Owl Mask
New Information on Glozel:
Two Books about the Site and Recent Scientific Analyses
Photo by Robert Liris


by Hans-Rudolph Hitz

The Sacred Site of Glozel
An examination of the Glozel inscriptions on stone, bone, and ceramic reveals a certain variability between the texts. The possibility that different writers came over an extended period of time to the "sacred site of Glozel" might explain this fact. Pilgrims came to Glozel in order to inscribe dedications and make offerings as a form of religious observance, and also in order to immortalize deceased people or noble families.

An important purpose of the visit was to acquaint oneself with the writing and to learn how to reproduce it. Glozel seems to have been a kind of writing school. This presumes contacts between different peoples, but all of them must have spoken a Celtic language in order to understand each other.

At the 'sacred site of Glozel,' in Glozelique nemu Chlausei (comparable to the Gallic term nemeton -sacred place -and Chlausei, suggesting the place-name Glozel) they found a sanctuary with tombs, surrounded by bushes, oaks and other trees. People brought votive offerings, which were buried in the earth, to the sanctuary.

Relationship of the Inscriptions of Glozel to Other Iron Age Inscriptions
According to measurements made by thermoluminescence (McKerrell, 1999), about two-thirds of the tested ceramic objects from Glozel date to between 300 BC and 100 AD. I have reached the conclusion that a great number of the Glozel signs represent letters which are similar to letters in related alphabets in use from the Iron Age to the Gallo-Roman period.

In comparing the Glozel inscriptions with these written languages, one finds close relationships with the Celtic texts from Transalpine Gaul (Gallo-Greek and Gallo-Latin), with the Celtic inscriptions (Lepontic and Cisalpine Gaulish) in use in Cisalpine Gaul (the north of Italy and southern Switzerland), as well as with the Greek, Etruscan, and Latin alphabets.

Analysis of the Glozel Writing

Continuous Writing and Word Separations
Like most of the written languages mentioned, the Glozel inscriptions appear to consist of continuous writing (scriptio continua). Because there are no word separations, deciphering the inscriptions is difficult. At first I hypothesized that markers to separate the words could be found at the end of the line, but this theory was only partially successful.

Ligatures and Writing Style
One of the problems with the Glozel writing is that fact that ligatures-symbols combining two different letters-appear in a number of texts. As a result the writing of the same word varies between inscriptions.

Position and Direction of the Writing
One can sometimes discover the orientation of the letters from texts that appear with images, on pendants and on sculptures. Moreover, some letters in the suggested Glozel alphabet can be used to indicate the orientation of the text-for example R, r = /r/, q = /q/ and Z = /z/.

I have examined the texts to see if they were written from left to right (dextroverse), from right to left (sinistroverse), or perhaps in 'boustrophedon' (alternating direction between lines). After a thorough investigation into these possibilities, I have concluded that the direction of the writing-at least for the texts that I have dealt with-is dextroverse, or from left to right.

Omission of Vowel Signs
It is difficult to understand the reason for the very frequent omission of vowel signs in the Glozel writing. It may have been an abbvreviated form of writing where the vowel was not written because it was contained in the pronounciation, perhaps in the names of the letters be, ce, de, etc.

A Historic Relationship between Cisalpine Gaul and Transalpine Gaul
The Roman historian Livy writes that a part of the Gallic tribe of the Bituriges Cubi, located to the northwest of Glozel, in what is today Berry, migrated around 400 BC accompanied by neighboring groups toward the plain of the Po in the direction of Mediolanum, today Milan. There, these Gauls came into contact with the Lepontians who spoke Lepontic, a Celtic language related to Gaulish.

It was the Celts of the Golasecca culture in northern Italy, in Piedmont and Lombardy, who had first adapted a northern Etruscan alphabet to record a Celtic language during the Hallstatt period, in the seventh century BC.

From the fifth century BC (the La Tène period,) the Lepontians wrote their texts in a related alphabet, the alphabet of Lugano, sometimes improperly called Lepontic. The Gallic immigrants from the center of Gaul borrowed the Lepontic alphabet and created a Gaulish-Cisalpine alphabet for their Gaulish language.

The Primary Alphabet of Glozel
During the following period, there was an intensive movement of peoples between Cisalpine Gaul and Transalpine Gaul. At the same time, a northern Etruscan alphabet related to the alphabet of Lugano was imported into Transalpine Gaul, where the Glozel engravers created their primary alphabet about 300 BC. This alphabet probably contained 16(?) 'alphabetic signs.'

The Glozelic Alphabet
Innovations unique to the Glozel writing and the incorporation of certain letters and signs from the Latin, Greek, and Etruscan alphabets led to a developed alphabet, the Glozelic alphabet, by about 100 BC.

This extended alphabet probably contained about 25 signs and the writing was augmented by about 60 variations of signs, which represented ligatures and twinned consonants. The Glozel writing thus consisted of a minimumof 85 signs, a number not far from the 111 signs mentioned in the syllabus of Morlet.


The Relationship between Lepontic Proper Names and the Glozel Names
Some Lepontic proper names appear on the small stones at Glozel: Setu-pokios as the Glozelian Setu; Ati, Atecua as the Glozelian Attec. This shows that some vocabulary was shared between the two Gauls.

We believe that Lepontic was a different Celtic language but closely related to Gaulish. The use of similar or practically identical Lepontic proper names in both Glozel and Cisalpine Gaul must be the result of a long tradition. These names of individuals also show up later on the vases and the ceramic tablets from Glozel. Setu-pokios can be compared with Setun at Glozel, Setpuk with Zatopk/Tsatopk at Glozel; the name Uenia is represented in Glozelic as Uenit and Atepu as Tepu.

Gaulish in the Glozelic Texts
One can find correspondences between Gaulish and the Glozelic language. Some Glozelian names contain Gaulish words, as for example Antiautcnoi, from -cno 'son of', Unuttal, from -tal 'front', Kunut, from cun- 'dog', and in the terms anuan 'name,' iate 'ambitious' and others.

There are many resemblances between the two in terms of the grammatical relationship of noun formation, . A difference exists in Glozelic in the endings in -1, formed for Glozelic in -e (Nike, Vo”e, Tote, Cuve, etc.) which represents an opening of the sound from -i to -e. In Gaulish, the same formation probably appears in Eluveitie and in Bibracte.

A grammatical relationship in verb formation can also be observed. The Gaulish expression oberte/ioberte 'has offered' is comparable to the Glozelic operte. The Gaulish legasit 'has placed' appears in Glozelic as legusit and the Gaulish logeoe(?)/ logitoi 'has erected' appears in its Glozelic form as lokeoe. As well, the Gaulish avot for 'has made' appears the same, avot/avut at Glozel.

As for place names, I have discovered on a big tablet the expression nemu chlausei, 'in the sacred place of Glozel.' This word nemu is comparable to the term nemeton which means 'sacred place' in Gaulish, and in Old Irish there is nem 'sky.' A later derivation exists in the Gaulish form Nemessos for 'Clermont-Ferrand' (Gallo-Roman Augusto-nemetum) which is found in Italy in Etruscan letters Mezu-nemusus (Gaulish Medio-nemeton) 'middle sanctuary.'

As for Chlausei, the term suggests the place name 'Glozel.' The grammatical form with the -i ending is perhaps Latinized. For the place name Glozel, one encounters also Closau. A relationship must exist between the word clauz 'enclosure'from the Auvergne, and the word clausèèl 'small enclosure' from Languedoc.

Moreover, there are the expressions tulysiec for the word 'Toulousian' and toulusiau for the Gaulish place name 'Tolosa,' (today Toulouse).

The Language
The Glozel inscriptions represent Celto-Glozelic texts, which must consist of a local Gaulish language, or even a Gaulish dialect.

A Celtic dialectal difference appears in the treatment of the labio-velar voiceless Indo-European sound /kw/ or /qu/; some speakers have conserved it (Celtiberic and Godelic at the time when Ogam was used) but others have evolved towards the labial /p/ (Gaulish, Lepontic, and Britannic).

The idea of different Gaulish dialects is not unreasonable, but at the present time it is not supported by solid proofs. The most important variation is the the conservation of the Indo-European /kw/ or /qu/ in some words like Sequana or in the names of the months Equos and Quimon in the Coligny Calendar, representing a Gaulish dialect, 'Sequanien.'

It could be the same for the Glozel writing, where one also finds /q/ more for /k/ than for /kw/, in the names Qakhi, Zoqacl, and Littaq, as well as in Qamuli, P(e)lq, and k(a)qt. Is it a question of a Glozel language or of a Gaulish dialect, the Glozelic?

Besides, there may have been differences in speaking due to dialectal forms at Glozel, where people spoke Gaulish with tonal variations, perhaps in the Glozel name Eitutag in comparison with the Gaulish Itotag(os).

A preliminary dating of the texts according to paleography (the science of ancient writing) and history shows that Glozel corresponds to the Iron Age Celtic period of La Tène, beginning in the third century BC, and continues through the second century AD, the Gallo-Roman period.

The table above makes a distinction between the primary alphabet of Glozel and Glozelic. It indicates the beginning of inscriptions on different materials, although we are not sure about the duration. The following criteria are employed: the Iron Age alphabets, some grammatical forms, the different types of proper names, and the appearance of ligatures and other characteristic forms.

To the period of the third to second century BC are dated the texts in the primary alphabet of Glozel on small stones and on urns and vases which:

  1. possess proper names similar to those in Lepontic
  2. which contain the letter digamma.

To the period of the second to first century BC are dated the texts in the Glozelic alphabet on schist rings, bone, big stones and on the first group of tablets which:

  1. have an ending of the dative -oi or -ui
  2. which contain unusual names.

To the period of the first century BC to the first and second century AD are dated the inscriptions in the Glozelic alphabet on large tablets and on the second group of tablets which contain unique proper names, several unusual ligatures, and rare letters like the demi-h.

Content of the Texts
Pilgrims came to Glozel in order to inscribe dedications and make offerings as a form of religious observance, and also in order to imortalize deceased people or noble families.

In the texts, one encounters proper names formed using first names that highlight the heroic qualities of those who bear them. Although we know nothing about the social structure of Glozel, at first sight these are characteristic of a warrior aristocracy. These names are obviously formed according to Indo-European processes, for example in the Glozel name Cun-iudu 'fighting dog' and Commu-ualo 'poweful ruler.'

One also finds proper names combined with family names. These texts are formed with the verbs dete or tede, opert and eu, which can be compared with the Gaulish dede ' has given,' oberte 'has offered,' and eu 'has offered.'

Moreover, in the expression avot, which can be compared to the Gaulish word avot 'has made,' one encounters the name of the author, the maker, the sponsor, or the dedicator of the inscription.

These inscriptions seem to consist of dedications, of some funerary texts and of some accounts of important events. There are no magical formulas or curses, such as those found on a number of Gallo-Roman lead plaques.

The Atypical Glozel Inscriptions
I must add that there are a number of incomprehensible inscriptions at Glozel (especially on the bones and the ceramic tablets), which have a really atypical writing style. These may be copies of texts written by unknown people, but they could also be badly made practice pieces, or rough drafts, executed by scribes.

The fact that some Glozel inscriptions are written with very atypical signs and with extrememly unusual ligatures and symbols helps to explain why many specialists talk about falsification and believe that the Glozel inscriptions are inauthentic.

Copyrightę 2005. Alice Gerard.
     vase GF301