Celtiberian script

The Celtiberian script is a Paleohispanic script that was the main writing system of the Celtiberian language, an extinct Continental Celtic language, which was also occasionally written using the Latin alphabet. This script is a direct adaptation of the northeastern Iberian script, the most frequently used of the Iberian scripts.

Mapa escriptures paleohispàniques-ang
The Celtiberian script (light green) among other Paleohispanic scripts.
Un signari celtibèric occidental
A western Celtiberian signary (Based on Ferrer i Jané 2005)
Un signari celtibèric oriental
An eastern Celtiberian signary


All the Paleohispanic scripts, with the exception of the Greco-Iberian alphabet, share a common distinctive typological characteristic: they represent syllabic values for the stop consonants, and monophonemic values for the rest of consonants and vowels. They are thus to be classed as neither alphabets nor syllabaries; rather, they are mixed scripts normally identified as semi-syllabaries. There is no agreement about how the Paleohispanic semi-syllabaries originated; some researchers conclude that they derive only from the Phoenician alphabet, while others believe the Greek alphabet was also involved.

Typology and variants

The basic Celtiberian signary contains 26 signs rather than the 28 signs of the original model, the northeastern Iberian script, since the Celtiberians omitted one of the two rhotic and one of the three nasals. The remaining 26 signs comprised 5 vowels, 15 syllabic signs and 6 consonants (one lateral, two sibilants, one rhotic and two nasals). The sign equivalent to Iberian s is transcribed as z in Celtiberian, because it is assumed that it sometimes expresses the fricative result of an ancient dental stop (d), while the Iberian sign ś is transcribed as s. As for the use of the nasal signs, there are two variants of the Celtiberian script: In the eastern variant, the excluded nasal sign was the Iberian sign ḿ, while in the western variant, the excluded nasal sign was the Iberian sign m. This is interpreted as evidence of a double origin of the Celtiberian script. Like one variant of the northeastern Iberian script, the western variant of Celtiberian shows evidence of having allowed the voiced stops g and d to be differentiated from their respective voiceless counterparts, k and t, by adding a stroke to the voiceless signs. This is known as the ‘dual system’ in Paleohispanic scripts, which otherwise do not distinguish between pairs of voiceless and voiced stops (p:b, t:d and k:g).

Location of findings

The Celtiberian inscriptions have been found mainly in the Ebro valley and near the sources of the Tagus and Douro rivers, where Roman and Greek sources place the Celtiberian people. The Celtiberian inscriptions were made on different types of objects (silver and bronze coins, ceramic receptacles, bronze plaques and tesseras, amphores, stones, spindle-whorls, etc.). There are just under two hundred surviving inscriptions, one of which is exceptionally long: the third Botorrita bronze plaque (Zaragoza) with more than three thousand signs containing a census of nearly 250 people. Almost always the direction of the writing is left to right. The fact that nearly all the Celtiberian inscriptions were found out of archaeological context does not allow a precise chronology to be established, but it seems that the earliest inscriptions in the Celtiberian script date from the 2nd century BCE while the latest ones date from the 1st century BCE.

Zaragoza - Museo - Bronce epigráfico

Cortono plaque. Unknown provenance. Western signary.

Bronce luzaga

Luzaga plaque (Guadalajara). Western signary.

Tésera hospitalidad (Uxama)

Uxama tessera (Osma, Soria. Western signary.

Botorrita 1

First Botorrita plaque (Zaragoza). Eastern signary.

Zaragoza - Museo - Grafito 01

Another Botorrita plaque (Zaragoza). Eastern signary.

Tessera Celtiberian (unknown)

Fröhner tessera. Unknown provenance. Eastern signary.

See also


  • Ferrer i Jané, Joan (2005): «Novetats sobre el sistema dual de diferenciació gràfica de les oclusives sordes i sonores», Palaeohispanica 5, pp. 957–982.
  • Hoz, Javier de (2005): «La lengua y la escritura celtibéricas», Celtiberos. Tras la estela de Numancia, pp. 417–426.
  • Jordán, Carlos (2004): Celtibérico, Zaragoza.
  • Jordán, Carlos (2005): «¿Sistema dual de escritura en celtibérico?», Palaeohispanica 5, pp. 1013–1030.
  • Rodríguez Ramos, Jesús (1997): «Sobre el origen de la escritura celtibérica», Kalathos 16, pp. 189–197.
  • Untermann, Jürgen (1997): Monumenta Linguarum Hispanicarum. IV Die tartessischen, keltiberischen und lusitanischen Inschriften, Wiesbaden.
  • Schmoll, Ulrich (1960) : «Die iberischen und keltiberischen Nasalzeichen», KZ 76, 280-295.
  • Villar, Francisco (1993): «Las silibantes en celtibérico», Lengua y cultura en la Hispania prerromana, pp. 773–812.
  • Villar, Francisco (1995): Estudios de celtibérico y toponimia prerromana, Salamanca.

Further reading

  • Blanco, António Bellido, Sobre la escritura entre los Vacceos, in ZEPHYRUS – revista de prehistoria y arqueologia, vol. LXIX, Enero-Junio 2012, Ediciones Universidad Salamanca, pp. 129–147. ISSN 0514-7336

External links

  • The letters of the Celtiberian script
  • A transcription of a Botorrita plaque
  • Detailed map of the Pre-Roman Peoples of Iberia (around 200 BCE)
  • The Celtiberian script - Jesús Rodríguez Ramos
  • Ferrer, Joan; Moncunill, Noemí; Velaza, Javier (2015). "Preliminary proposal to encode the north-eastern Iberian script for the UNICODE standard" (PDF).

The Autrigones were a pre-Roman tribe that settled in the north of the Iberian Peninsula, in what today is the western Basque Country (western regions of Biscay and Álava) and northern Burgos, Spain. Their territory limited with the Cantabri territory at west, the Caristii at east, the Berones at the southeast and the Turmodigi at the south. It is discussed whether the Autrigones were Celts, theory supported by the existence of toponyms of Celtic origin, such as Uxama Barca and other with -briga endings and that eventually underwent a Basquisation along with other neighboring tribes such as the Caristii and Varduli


The Belli, also designated Beli or Belaiscos were an ancient pre-Roman Celtic Celtiberian people who lived in the modern Spanish province of Zaragoza from the 3rd Century BC.


The Berones were a pre-Roman Celtic people of ancient Spain, although they not were part of the Celtiberians, they lived north of the Celtiberians and close to the Cantabrian Conisci in the middle Ebro region between the Tirón and Alhama rivers.

Botorrita plaque

The Botorrita plaques are four bronze plaques discovered in Botorrita (Roman Contrebia Belaisca), near Zaragoza, Spain, dating to the early 1st century BC, known as Botorrita I, II, III and IV.

Botorrita II is in the Latin language, but Botorrita I, III and IV, inscribed in the Celtiberian script, constitute the main part of the Celtiberian corpus.


The Carpetani (Greek: Karpetanoi) were one of the Celtic pre-Roman peoples of the Iberian Peninsula (the Roman Hispania, modern Spain and Portugal), akin to the Celtiberians, dwelling in the central part of the meseta - the high central upland plain of the Iberian Peninsula.

Celtiberian language

Celtiberian or Northeastern Hispano-Celtic is an extinct Indo-European language of the Celtic branch spoken by the Celtiberians in an area of the Iberian Peninsula between the headwaters of the Douro, Tagus, Júcar and Turia rivers and the Ebro river. This language is directly attested in nearly 200 inscriptions dated to the 2nd and 1st centuries BC, mainly in Celtiberian script, a direct adaptation of the northeastern Iberian script, but also in the Latin alphabet. The longest extant Celtiberian inscriptions are those on three Botorrita plaques, bronze plaques from Botorrita near Zaragoza, dating to the early 1st century BC, labelled Botorrita I, III and IV (Botorrita II is in Latin). In the northwest was another Celtic language, Gallaecian (also known as Northwestern Hispano-Celtic), that was closely related to Celtiberian.


The Cratistii (Greek Kratistioi) were an ancient pre-Roman, stock-raising people whose lands were situated along the upper Tagus valley, in the elevated plateau region of the western Cuenca and northeast Province of Teruel.

Greco-Iberian alphabet

The Greco-Iberian alphabet is a direct adaptation of an Ionic variant of a Greek alphabet to the specifics of the Iberian language, thus this script is an alphabet and lacks the distinctive characteristic of the rest of paleohispanic scripts that present signs with syllabic value, for the occlusives and signs with monophonemic value for the rest of consonants and vowels.

Iberian scripts

The Iberian scripts are the Paleohispanic scripts that were used to represent the extinct Iberian language. Most of them are typologically very unusual in that they are semi-syllabic rather than purely alphabetic. The oldest Iberian inscriptions date to the 4th or possibly the 5th century BCE, and the latest from end of the 1st century BCE or possibly the beginning of the 1st century CE.


The Lusones (Greek: Lousones) were an ancient Celtiberian (Pre-Roman) people of the Iberian Peninsula (the Roman Hispania), who lived in the high Tajuña River valley, northeast of Guadalajara. They were eliminated by the Romans as a significant threat in the end of the 2nd century BC.


Luzaga is a village and municipality in the province of Guadalajara, Spain, part of the autonomous community of Castile-La Mancha. Luzaga's Bronze, the most significant known example of Celtiberian script, was found here.

Nabataean alphabet

The Nabataean alphabet is an abjad (consonantal alphabet) that was used by the Nabataeans in the second century BC. Important inscriptions are found in Petra (now in Jordan), the Sinai Peninsula (now part of Egypt), and other archaeological sites including Avdat (now in Israel).


The Olcades were an ancient stock-raising pre-Roman people from Hispania, who lived to the west of the Turboletae in the southeastern fringe of the Iberian system mountains.

Paleohispanic scripts

The Paleohispanic scripts are the writing systems created in the Iberian peninsula before the Latin alphabet became the dominant script. Most of them are unusual in that they are semi-syllabic rather than purely alphabetic, despite having supposedly developed, in part, from the Phoenician alphabet.

Paleohispanic scripts are known to have been used from the 5th century BCE — possibly from the 7th century, in the opinion of some researchers — until the end of the 1st century BCE or the beginning of the 1st century CE, and were the main scripts used to write the Paleohispanic languages. Some researchers conclude that their origin may lie solely with the Phoenician alphabet, while others believe the Greek alphabet may have had also a role.


The Pellendones (also known as Pelendones Celtiberorum or Cerindones) were an ancient pre-Roman people living on the Iberian Peninsula. From the early 4th century BC they inhabited the region near the source of the river Duero in what today is north-central Spain. The area comprises the north of Soria, the southeast of Burgos and the southwest of La Rioja provinces.


A semi-syllabary is a writing system that behaves partly as an alphabet and partly as a syllabary. The term has traditionally been extended to abugidas, but for the purposes of this article it will be restricted to scripts where some characters are alphabetic and others are syllabic.

Titii (Celtiberian)

The Titii or Tithii were a small and obscure Celtiberian people whose lands were located along the middle Jalón and upper Tajuña valleys, somewhere between Alhama de Aragón in Zaragoza and Molina de Aragón in Guadalajara provinces.


The Turboletae or Turboleti were an obscure pre-Roman people from ancient Spain, which lived in the northwest Teruel province since the early 3rd Century BC.


The Uraci or Duraci (Greek: Urakoi) were a little-known Celtic people of pre-Roman Iberia who dwelt to the east of the Vaccaei and the Carpetani, occupying the southern Soria, northern Guadalajara and western Zaragoza provinces since the 4th century BC.


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