Banco de datos de lenguas paleohispánicas

Zone C



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Regions C and D of the MLH III contain the inscriptions found between the Pyrenees and the River Ebro: they therefore include almost all of Catalonia, with the exception of Cerdanya (Zone B) and some of the towns in the west of the province of Tarragona (Zone E, Batea, T.04 and Miravet, T.05) and to the south of the Ebro (Alcanar, Zone F, T.13), and also the north-east of Aragon. Region C comprises of the costal areas, that is, the modern-day provinces of Girona, Tarragona and part of Barcelona, occupied in antiquity by the Indigetes, Laietani, Cosetani, and Ilercavones. Region D covers the interior, or the modern-day provinces of Huesca, Lleida and the rest of Barcelona, in which three large groups were established: the Ausetani, the Lacetani and the Ilergetes. The two zones show close commercial and cultural links from an early date but differ in many aspects of their epigraphic culture.

Coastal sites and their epigraphy

In volume III of the MLH, Untermann recorded 26 sites with Iberian epigraphy belonging to Zone C, but the discoveries of the last few decades have raised considerably the number of places with writing present: today there are 81 identified sites and up to 400 edited inscriptions. The region also contains a number of coin mints: untikesken (Mon.06), in Emporionilturo (Mon.11) and abaŕiltur (Mon.27), the first in Cabrera de Mar and perhaps the second nearby; laieśken (Mon.13), located between the area of Barcelona and El Maresme; baitolo (Mon.08) and  baŕkeno (Mon.109), antecedents of the Roman cities Baetulo and Barcino respectively; kese (Mon.12) and taŕakonśalir (Mon.110), in Tarragona. However, others have less certain locations, although probably also in Zone C are: lauro (Mon.14), in Vallès Oriental (Llorens - Ripollès 1998, 117), Llerona (CNH), Granollers or Can Tacó in Montmeló (Padrós 2005, 526), and even more debateable is  kaio (Mon.82), which some authors place near the mint of kese, and masonsa (Mon.15), which has been placed in Catalonia simply because of iconographic similarities.

From the Gulf of Roses to the River Llobregat, the sites in this area are concentrated on the coast itself or nearby areas, with particular penetration inland in the plain of Empordà and the Besòs and Llobregat basins. Further south, the sites are, however, fewer in number and with a few exceptions, such as Tarraco, the majority are located away from the coast, being spread particularly around the Catalan pre-Coastal Range and oriented towards the interior routes by the River Ebro.

Following the orientation north to south, the sites with a richer epigraphic record are concentrated in the region of Empordà, in an area with colonial Greek influences at Emporion. In this zone the density of sites with Iberian epigraphy is very significant. Notable among these are El Mas Castellar (Pontós: GI.08), Empúries itself (Escala: GI.10) and El Puig de Sant Andreu (Ullastret: GI.15), the site that until now has provided the most documents from the whole of Zone C. In Barcelona province the coastal sites of El Maresme and a number of settlements in the interior zone of Vallès are noteworthy. The sites with a considerable epigraphic record are Egara (Terrassa: B.16), Can Fatjó (Rubí: B.17), El Turó de Ca n’Oliver (Cerdanyola del Vallès: B.20), Baetulo (Badalona: B.41) and Ilduro (Cabrera de Mar: B.44). To the south of the Llobregat and in the province of Tarragona, the find spots are more spread out, but some sites stand out as having a significant number of inscriptions, such as El Serrat de Sant Miquel (Vinebre: T.06), El Castellet de Banyoles (Tivissa: T.07) and Tarraco (Tarragona: T.11).

Zone C not only presents, in general terms, a great density of find spots, but it is also notable for its rich and varied epigraphic culture, in which practically all of the epigraphic types which are typical of Iberian culture are well represented. Ceramic graffiti are the most common and are found throughout the zone. Despite many of them being very short, they are of great interest for our understanding of Iberian anthroponymy. Lead tablets are also well represented with around 20 examples. Those found in the Empordà area are notable for their length, for example from Empúries (GI.10.11, GI.10.12 y GI.10.10, this last example being unique in that it was found set into a column and displayed in one of the necropoleis), Ullastret (GI.15.04-08) and El Castell de la Fosca, in Palamós (GI.20.01). Further south, it is worth mentioning the lead tablet from La Penya del Moro (Sant Just Desvern: B.38.01), exceptional in this zone for its text written from right to left, and the group of tablets from El Castellet de Banyoles, in Tivissa (T.01.01-04). Of unknown origin but surely also from this zone are T.00.01-02. However, T.00.03, although traditionally attributed to the province of Tarragona, shows palaeography more closely resembling that of the area of the Edetani.

In terms of lapidary epigraphy, the examples from Ullastret (GI.15.01-03) are remarkable for their early dates, clearly before the Romanization of the area. The letters are of large dimensions and the monumental appearance of some of these pieces gives them a character which is exceptional for the period and points to an advanced use of writing at this site. Funerary stelai are not especially abundant in any part of Zone C. However, it is worth mentioning the inscription found in Santa Perpètua de Mogoda (B.21.01) which contains a text of considerable length, as well as the stele from Barcino (B.37.02), now unfortunately lost, and three examples from Badalona (B.41.01-03). Finally, of great importance for their almost unique character are the examples of bilingual or mixed texts from Tarraco (T.11.05-06). The epigraphic habit on stone is particularly relevant in the capital of Tarraconensis as well in Emporiae, where the influence of Romanization on the written culture is clearly seen. In Empúries the group of inscribed plaques should be noted (GI.10.01-09), certainly honorific in character, in which the clear influence of Roman public epigraphy can be seen. Tarragona stands out, as mentioned above, for having provided the only three inscriptions in Iberian and Latin from Zone C (T.11.05-06 y .09), all of them on stone, and at least two of them clearly funerary in nature. The city also contains a number of inscriptions located in the Roman wall, in the Minerva Tower (Torre de Minerva) (T.11.01-04), which are unfortunately difficult to read given their poor state of preservation.

A number of inscriptions on instrumentum should also be mentioned. These show the considerable penetration of writing into domestic and everyday settings. One of the most interesting groups is, without doubt, the inscribed spindle whorls, examples of which until now have been discovered in Can Miralles-Can Modolell (B.44.02), Ilduro (B.44.39), Vilademuls (GI.07.02), Sant Julià de Ramis (GI.13.07), Palamós (GI.20.02) and El Vilar de Valls (T.03.04). Other inscribed objects worth mentioning are the pondus from Calafell (T.12.02) and the pendant from Can Gambús (B.19.04), both with inscriptions that seem to correspond to dedications. Finally, an object which is exceptional for its rarity is an anchor stock with the toponym baitolo double stamped (GI.00.01).

From the use of writing in religious and votive contexts, we have a good example in the piece known as the “rhyton of Ullastret” (GI.15.09). Although it is possible that other pieces are also of this type, presently it is very difficult to identify this type of inscription using exclusively linguistic criteria (this could be, however, the case of a number of texts with the term baikar, which is relatively common in this zone: see for example B.37.03, B.44.16, T.07.06, GI.07.01 and GI.13.01). Similarly, it cannot be ruled out that the exceptional group of inscribed silver pateras from Tivissa (T.07.05-09) which are luxuriously decorated, should also be interpreted in this way.

Lastly, a number of stamps with artisan marks can be highlighted (B.25.02-06; B.41.05-06; B.18.01-02; B.31.02; B.42.05; T.03.01-02), which together with the epigraphy on lead and some of the ceramic graffiti (see for example the ostracon with the accounting text from Bigues i Riells: B.22.02) show the important relation between epigraphy and trade in this region.

A list of references Hesperia  used for Zone C can be accessed by clicking the link.


Zone C is characterised by some of the oldest texts in the Iberian language. Dating to the end of the 5th century BCE, they are in fact examples of inscriptions on Attic pottery from Ullastret (GI.15.34) and Pontós (GI.08.06 y .09). Despite the scarcity of examples from this early date, in the 4th century BCE the practice of writing seems to have already been fully established, at least in the northern half of the territory. As well as a series of inscriptions on Attic and Iberian grey pottery, some of the earliest lead tablets can also be ascribed to this period (e.g. B.38.01). In other respects, the relative frequency of texts in the dual writing system throughout the entire region shows the extent of the diffusion of writing in the pre-Roman period. After the arrival of the Romans, however, the presence of written documents intensifies, at the same time as new types of epigraphy appear, although it should also be noted that in turn very short inscriptions with simple marks or abbreviations, sometimes with Latin praenomina, begin to appear in large quantities. The continuation of writing well into the Roman period is shown by the bilingual inscriptions from Tarragona and it is likely that the shift from Iberian to Latin in epigraphy coincided with the change of era and the boom in Roman epigraphy in the Augustan Age, as happened generally throughout the Iberian territory as a whole (Simón Cornago 2013a).


Given the presence of relatively early inscriptions, the coastal area of Catalonia provides numerous examples of the dual writing script. This script is characterised by the use of signs marked with an extra stroke added to the standard form of the sign. The exhaustive and systematic study by Ferrer i Jané (2005) has demonstrated that this dual system was used, with varying degrees of systematicity, to graphically represent the phonological difference between voiced or unvoiced consonants (or those assimilable to voicings according to Roman ears) present in the Iberian language, which is not expressed in the standard non-dual system. It has been shown that in the dual system of North-Eastern Iberian the simple sign represents a voiced plosive, while the marked sign denotes the corresponding unvoiced sound; 𐊐 /da/ - 𐊌 /ta/ (see here). Although the most recent scholarship, such as the Lexikon der iberischen Inschriften (2019) edit or cite these texts in the dual system using a transcription based on the Latin alphabet, with t and k for the unvoiced and b, d and g for the voiced plosives. The form used by Hesperia has been followed here, as used in the other epigraphic zones (see here ). Therefore, the signs that have an additional stroke (𐊌) have been transcribed as an accentuated syllable (tá), leaving the traditional transcription (ta) for the simple form of the sign (𐊐).

Map 1: Sites in epigraphic zone C (interactive map: click to see photos of some of the sites)

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