Banco de datos de lenguas paleohispánicas




Access to the Numismatics Data Bank

This data base records the coin legends written in Palaeohispanic languages (Iberian, Celtiberian and "Vasconic") from the Iberian Peninsula and Southern France. Legends written in Latin, Greek and Punic have been excluded, excepting when they are combined with any Palaeohispanic language. "Libyo-phoenician" legends have not been included either, due to their controversial readings and their obscure linguistic ascription.

The earliest coin production of the Iberian Peninsula took place in the Greek colonies (Emporion, Rhode) from the 5th century BCE onwards and in the Phoenician settlements (Gadir, Ebusus), some time later. The production of coin series with Palaeohispanic legends began in the last few years of the 3rd century BCE in the eastern coast (with the exception of the precocious mint of arse) and the north-eastern area. They became especially widespread in the southern and south-eastern region of the Iberian Peninsula and in south-eastern France under Roman rule, from the 2nd century BCE on. Palaeohispanic coinage is, then, closely related to Romanisation. Palaeohispanic coin legends disappeared in the late 1st century BCE, giving way to Latin coin legends. The characteristics of Palaeohispanic coins depend significantly on their province of origin.

  • The mints of Hispania Citerior produced not only bronze coins, but silver series as well. Their iconography is strikingly homogeneous: actually every coin showed a male head on the obverse and a horseman on the reverse. These coins tended to have their legends written in local language and script.
  • In contrast, coins of Hispania Ulterior were only made of bronze and had a varied iconography. Their legends were written preferably in vehicular languages, such as Latin and Punic (including the "Libyo-Phoenician" coins).

I. Southern France and Hispania Citerior. This vast region comprises the following monetary areas:

  • a) Mints of south-eastern France.
  • Seven mints whose coins showed Iberian legends were in the north of the Pyrenees, close to the Mediterranean coast and surrounding the most important epigraphical settlements of the Narbonensis, such as Pech Maho, Ensérune, Montlaurès or Gruissan (http://hesperia.ucm.es/presentacion_narbonensis.php). The coins of south-eastern France were written mainly in Iberian, but occasionally they show Gaulish features as well. They are dated between the last years of the 2nd century BCE and the first years of the 1st century BCE.
  • b) Iberian mints of north-eastern Spain.
  • Catalonia, the Spanish eastern coast and the Ebro Valley comprise the largest group of Palaeohispanic coin legends because of its abundant series and of its long duration. Although the first series could have been those from arse / Saguntum (Mon.33), dated by the second half of the 4th century BCE, Palaeohispanic coins with Iberian legends became widespread from the Second Punic War onwards, particularly due to the mints of kese (post 218 BCE), untikesken (200-150 BCE) and to the Iberian imitations of the drachms of Emporion (Mon.109, Mon.110). Palaeohispanic coins lasted until the decade of 50's BCE, when kelse (Mon.21), kili (Mon.34) and saitabi (Mon.35) produced their final series, which contained bilingual Iberian-Latin coin legends.
  • c) Celtiberian mints.
  • The ‘Celtiberian mints’ are placed between the Sistema Iberico and the right bank of the river Ebro (excepting tamusia, Mon.91, which was situated in Extremadura). This region was inhabited not only by Celtiberian peoples, but also by other Celtic peoples, such as Berones.
  • Coins were minted in this region during the 2nd and the 1st centuries BCE and their legends were written in Celtiberian language and in Celtiberian script (very similar to the north-eastern Iberian writing system). Two different variations of the Celtiberian writing system, one for the western Celtiberia and another for the eastern, have been detected, as much in coins as in inscriptions. Some late Celtiberian coins were written in Latin characters (sekobirikez, Mon. 89: SEGOBRIS; kolounioku, Mon. 67: CLOVNIOQ).
  • d) Mints of the North-western Ebro Valley.
  • The north-eastern Ebro Valley has hardly offered a score of Latin inscriptions apart from these coin legends. This numismatic group has traditionally been named as "cecas vasconas" ("Vasconic mints"), an inaccurate denomination, since it comprises coin productions of non-Vasconic peoples like the Suessetani.
  • These coins have very particular and recognisable features, which are evidently different from the Iberian and Celtiberian groups: their peculiar toponimy and palaeography, and their typical short legends in the obverses.
  • The linguistic ascription of these coin legends, made between the 2nd century BCE and 50 BCE, is controversial, even though some of them could contain a kind of euskaric language. They were always written in a local writing system (there are neither bilingual coins nor transcriptions in Latin alphabet), which is similar to the north-eastern Iberian system, although it might well be considered an specific writing system because of its peculiarities. In fact, this particular script poses some problems when it comes to have an agreement about the reading of some legends, as Mon.44, for instance.

II. Hispania Ulterior.

The remarkable linguistic complexity of this province is clearly reflected not only in Palaeohispanic inscriptions, but also in toponyms and anthroponyms: at least Celtic, Turdetanian, Phoenician and Iberian languages, apart from Latin, are attested in this region. Except for some peripheral areas, the use of vehicular alphabets and languages (Latin and Punic) is predominant, as the largest numismatic groups show: the so-called "Hispano-Roman" (Latin alphabet; local or Latin language), and the Phoenician and the "Libyo-Phoenician" groups, which have not been included in this data base.

Besides these groups, in the eastern area one can find Iberian legends (and possibly Turdetanian ones as well) and, in the western side, the Celtiberian mint of tamusia (see I.c) in Extremadura and the controversial mint of Salacia, placed somewhere near the estuary of the river Tagus.

  • a) Mints of Eastern Andalusia.
  • This numismatic group is made up of a set of ten mints which produced coins whose legends were written in the local language from the end of the 3rd century BCE or the beginning of the 2nd century BCE. In so doing, they used the southern variant of the Iberian script and, later on, the Latin alphabet as well. Since there have been detected not only Iberian features but also Turdetanian ones in these texts, their linguistic ascription is controversial. Four out of all these mints (kastilo (Mon.97), ibolka (Mon.100), Abra (Mon.101), ikalesken (Mon.95) included bilingual Iberian-Latin legends in their latest series.
  • b) Salacia
  • Although it is usually identified with Alcácer do Sal (Portugal), no conclusive emplacement has been assigned to this mint yet. The chronology of its monetary production is grosso modo 150 BCE - 50 BCE. Its legends consist, on one hand, of a fixed legend written in local language and script that probably refers to the toponym; on the other hand there are varying texts written in Latin alphabet and local language referring to the names of the magistrates. It is worth mentioning that the local writing is not still fully deciphered and, consequently, there is not a general agreement of its reading, since it can fit both with the eastern and the south-western Iberian writing systems.