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Irulegi, the Vascones and GPT Chat


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Diario de Navarra

Javier Andreu Pintado

Full Professor of Ancient History and director of Diploma in Archeology

The presentation, last autumn, by the hand of Irulegi, brought the ancient Vascones back into fashion. He underlined how, in spite of what was told about them by the writers of Antiquity, it has to be the archaeological research -and in particular in the strip of territory between the ancient Pompelo, Irulegi and Santa Criz de Eslava, with extension towards the Cinco Villas de Aragón, in Zaragoza- the one that brings us more data about this elusive people of antiquity, one more, but, certainly, of exciting study.

Irulegi's hand motivated the revival of old clichés about the Vascones -which we thought we had overcome-, such as automatically identifying them with the Navarrese of Antiquity, making them also settlers of the Basque Autonomous Community in ancient times or describing their territory as univocally Euskaldun in linguistic terms. None of that, but the contrary, can be deduced from the study of the hand that only test the diversity of Navarre in Antiquity, the contact of the Vascones with other neighboring peoples -and with Rome- and, of course, a Degree of scriptural habitus for them greater than the one so far imagined. However, some of these clichés continue to be thrown around gratuitously, without arguments, and are assumed as beliefs, in the digital press, blogs and networks.

That's why, in the shake-up that the irruption of the GPT Chat has meant for the academic world, at the University of Navarra, stimulated by one of my doctoral students, we wanted to see what this artificial intelligence tool knew about the Vascones. The experiment could not have been more discouraging. For Chat GPT the Vascones "were a people who inhabited the region known today as the Basque Country", "a people of Celtic origin who spoke a pre-Indo-European language , Euskera", who "had a society organized in independent tribes" and who "were the object of several military campaigns by the Romans, but were never completely subdued".

None of these statements is shared today by the sciences of Antiquity. The Vascones occupied essentially part of Navarre -not all of it- and the western area of the province of Zaragoza; some of the inhabitants of their territory spoke Basque, but also Iberian and Celtiberian; there is no evidence that they were divided into tribes because the accredited specialization to them by the sources is univocal, "Vascones", and there is no news in ancient texts about clashes with Rome. The archaeological remains of some of the cities in their territory -such as the aforementioned Santa Cruz de Eslava (Navarra) or Los Bañales de Uncastillo (Zaragoza)- and the inscriptions show that the Degree integration of the Vascones in the orbit of Rome -collaborating in their army as horsemen and warriors- was total.

If Chat GPT says what it says is because, in the network, there are still plenty of those topics, absolutely unfounded, which, despite it all, are still assumed by a great part of the population. We should listen to the founder of history as a science, the Greek Herodotus of Halicarnassus, when in the 6th century B.C. he said that we men should be critical and not accept, without verification, what others tell us about our past. Let us hope that we all manage to change this tendency and that, soon, Chat GPT, and the pedagogical and transfer circuits of the scientific activity that, in these years, has been developed on those ancient Vascones, abandon the clichés - of essentialist political bias - in favor of the historical truth.