Southwest script

Southwest script

The southwest script or southwestern script, also known as Tartessian or South Lusitanian is a paleohispanic script that was the mean of written expression of an unknown language usually identified with the same name, among them the most popular is Tartessian. The southwestern inscriptions had been found mainly in the southwestern quadrant of the Iberian Peninsula: mainly in the south of Portugal (Algarve and southern Alentejo), but also in Spain (south of Extremadura and western Andalucia).

Name of the script

The name of this script is very controversial. The more neutral name is southwestern, because it refers only to the geographical location were the inscriptions had been found, but it needs some additional precision in a general context. Some researchers name this script Tartessian considering this script the script of Tartessos. Others prefer name this script as South Lusitanian, because almost all the southwestern inscriptions have been found in the south of Portugal (an area included in the Roman province of Lusitania), were the Greek and Roman sources locate the Pre-Roman Conii or Cynetes people, instead in the zone generally considered Tartessian (between Huelva and the Guadalquivir valley). But on the other hand, the name South Lusitanian is inconvenient, as it may wrongly suggest a relation with the Lusitanian language. Other name proposals include Bastulo-Turdetanian and Algarvan.

Writing system

Excepting the Greco-Iberian alphabet, and to a lesser extent this script, paleohispanic scripts shared a distinctive typology: They behaved as a syllabary for the stop consonants and as an alphabet for the rest of consonants and vowels. This unique writing system has been called a semi-syllabary. There is no agreement about how the paleohispanic semi-syllabaries originated; some researchers conclude that their origin is linked only to the Phoenician alphabet, while others believe the Greek alphabet had also participated. In the southwestern script, although the letter used to write a stop consonant was determined by the following vowel, as in a full semi-syllabary, the following vowel was also written, as in an alphabet. Some scholars treat Tartessian as a redundant semi-syllabary, others treat it as a redundant alphabet.

The southwestern script is very similar to the southeastern Iberian script, both considering the shape of the signs or his value. The main difference is that southeastern Iberian script doesn’t show the vocalic redundancy of the syllabic signs. This characteristic was discovered by Ulrich Schmoll and allows the classification of a great part of the southwestern signs in vowels, consonants and syllabic signs. Unlike the northeastern Iberian script the decipherment of the southeastern Iberian script and the southwestern script is not still closed, because there are a significant group of signs without consensus value.


This script is almost exclusively used in near a hundred large stones (steles), probably with funerary purpose. Almost ever the direction of the writing is right to left, but also boustrophedon or spiral. The fact that almost all the southwestern inscriptions had been found out of archaeological context does not permit to fix a precise chronology, but it seems clear his use in the 5th century BC, however it is usual to date them from the 7th century BC and consider that the southwestern script is the most ancient paleohispanic script.

A total of 75 southwest script stelae are known. Of these, 16 can be seen in the Southwest Script Museum [ [ Southwest Script Museum - official site] ] ("Museu da Escrita do Sudoeste", in Portuguese), in Almodôvar (Portugal), where a recentely discovered stele with a total of 86 characters (the longest inscription found so far) will also be on display. [Dias, Carlos (2008), "Descoberta perto de Almodôvar a mais extensa inscrição em escrita do sudoeste", in "Público", Ano XIX, n.º 6742 - 15/09/2008, p.18.] [ [ Photo of the recentely discovered stele with a total of 86 characters.] ]


*Correa, José Antonio (1996): «La epigrafía del sudoeste: estado de la cuestión», "La Hispania prerromana", pp. 65-75.
*Correia, Virgílio-Hipólito (1996): «A escrita pré-romana do Sudoeste peninsular», "De Ulisses a Viriato: o primeiro milenio a.c.", pp.88-94
*Guerra, Amilcar (2002): [ «Novos monumentos epigrafados com escrita do Sudoeste da vertente setentrional da Serra do Caldeirao»] , "Revista portuguesa de arqueologia" 5-2, pp. 219-231.
*Hoz, Javier de (1985): «El origen de la escritura del S.O.», "Actas del III coloquio sobre lenguas y culturas paleohispánicas", pp. 423-464.
*Rodríguez Ramos, Jesús (2000): [ «La lectura de las inscripciones sudlusitano-tartesias»] , "Faventia" 22/1, pp. 21-48.
*Schmoll, Ulrich (1961) : "Die sudlusitanischen Inschriften", Wiesbaden.
*Untermann, Jürgen (1997): "Monumenta Linguarum Hispanicarum. IV Die tartessischen, keltiberischen und lusitanischen Inschriften", Wiesbaden.

ee also

*Pre-Roman peoples of the Iberian Peninsula
*Prehistoric Iberia

External links

* [ Tartessian / South-Lusitanian Script - Jesús Rodríguez Ramos]

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