Banco de datos de lenguas paleohispánicas

Zone G



Access to the zone G data bank

This section includes Palaeohispanic inscriptions from the southwest of the Iberian Peninsula that were collected in the third volume of the MLH by Jürgen Untermann under the letter G. Following the publication of the corpus there have been new discoveries which have increased the number of inscriptions in this zone to more than 50. Some of these, a total of 12 (SP.01.08, A.04.09, V.17.05, V.20.01, V.18.01, A.03.01, MU.01.01 and .02, AB.06.01-.04), were collected by the same author in an unpublished supplement to his work. Later, 37 new inscriptions were published; a further 9 inscriptions, known prior to the work by the German author, have also been included in the database (A.10.05-.12 in Ramos Fernández 1969; AB.07.03 in MLI XXI* and Gómez-Moreno 1949, n. 79).

Zone G includes the entire Spanish provinces of Murcia and Alicante as well as western Albacete and Valencia up to their natural border marked by the River Júcar. Its chronology covers a period from the 5th century BCE to the 1st century BCE. Its most important sites are La Serreta de Alcoy, la Illeta dels Banyets in Campello (Alicante), Abengibre (Albacete) and Coimbra del Barranco Ancho in Jumilla (Murcia).

The most used media in this region are lead and ceramics, as well as an important collection of silver tableware (Abengibre, AB.01) with five inscribed plates. Stone is also used as a medium in this region, although in lesser numbers, since only five examples have been preserved (A.10.01, .02, AB.04.01, V.17.01, V.18.01). Lastly, two sites containing rock epigraphy should be pointed out, the collections at El Abrigo de Reiná (AB.02) and La Camareta (AB.08.01).

Some of the texts on lead, of a commercial nature, present sequential numerals that demonstrate the use of at least three different metrological systems in this zone.

There seems to have been two metrological systems used in the Southern and North-Eastern scripts: the first system termed the "ka system" by de Hoz (2011, 192) and the second termed the "a, o, ki system" (de Hoz 2011, 193; Ferrer i Jané 2011, 101 ff. and 2013, 138 f.). The first system uses the grapheme ka followed by the numeral, indicated by a variable number of vertical stokes (indicators of units), while in Southern writing vertically arranged points are used. The second, more complex system combines the graphemes aoki in a likely gradation from greater to lesser, as metrological units in the same system, given that they always appear in this order. This system has a formula: NP + suffix + metrological indication (aoki) + numeric indication (vertical bars or points).

Moreover, the third specific system of the Greco-Iberian script (MU.01.01, A.04.01) makes use of different signs to those of the graphemes in writing: Σ Χ < >. These signs must have been taken from Greek epigraphy, since generic parallels are found in Greek metrological systems. However, it is impossible to find the combination that Greco-Iberian uses them within Greek systems (de Hoz 1987a, 294).

This region also has two mints: saitabis (Mon.35) and ikalesken - ikalensken (Mon.95). The first of these is south of the Júcar, in the municipality of Játiva, which in the Latin sources is termed Saetabis; it expresses its toponym in Iberian and Latin in its coinage: śaiti/SAETABI (Mon.35) in North-Eastern/Latin script, beginning its activity at the end of the 3rd century BCE. On the other hand, the mint of ikalesken – ikalensken issued coins with both legends simultaneously. There are doubts over the interpretation of its fourth sign, which Villaronga (1980) reads as ku in North-Eastern script, although the script used for this legend is the Southern one. Its location is uncertain, with suggestions that it could be Iniesta, in Cuenca (Quesada - García Bellido 1995; Ripollès 1999), Illescas, in Toledo (Luján 2003) or a dual location: Yecla in Murcia and Illescas (García Alonso 2007, 77). Its chronology covers the second half of the 2nd and the beginning of the 1st centuries BCE.

This region, called Contestania by the Romans, a name perhaps based on indigenous ethnonym (Llobregat 1972, 9), is cited for the first time in sources from the imperial period. The first author who mentions it is Pliny (3, 19 ff.), although Livy also provides a less than accurate reference which implies the existence of an ethnic group at a time predating Sertorius (de Hoz 2011, 39-40). Pliny mentions the region and some of its cities, and he places it indirectly between Cartagena and the River Júcar. The second author who describes the Contestanian region is Ptolemy (2.6.61), who locates it to the east of the Bastetani and south of the Edetani on the coast, as well as providing a series of cities and geographical features, with some errors.

Other authors who cite the zone indirectly are Strabo and Avienus. The former mentions a broad concept of Edetania, which stretches to Cartagena, thereby including Contestania. The reference of the latter is dubious, given that his text seems to be corrupted (de Hoz 2011, 39-41).

The corpus follows the ordering established by Untermann in his MLH III, even when some inscriptions taken as Iberian by Untermann have been interpreted in another way by later research (e.g. the inscription of Elda, G.11.01, identified recently as Byzantine). The references in the Hesperia Database are made up of the initial letter of the province, followed by the number assigned to the municipality and the number of the inscription. In contrast to the MLH, the Hesperia Database groups together inscriptions by municipality, and not by site; that is, in the case of Alcoy, which contains the sites of La Serreta, Puig and Els Baradells, all the inscriptions from these sites in Alcoy are collected under the reference A.04.

The Hesperia reference list used for Contestania can be accessed by clicking the link.

Writings in the zone of Contestania

One of the most important cultural features of the region of Contestania is its Greco-Iberian writing, created in this region and used almost exclusively there. However, at the same time, Contestanian epigraphy also made use of Southern and Levantine scripts as well as the Latin alphabet. In this last form of writing the only attestation is an inscription on a mosaic from La Alcudia de Elche (A.10.04).

Greco-Iberian writing has been known since 1921, with the appearance of the lead of La Serreta de Alcoy (A.04.01) which was published by Gómez-Moreno in 1922 already as an Iberian text written in an adapted Greek alphabet ("De epigrafía ibérica. El plomo de Alcoy", Revista de Filología Española 9, 341-366). In fact, this script is an adaptation of Ionian Greek writing in order to write in the Iberian language. Its use was limited both chronologically and geographically, since it only existed for just over a century, from the end of the 5th century to the beginning of the 3rd century BCE, and it is only documented in the provinces of Alicante and Murcia, with the exception of two isolated examples outside the Contestanian territory: a lead from Sagunto (V.04.29) and a ceramic found in Gibraltar (GIB.01.01). The appearance of Greco-Iberian writing took place in a social and cultural context characterised by the presence of bilingual peoples linked to the existence of a prolonged commerce between Greeks and Iberians.

The adaptation of the Ionian Greek alphabet, which took place in order to write the Iberian language, consisted of eliminating letters that represented non-existent sounds in Iberian: the unvoiced labial plosive (Π), aspirated consonants (Φ, Θ, Χ) and double consonants (Ψ, Ξ, Ζ). Besides the Greek letters which served to differentiate between short and long vowels (Epsilon, E, and Eta, H; and Omicron, O, and Omega, Ω), Iberian could dispense with two of them given that it did not have this vowel quantity, choosing the Omicron for /o/ and the Eta for /e/. In contrast, Iberian possessed two trills and two sibilants for whose expression it adopted two distinct methods: a) in the case of trills the difference was expressed via the use of the Greek Rho for one of them, that transcribed as ŕ, and the Rho with the addition of a diacritic stroke for the second trill, transcribed as r. In this way, the coherence of the transcriptions  and , respectively, from the North-Eastern script is maintained. b) for the sibilant that we transcribe as ś they used the Greek Sigma, while for the second sibilant, transcribed as s, they reused the letter Sampi (ϡ), which was probably not yet in use as a grapheme in the Ionian alphabet, although it did have a numerical function. In this case, the transcription of the sibilants also maintains a coherence with that used for its corresponding signs in the North-Eastern script: the Greco-Iberian Sigma = the North-Eastern San; and the Greco-Iberian Sampi = the North-Eastern Sigma.

In Contestania, Southern writing was extensive, both chronologically, from the 5th century BCE (V.17.1, Corral de Saus) to the 1st century BCE (AB.08.01, Cueva de La Camareta), and geographically, given that there is evidence of it in all the provinces in the region, except Murcia. Of all of them, Alicante possesses the least number of testimonies, while Valencia and especially Albacete, are the provinces with the greatest number of inscriptions written in this script. There are still doubts over the interpretation of some signs, so it is possible to find different transcriptions depending on the author. This is reflected in the text section in the files of inscriptions in Southern writing, where the most significant interpretations by different authors are given. The normal direction of writing is from right to left, but some of the later inscriptions were written from left to right, possibly through the influence of Latin. Moreover, it should be pointed out that this writing has a palaeographic variety attested only in Andalusia, corresponding to Zone H in the MLH and which will be discussed in more detail in its introduction. For the moment, it is only documented in four inscriptions in this zone: the lead of Gádor (AL.01.01), a lead cover from Arjona (J.07.01), a lead from Los Allozos (GR.01.01) and an inscription possibly from Alcolea del Río (Luján – López Fernández 2017). It is uncertain whether the Southern script differentiates the feature of sonority in its plosive syllables or any other phonological feature in the other syllabaries, despite the existence of marked signs in some inscriptions. Ferrer i Jané (2010a; 2012d; 2013a, 446 f.) argues in favour of their existence. For this author, the distinctive additional stroke in the differentiation, a line or a point, would serve to annotate a voiced rather than voiceless occlusive, in contrast to what happens in the North-Eastern script and, what is more, in the Southern script some kind of phonetic distinction would not just affect the occlusive but also the nasal, trilled and sibilant sounds. In any case, our transcription has not differentiated between marked and non-marked features.

Finally, the North-Eastern script, together with its southern counterpart, is the most used system in the region of Contestania. Its chronology extends from the 4th to 1st centuries BCE and geographically inscriptions in all the provinces of Contestania, except Albacete, are preserved. Zones B, C, D, E and F, as well as K, that is, Celtiberia, also made use of this writing, with a specific adaptation.

Paleographic variants

Given that we do not have a unitary corpus of each epigraphic variant in Levantine, or North-Eastern, Iberian scripts –which is being developed—the epigraphic comments in the inscriptions file belonging to region G refer to the variants established by Untermann in volume III.1 of the MLH, pp. 246-247. A transcription is available for the convenience of the reader: Levantine or Northeast script

In the case of the Southern script, given that we do not have a unitary or complete corpus to date, in the critical apparatus different interpretations are presented according to the system of transcription of the different editors. In the following link the reader can see a table of this script with all the existing signs and the transcription of those of which there is agreement among experts: Southern script.


Map 1: General overview of sites in Contestania with their Hesperia reference.