Archaeologists in Israel left the country red-faced after a unique “ancient” inscription was revealed to have been carved last summer

The Darius inscription, which was announced as inauthentic on FridayShai Halevi / Israel Antiquities Authority

  • An inscription bearing the name of a Persian king is “not authentic,” the Israel Antiquities Authority said.

  • At a demonstration last summer, an expert on ancient inscriptions etched the words into the shard.

  • The Antiquities Authority said it “takes full responsibility for the unfortunate event”.

Israel’s antiquities authorities backed down on Friday after announcing that an allegedly ancient inscription bearing the name of a Persian king was “inauthentic”.

It turns out that an expert in ancient Aramaic inscriptions had etched the words into the shard last summer.

The find, believed to be the first-ever find of an inscription bearing the name of King Darius the Great, drew considerable attention when it was announced on Wednesday. The alleged pottery shard was found last December by a hiker in Tel Lachish National Park, 40 km southwest of Jerusalem.

According to a government press release on Wednesday, the inscription on the pottery shard reads “Year 24 of Darius”. This would have dated the inscription to 498 BC. Dated – or 2,500 years ago.

Darius the Great was the father of King Ahasuerus – an important figure in the Jewish tradition linked to the story of Purim, which is celebrated next week.

But after news broke of the seemingly accidental find, an expert came forward to explain that she herself had carved the words on the shard, according to the Associated Press.

The expert, who has not been named by the Antiquities Authority, demonstrated to students at an archeological site where a Canaanite city once stood, leaving the modified pottery behind last August.

“The Israel Antiquities Authority accepts full responsibility for the unfortunate event,” said Professor Gideon Avni, the authority’s chief scientist, according to the Israeli news agency i24.

“In terms of ethical and scientific practices, we see this as a very serious event,” he said.

The agency said in a statement it believes the researcher left the shard “unintentionally and without malice,” but also “negligently,” resulting in a “rare error” that “distorted scientific truth.”

The piece of pottery was found to be ancient after thorough examination at a lab, the Associated Press reported, seemingly adding to the confusion. The agency also said it will now review all of its procedures and policies.

Darius I ruled the ancient Persian Achaemenid Empire from 522 BC. until his death in 486 BC.

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