A new Celtiberian bronze: The Bronze of Novallas



Our first post is devoted to an awesome epigraphic discovering that was brought to light three years ago and that has become one of the most promising and profitable texts written in Celtiberian language.

It was found by chance during the summer of 2012 in the archaeological site of Chicharroya III, municipal boundary of Novallas (Zaragoza), which consists of a little rural uilla. However, this is a secondary archaeological context, since the bronze had been cut off in order to obtain a semicircular piece from it (the rest of this cutting is what we have today). The bronze was immediately deposited in the Museo de Zaragoza.

Since the bronze was written in Celtiberian language and Latin alphabet, it can be dated between the second half of the 1st century BC and the first half of the 1st century AD, and, as a matter of fact, its palaeography is compatible with that of republican Latin inscriptions… Except from one thing, which makes this bronze unique: some S have a diacritic, a little horizontal stroke in the lower part. The scholars studying this bronze can confirm that that marked S correspond with the Palaeohispanic “sigma”, whose phonetic value is nowadays being determined. This special stroke had gone unnoticed until now in other Celtiberian inscriptions from Peñalba de Villastar.

While we are looking forward to the publication of the monography, the editors of the bronze keep on revealing some of the striking points of this piece. Apart from the marked S, the bronze of Novallas contains a 3rd person plural verbal form, probably in optative (cabint); an accusative singular syntagm (sam bedam), not necessarily depending on cabint, apparently related with mining and even a Latin borrowing in Celtiberian language, “publicus”.

Anyway, judging by the typology of the tabula, by the possible optative verbal form, by the presence of two (“Casca[---]”, Cascantum; “Contebac[---]”, Contrebia) or three (“Tergas”, Tierga) toponyms and above all, by the borrowing “publicus”, it is clear that we are dealing with a public and official Celtiberian document that swells the collection of this kind of inscriptions found in the Middle Ebro Valley.


F. Beltrán Lloris et al. (2013), “El bronce celtibérico en alfabeto latino de Novallas (Zaragoza). Avance”, Palaeohispanica 13, , pp. 615-635.

C. Jordán Cólera (2015), “On the value of marked s in the Celtiberian inscriptions in Latin alphabet”, Études Celtiques (forthcoming), pp. 75-94

C. Jordán Cólera (2014), “La forma verbal cabint del bronce celtibérico de Novallas (Zaragoza)”, Emerita 82.2, pp. 327-343.