Israel announced on Friday that a clay inscription carrying the name of Darius the Great, who oversaw the ancient Persian Empire and was discovered in the southern part of the nation, was not genuine.
The in-issue pottery fragment was found by a bystander in December of last year and made headlines as the earliest evidence of the sixth century B.C. to appear in Israel as an empire builder.
A specialist in ancient Aramaic inscriptions contacted the Israel Antiquities Authority after the story emerged earlier this week to clarify that she had written those lines on the antique fragment herself.
The anonymous expert said that she had etched the inscriptions onto pottery as a demonstration while explaining to visitors to a foreign expedition that visited the Tel Lachish archaeological site last summer.
According to the Antiquities Authority, she claimed to have left the changed object at the location of a former Canaanite city, around 25 miles (40 kilometers) southwest of Jerusalem.
The piece of pottery was examined in labs and found to be ancient, confusing the matter further. Authorities said they determined the misidentification of the artifact had come about “unintentionally and without malice” but described the expert’s decision to leave behind the newly inscribed shard as “careless.”
The Antiquities Authority “takes full responsibility for the regrettable situation,” said Gideon Avni, its chief scientist.
He stated, “In terms of ethical and scientific practices, we consider this a grave incidence,” highlighting the rarity of such incidents.
The authority announced that it would examine all practices and guidelines used by international expeditions nationally. It wasn’t immediately clear whether the unidentified expert behind the inscription would face any punishment.