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Reading in transliteration: ?ịạtuịṇị
Reading in original script: ?I dA24 dT dU2 dI dN5 sI d

Object: VA·31 Sesto Calende (bowl)
Position: bottom, inside
Direction of writing: dextroverse
Script: North Italic script (prob. Lepontic alphabet)
Letter height: 2.2–2.5 cm0.866 in <br />0.984 in <br />
Number of letters: 8
Number of words: 1
Number of lines: 1
Workmanship: scratched into leather-hard clay
Condition: damaged

Archaeological culture: Golasecca I C [from object]
Date of inscription: third quarter of 7th c. BC [from object]

Type: unknown
Language: Celtic
Meaning: 'Iatuini' (?)

Alternative sigla: none

Sources: Maras 2023: 130–133



First published in Maras 2023: 130–133. Examined for LexLep on 26th January 2022.

Images in Maras 2023: 130, fig. 2 and 131, fig. 3 (photos), 131, fig. 4 (drawing).

Inscribed upside-down on the inside of the bowl, directly below the inward-curving rim; applied before firing according to Maras (p. 130).

The inscription is abraded and hardly legible. The two clearest characters are T dU2 d, the latter indicating the writing direction and, less securely, the orientation. Maras identifies an alpha A24 d before T d, plausible though the bar is quite faint, which further confirms the orientation. Before alpha, a slightly wiggly vertical is read as iota by Maras, but a typically Lepontic "flat" sigma S2 d also seems possible (cf. De Marinis 2009: 158, n. 152, who read the character as sigma in his "ipotesi di lettura" sepiut?si (dextroverse but with the opposite orientation)). Before that character, another (straighter) vertical and a short, unconnected oblique scratch in the lower area can be made out, which cannot be read as a letter. The traces following upsilon – in essence a row of verticals whose lower parts are slightly distorted by the curvature of the rim – are identified as iota, nu and a final iota by Maras. Nu is supposed to have the shape N5 s (i.e. retrograde), which is not a Lepontic form (unless one counts the late and uncertain TI·10), but attested in Etruscan inscriptions (e.g. the alphabetaria no. III.20 and III.21, maybe retrograde in III.19, all dated to the first half of the 5th c., and also later specimens (no. IV.4, IV.6) in Pandolfini & Prosdocimi 1990 – thanks to Joe Eska for pointing out these examples to us) and, in LexLep, in the alphabetically Etruscan SP·2 and the Camunic BS·22. While the appearance of an Etruscan variant is arguable considering the age of the inscription, the reading is uncertain: the putative bar is very faint, clearly visible only in the section where it crosses the second hasta and apparently not connected to the first one. Maras further considers four indentations and, between the third and the fourth, a faint small triangle shape, to be intentional. The resulting reading according to Maras is iatuini (he also considers a sinstroverse reading, but excludes it on linguistic grounds). Maras observes the presence of a number of "tratti parassiti" especially around the first letters, aptly comparing VA·4.2 (p. 131 f. and n. 24), and classifies the traces before and after the iatuini-sequence as either such superfluous scratches, or as signs which frame the inscription.

As noted by Maras (p. 130), the inscription attests the use of St. Andrew's cross – interpreted by him as a variant of tau – before its otherwise first Lepontic appearance in VA·6 (~600); the forms of alpha and upsilon are similar to the ones in VA·3.

The sequence iatuini is analysed by Maras (p. 132) as a dithematic personal name in the genitive iantu-u̯ind. If the reading and analysis are accepted, the inscription attests a host of notable orthographic, onomastic and linguistic features for the 7th c. BC: the non-spelling of /n/ before /t/ in iantu-, putative /nd/ > /nn/ in u̯ind-, the spelling of // with upsilon (reflected by a single upsilon together with the composition vowel due to the non-spelling of geminates) rather than waw as assumed (but not certain) for the otherwise earliest attestation of that sound in VA·4.2, a dithematic name (the only one beside CO·48 uvamokozis in archaic inscriptions), and the only Celtic ī-genitive, in opposition to archaic -oi̯so, before the mid-2nd century BC (in detail Maras p. 132 f.). If the reading is accepted, but the sequence is analysed as a derived name in -ī̆no- (as suggested, but rejected by Maras p. 132), the atypical name formation (and spelling of //) can be discounted, but the reading remains, in our opinion, too tenuous to provide reliable evidence of this scale.

See also De Marinis 2009d: 23, Maras 2014: 72 f., 76, Barbieri 2020: 454, n. 10.

Corinna Salomon


Barbieri 2020 Elena Barbieri, "I sigla nella cultura di Golasecca: il caso del comprensorio proto-urbano di Castelletto Ticino – Sesto Calende – Golasecca", Aristonothos 16 (2020), 451–490.
De Marinis 2009 Raffaele C. de Marinis, "Sesto Calende, loc. Cascina Presualdo: coppa con iscrizione", in: Raffaele C. de Marinis, Serena Massa, Maddalena Pizzo (eds), Alle origini di Varese e del suo territorio. Le collezioni del sistema archeologico provinciale [= Bibliotheca Archaeologica 44], Roma: L'Erma di Bretschneider 2009, 157–159.
De Marinis 2009d Raffaele C. de Marinis, "La protostoria del territorio di Varese: dall'inizio dell'età dei metalli al periodo della romanizzazione", in: Raffaele C. de Marinis, Serena Massa, Maddalena Pizzo (eds), Alle origini di Varese e del suo territorio. Le collezioni del sistema archeologico provinciale [= Bibliotheca Archaeologica 44], Roma: L'Erma di Bretschneider 2009, 11–30.