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Ancient Celtic Epigraphy and its Interface with Classical Epigraphy

The written tradition of the ancient Continental Celtic languages (Lepontic, Gaulish, and Celtiberian) begins as early as the 6th century BC and disappears on the European Continent towards late antiquity, around the time when the much better attested medieval and modern Insular Celtic languages (Irish, British Celtic) only start to adopt literacy to their vernacular needs. Already the earliest attestations on the Continent reveal a linguistically and palaeographically diverse picture. There is no single, uniform Celtic epigraphy, but a number of individual – and even isolated – writing traditions that make use of at least five very different writing systems, vacillating even within a single language, and that differ strongly from each other in genre and content. The adoption, development and spread of literacy among Celtic-speaking populations, and its place in society, is recurrently in reaction to external political and cultural influences from dominant mediterranean civilisations, and reveal a complex relationship between the vernacular and the adstratal or superstratal colonial populations.

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