the Greco-Iberians. They and others in the Iberian Peninsula were later conquered by the Romans.