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The Lady of Elx, made by Iberians.
Iberian scripts in the context of paleohispanic scripts
Luís Fraga's interpretation of the language areas in Iberia circa 200BC, with small corrections

The Iberians were a set of peoples that Greek and Roman sources (among others, Hecataeus of Miletus, Avienus, Herodotus and Strabo) identified with that name in the eastern and southern coasts of the Iberian peninsula at least from the 6th century BC. These included: the Airenosi, Andosini, Ausetani, Bastetani, Bastuli, Bergistani, Castellani, Cessetani, Ceretani, Contestani, Edetani, Elisices, Iacetani, Ilercavones, Ilergetes, Indigetes, Lacetani, Laietani, Oretani, Sedetani, Sordones, Suessetani, and Turdetani (notice that there are some doubts regarding the ethno-linguistic affiliation of some of these). The Roman and Greek sources often diverge about the precise location of each Iberian people and also about the list of Iberian peoples.

The term Iberian as used by the ancient authors had two meanings. One, more general, referred to the whole of the population of the Iberian peninsula. The other, more restricted, with an ethnic sense, to the people living in the eastern and southern coasts of the Iberian peninsula.

The Iberians were not a clearly defined culture, ethnic group or political entity. The name is instead a blanket term for a number of peoples belonging to a pre-Roman Iron Age culture inhabiting the Iberian peninsula and who have been historically identified as "Iberian". Although these peoples shared certain common features, they were by no means homogeneous and they diverged widely in other respects.



The Iberians lived in isolated communities based on a tribal organization. They also had a knowledge of metalworking, including bronze, and agricultural techniques. In the centuries preceding Carthaginian and Roman conquest, Iberian settlements grew in social complexity, exhibiting evidence of social stratification and urbanization. This process was probably aided by trading contacts with the Phoenicians, Greeks, and Carthaginians. Among the most important goods traded by the Iberians were precious metals, particularly tin and copper.

The Phoenicians established their first colony on the Iberian Peninsula in 1100 B.C. (Gadir, Gades, modern Cádiz) and probably made contact with Iberians then or shortly thereafter.

Greek colonists made the first historical reference to the Iberians in the 6th century B.C. The Greeks also dubbed as "Iberians" another people, currently known as Caucasian Iberians. It is not known if there had been any type of connection between the two peoples.



Neolithic expansion.
Paleohispanic languages according to inscriptions (except Aquitanian - according to anthroponyms and theonyms used in Latin inscriptions).

Iberian origins are not clear; however, there are two theories on the subject:

Celts crossed the Pyrenees into Spain in two major migrations in the ninth and the seventh centuries B.C. See Celtiberians. "[5][6][9]

External influences

The Iberians traded extensively with other Mediterranean cultures. Iberian pottery has been found in France, Italy, and North Africa. The Iberians also had extensive contact with Greek colonists. The Iberians may have adopted some of the Greeks' artistic techniques. Statues such as the Lady of Baza and the Lady of Elx are thought to have been made by Iberians relatively well acquainted with Greek art. Thucydides stated that one of the three original tribes of Sicily, the Sicani, were of Iberian origin, though "Iberian" at the time could have included what we think of as Gaul.[10]

The Iberians were placed under Carthaginian rule for a short time between the First and Second Punic Wars. They supplied troops to Hannibal's army. The Romans subsequently conquered the Iberian Peninsula and slowly supplanted the local culture with their own.

Iberian falcata.

Iberian culture

Iberian knight of Moixent, in the Valencian Community
Lead plaque from Ullastret using the northeastern dual signary.
Lead plaque from La Bastida de les Alcuses (Moixent) using the southeastern signary.
Lead plaque from la Serreta (Alcoi) using the Greco-Iberian alphabet.

Iberian language

The Iberian language, like the rest of paleohispanic languages, became extinct by the 1st to 2nd centuries AD, after being gradually replaced by Latin. Iberian seems to be a language isolate. It is generally considered as a non-Indo-European language (although a 1978 study found many similarities between Iberian and the Italic languages [11]). Links with other languages have been claimed, but they have not been demonstrated. One such proposed link was with the Basque language, but this theory is also disputed.

Iberian scripts

The Iberians use three different scripts to represent the Iberian language.

Northeastern Iberian script and southeastern Iberian script share a common distinctive typological characteristic, also present in other paleohispanic scripts: they present signs with syllabic value for the occlusives and signs with monofonematic value for the rest of consonants and vowels. From a writing systems point of view they are neither alphabets nor syllabaries, they are mixed scripts that normally are identified as semi-syllabaries. About this common origin, there is no agreement between researchers: for some this origin is only linked to the Phoenician alphabet while for others the Greek alphabet had participated too.


The Iberians produced sculpture in stone and bronze, most of which was much influenced by the Greeks and Phoenicians. The styles of Iberian sculpture are divided geographically into Levantine, Central, Southern, and Western groups, of which the Levantine group displays the most Greek influence.


See also

Modern peoples of Iberia:

Pre-Roman cultures of Iberia:

Archeological sites:

Related to Iberian culture:


Further reading

  • Beltrán, Miguel (1996): Los iberos en Aragón, Zaragoza.
  • Ruiz, Arturo; Molinos, Manuel (1993): Los iberos, Barcelona.
  • Sanmartí, Joan; Santacana, Joan (2005): Els ibers del nord, Barcelona.
  • Sanmartí, Joan (2005): «La conformación del mundo ibérico septentrional», Palaeohispanica 5, pp. 333–358.

External links

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010
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From LoveToKnow 1911

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Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary




  1. Plural form of Iberian.



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