Banco de datos de lenguas paleohispánicas




Access to the Narbonensis database

This section contains Palaeohispanic inscriptions originating in the south of France, most of which are located in oppida and places of trade of the Narbonensian region. Those that were known about in 1980 were published in vol. 2 of MLH, where they make up epigraphic region B. The inscriptions are geographically distributed according to the following zones:

  • a) The coastal zone of the Narbonensis, from the French-Spanish border to the Hérault River. A particular mention should be made of the Ensérune site, which has provided one of the richest epigraphic collections both in terms of its habitat and, especially, in its necropolis, and the Pech Maho site, with texts of a commercial nature, like its lead tablets. One should add to these the sites of Elne (ancient Illiberris) and Château-Roussillon (Ruscino), as well as other more isolated findings at other points on the coast.

  • b) Rock inscriptions in Cerdanya, both in France and in Spain.

  • c) The tituli picti or painted inscriptions of Vieille-Toulouse, which constitute a homogenous collection of inscriptions of a decidedly commercial nature.

  • d) Scattered discoveries, some of which are far removed from this context, such as the phialae of Vielle-Aubagnan. (Map of finds)

Like in the adjacent northern Catalan coast, from the 6th century BC the region witnessed commercial contacts with colonising peoples, especially Greeks and Etruscans, who left epigraphic testimonies in their languages. The oldest Iberian texts, which come from the Ensérune necropolis, were written on imported Attic vases dating from the late 5th century or early 4th century BC. Iberian texts in this zone, especially those of Ensérune, also demonstrate the presence of Gauls, which is noticeable in their personal names. The painted inscriptions of Vielle-Toulouse bear witness to the inclusion of the region in the Italo-Roman economic orbit, prior to abandoning the use of Iberian in favour of Latin.

The corpus follows the arrangement established by Untermann in his MLH II, even when some of the inscriptions understood as Iberian by Untermann have been interpreted differently by later researchers (e.g. the Gallo-Etruscan of Ensérune). This way, an exact correlation can be maintained, as far as possible, between the MLH Reference and the Hesperia Reference.

The Hesperia reference contains in its initials the abbreviation of the French “department” in which the discovery site is located. The list of abbreviations is as follows:

  • AUD Aude
  • PYO Pyrénées Orientales
  • HGA Haute Garonne
  • HER Hérault
  • LAN Landes

Thus, the fragment of an Attic vase from Ensérune with the reference B.01.003 in MLH will be HER.02.003 in Hesperia. We have offered an MLH Reference, followed by SUP, for those inscriptions which were taken up by Untermann in his unpublished Supplement; thus the first lead tablet from Pech Maho has the MLH Reference B.07.34.SUP, which corresponds to the Hesperia Reference AUD.05.34. Inscriptions discovered after the preparation of the Supplement have no MLH Reference, although the fact they belong to epigraphic region B has been pointed out.

Maluquer de Motes observed in 1968 that some syllabic signs presented an additional stroke to the standard sign, whose function must have been to express the difference in sonority of the occlusive involved, and later research has arrived at the conclusion that in certain zones and epochs, especially in the Catalan and Narbonensian zone, a script was in use in which a systematic distinction between voiced and voiceless occlusives was made. In the clearest cases it has been demonstrated that the sign with an additional stroke represents the voiceless occlusive, whilst the simple one represents the voiced one. Although this opposition is in many cases consistent, in others we find inadequacies, so that the details about the use of the signs are still not completely known. There is speculation that this dual system was not in use during the whole Iberian period, having been replaced by a simple (and defective) system in later times.

In a modern publication of Iberian texts it is not possible anymore to ignore this distinction, which is clearly significant. This is, then, a clear difference of Hesperia Data Bank with respect to the MLH publication. Yet at the same time, because as of today it is impossible to ensure that in every case an X, e.g, might represent a /da/ consonant, we have favoured a descriptive rather than an interpretative transcription. In other words, we have transcribed with an accentuated syllable (tá) any sign that has an additional stroke, leaving the traditional transcription (ta) for simple signs. Subsequent research will clarify the details about how different signs were used, their geographical and temporal extension and the main landmarks in their evolution. A publication like this, which differentiates the two variants, will help to solve the matter.



Insofar as we do not possess a unitary body of every palaeographic variant of Levantine or North-eastern Iberian –which is currently being drawn up—the palaeographic comments on the page on inscriptions belonging to the Narbonensian region refer to the variants established by Untermann in his volume II of the MLH, pp. 49-58. These will be transliterated below for the convenience of the reader.    

(Image map: the mouseover function opens variants)


Map 1: Archeological sites in the eastern area of the Narbonensis with their Hesperia reference. Image map: click over Pech Maho, Ruscino, Ensérune and Lattes to see photos of the site.

Ensérune Pech Maho Ruscino Lattes

Map 2: General view of the archeological sites of the Narbonensis with their Hesperia reference.