22 February 2024 The Future is the Product of the Past

Archaeologists in northern Spanish have discovered what they believe to be the oldest Basque language text

Archaeologists have discovered what they believe to be the oldest Basque language text, on  Irulegi archaeological site, near the Aranguren Valley, about 8 km from present-day Pamplona in Spain’s northern Navarre region.

Researchers got to work excavating the hillock, on which the walls of a medieval castle also stand. At the foot of the fortification, the remains of a 2,000-year-old settlement were uncovered.

On the threshold of one of the homes destroyed during the Sertorian Wars, workers found a bronze slab in 2021 that was roughly 14.5 centimeters (5.7 in) long and shaped like a hand. Laboratory analysis revealed that strange inscriptions were engraved on its fingers, in the form of 40 symbols distributed across four lines.

When it was removed, no engraved inscription or ornament could be seen, so the artifact was assumed to be part of a helmet. It consisted of a sheet of bronze, cut to represent the shape of a life-sized right hand, and is an alloy of 53.19% tin, 40.87% copper, and 2.16% lead, something common in ancient alloys, according to the analysis of experts from the Public University of Navarre.

An aerial view of Mount Irulegui in Navarre, Spain. Photo: SOCIEDAD DE CIENCIAS ARANZADI

Dating to the first quarter of the 1st century BC, the hand has a small recess for hanging on the front door of a house as a ritual object to protect the house.

The first word was “sorioneku”, which easily translates to the modern Basque word “zorioneko”, meaning “good fortune” or “good omen”. The rest of the inscription has not been deciphered yet.

Since the names of Paleohispanic gods are largely unknown to experts, they speculate that some of the phrases on the Hand of Irulegi may refer to Basque deities or locations. The phrases on the Hand of Irulegi are separated by dots or marks (interpunctuations), but none of the identified words appear to correspond to personal Basque names.

When it was removed, no engraved inscription or ornamention was visible so the artifact was thought to be part of a helmet.
When it was removed, no engraved inscription or ornamention was visible so the artifact was thought to be part of a helmet. Photo: SOCIEDAD DE CIENCIAS ARANZADI

Javier Velaza, a professor of Latin Philology at the University of Barcelona and one of the world’s foremost experts on pre-Roman inscriptions “The Hand of Irulegi is undoubtedly the first document written in the Basque language and in a specifically Basque script [an alphabet that includes letters and syllables], as well as being the longest text known to date,” says.

Joaquín Gorrochategui, expert in paleolinguistics and professor of Indo-European Linguistics at the University of the Basque Country, agreed that “the piece is really exceptional” and has underlined that it presents characteristics that make it “Basque” and not generically “Iberian”.

It is, he clarified, “a convincing hypothesis, but it is still a hypothesis”, since “we have three more lines to read and we are stunned because we don’t understand anything”.

A transcription of the signs on the Hand of Irulegi. The first word is ‘sorioneku’, which can mean of good fortune or omen. SOCIEDAD DE CIENCIAS ARANZADI

The regional Navarre president, María Chivite, has said the discovery is “a historical milestone of the highest order” since it represents “a leap like few others in the knowledge that we had until now of our history and our culture”

The artifact represents a major archaeological and linguistic discovery and could prove that the Basque language was being used more than 2,000 years ago.

The Irulegi archaeological site stands on an isolated mountain between the Pyrenees and the Ebro valley. Between the 15th and 11th centuries BC during the Bronze Age, it was constructed for defensive purposes and to control the surrounding area. It vanished in the first century BC.

Cover Photo: The Irulegui Hand and Proto-Basque inscriptions.SOCIEDAD DE CIENCIAS ARANZADI

SOCIEDAD DE CIENCIAS ARANZADI

Related Articles

A Roman sarcophagus bearing the title of “Emperor’s Protector” was found for the first time in Anatolia

29 April 2022

29 April 2022

A sarcophagus carrying the title of “Emperor’s protector” was discovered in the province of Kocaeli in western Turkey. With the...

Hundreds of silver coins have been found near the castle of Lukov in Moravia

4 September 2021

4 September 2021

In the forest near the Southern Moravian Fortress Lukov, two members of the Society of Friends of the Lukov Fortress...

The Iremir Mound illuminates the pre-Urartian period in East Van

27 July 2021

27 July 2021

Archaeological findings unearthed in the excavations carried out at the İremir Mound in the Gürpınar district of Van, in eastern...

Huge ancient stone murals discovered in central China: “It is an important discovery that enriches and rewrites the art history of the Song Dynasty”

10 October 2022

10 October 2022

Two stone murals from the Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127) have been discovered in Henan Province, central China, and are the...

The ruins believed to belong to Noah’s Ark date back to 5500-3000 years BC.

26 October 2023

26 October 2023

Rock and soil samples taken from the area where the ruins of ‘Noah’s Ark‘ are believed to be located in...

The World’s Oldest Smiling Water Flask with Emoji will be on display

4 July 2021

4 July 2021

After the collapse of the Hittite Empire, the Late Hittite States was established in Anatolia and Syria. One of these...

10,000-year-old rock art discovered in the Indian village of Medikonda

3 July 2021

3 July 2021

Rock art containing tiger, human and animal figures was found at the Jogulamba Gadwal site in Telangana, India. The New...

New fibula types discovered at prehistoric Kopilo graves in Bosnia

26 August 2022

26 August 2022

An archaeological dig at Kopilo, a hill settlement founded around 1300 BC about 70 miles west of Sarajevo, has discovered...

First Human Traces Buried in an Ancient Gold Mine in Eastern Sahara

2 May 2021

2 May 2021

Some of the earliest signs of human life dating back 1.8 million years have been discovered in an old gold...

Britain’s first Roman funerary bed is discovered in central London after 2,000 years

7 February 2024

7 February 2024

Archaeologists excavating a construction site in London have unearthed the first Roman “flat-packed” funerary furniture – a fully intact Roman...

Roman-era marble sundial found for the first time in Turkey’s second Ephesus

26 September 2022

26 September 2022

Archaeologists have unearthed a Roman-era marble sundial in the ancient city of Aizanoi in the Çavdarhisar district of Kütahya province...

A marble block depicting the mythological story of Actaeon, who was killed by his dogs, was found in the ancient city of Prusias ad Hypium

7 August 2022

7 August 2022

A marble block depicting the mythological story of Actaeon  (Akteon), who was killed by his dogs, was found during the...

A cobbled ford uncovered near Evesham could be the finest Roman example of its type in Britain

19 October 2022

19 October 2022

A cobbled ford believed to be of Roman construction has been discovered near Evesham in Worcestershire, England. If the path...

500-year-old curse tablet found in Germany

15 December 2023

15 December 2023

In the city of Rostock on Germany’s northern coast, archaeologists found a lead curse tablet invoking Satan and two other...

Copious Copper Supplies Made Cyprus a Trading Center in the Bronze Age

23 March 2023

23 March 2023

Cyprus was a surprisingly busy trading hub during the early period of international trade in the Mediterranean region. Its awe-inspiring...