Northeastern Iberian script

Northeastern Iberian script in the context of paleohispanic scripts
A northeastern dual Iberian signary (Based on Ferrer i Jané 2005)
A northeastern non-dual Iberian signary.
Lead plaque from Ullastret using the northeastern dual signary.
Lead plaque from Penya del Moro mountain (Sant Just Desvern) using the northeastern dual signary
Iberian Coin, probably from Navarra with the legend benkota/baskunes using the northeastern non-dual signary

The northeastern Iberian script is also known as Levantine Iberian or Iberian, because it is the Iberian script that was most frequently used, and was the main means of written expression of the Iberian language. The language is also expressed by the southeastern Iberian script and by the Greco-Iberian alphabet. To understand the relationship between northeastern Iberian and southeastern Iberian scripts, it is necessary to point out that they are two different scripts with different values for the same signs. However it is clear they have a common origin and the most accepted hypothesis is that northeastern Iberian script was derived from the southeastern Iberian script. There is no agreement on this, but some researchers conclude that it is linked to the Phoenician alphabet alone, whilst others believe the Greek alphabet also had a role.

Typology and variants

All the paleohispanic scripts, with the exception of the Greco-Iberian alphabet, share a common distinctive typological characteristic: they represent syllabic value for the occlusives, and monophonemic value for the rest of the consonants and vowels. In a writing system they are neither alphabets nor syllabaries, but are rather mixed scripts that are normally identified as semi-syllabaries. The basic signary contains 28 signs: 5 vowels, 15 syllabic and 8 consonantic (one lateral, two sibilants, two rhotic and three nasals). The northeastern script was very nearly deciphered in 1922 by Manuel Gómez-Moreno Martínez, who systematically linked the syllabic signs with the occlusive values. The decipherment was based on the existence of a large number of coin legends (some of them bearing Latin inscriptions) that could easily be linked to ancient place names known from Roman and Greek sources. There are two variants of the northeastern Iberian script: the dual variant is almost exclusive to the ancient inscriptions from the 4th and 3rd centuries BCE and its distinctive characteristic is the use of the dual system. This system was discovered by Joan Maluquer de Motes in 1968 and allows differentiation of the occlusive signs (dentals and velars) between voiced and unvoiced by the use of an additional stroke. The simple sign represents the voiced value whilst the complex sign represents the unvoiced value. The non-dual variant is almost exclusive of the modern inscriptions from the 2nd and 1st centuries BCE.

Location of findings

The inscriptions that use the northeastern Iberian script have been found mainly in the northeastern quadrant of the Iberian Peninsula: largely along the coast from Roussillon to Alicante, but also with a deep penetration in the Ebre Valley. The northeastern Iberian inscriptions have been found on different object types (silver and bronze coins, silver and ceramic recipients, lead plaques, mosaics, amphores, stones (steles), spindle-whorls etc.), representing 95% of the total finds (over 2000 items), and nearly all the scripts were written from left to right. The oldest northeastern Iberian script date to the 4th or maybe the 5th century BCE. The modern ones date from the end of the 1st century BCE or maybe the beginning of the 1st century CE.

In recent years it has been published four northeastern Iberian abecedaries or signaries: the Castellet de Bernabé signary, the Tos Pelat signary, the Ger signary and the Bolvir signary, all of them belonging to the dual variant of the script.

See also


Media related to Iberian scripts at Wikimedia Commons

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