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Th e St o n e Ri n gs f r o m Gl o zel
Figure 1. Grave goods from the tumulus of Vix
of lignite
8.7 cm.diam.
Three found
on each
One of the most famous Iron Age burials is
the tomb of Vix, where a Celtic woman,
perhaps a princess, was buried about 500
B.C. with elaborate grave goods. She wore
three bracelets made of lignite on each
wrist. Rings or bracelets made of different
varieties of this same dark rock have been
found in a number of European tombs and
settlements dating as far back as the fifth
millennium B.C., the end of the Neolithic
period. The bracelets continue to appear
in French graves during the Chalcolithic
period, then disappear until the end of the
Bronze Age. The Iron Age was the high
point of their popularity. The bracelets
were traded over a large area; they have
been found in Germany, in Austria, in Swit-
zerland, in France, in Spain, in Italy, and
in England.
The rings are of varying sizes; some too
small to fit over the wrist, some bracelet
size, and some big enough to be worn on
the upper arm (Fig. 2). Some are true rings,
completely round; others are more flat-
tened, and one can see one of the different
shapes in Figure 3. They have been found
on both male and female skeletons in Iron
Age graves, and often show signs of long
wear. In some cases broken bracelets have
been drilled and joined together by cords,
or worn as pendants (Fig. 4). The bracelets
were widely traded and appear in rich
graves as well as more humble ones, in as-
sociation with typical Iron Age grave
goods. These decorative objects must have
possessed special qualities, perhaps magi-
cal ones, in the eyes of prehistoric people.
Figure 2. Replication of a Neolithic burial
found at Passy, Muse de Sens
Figure 3: Variation of shape in a bracelet
of lignite from the Iron Age found in the
Seine. Muse Carnavalet
Figure 4: A fragment of a Neolithic bracelet
worn as a pendant. Muse Carnavelet
Rings made of the same kind of stone, but
inscribed with alphabetic symbols and
decorative motifs, are found in the small
museum at Glozel. Although Dr. Morlet
refers to them as anneaux de schiste, the
stone they are made from is not schist in
the geologic sense but a kind of bitumi-
nous shale, with a large organic component.
Christian Chevillot, who excavated the site
of Chalucet, wrote about this material:
Different names have been used for this
black to grey-black rock, light and flaky:
schist, bituminous schist, sapropelite, jet,
and finally lignite [it is a] flaky fossil-
ized carbon, not composed of one single
piece of wood, but made up of an infinite
multitude of organic particles where the
mineral elements dominate. (Chevillot,
1976, p. 422.)
The National Museum of Antiquities at St.-
Germain-en-Laye displays a schist brace-
let dating to the Neolithic. The Bronze Age
tumulus of St. Menoux, in Allier, contained
three of these bracelets. The internal di-
ameter of the two most complete ones is
six cm. The Abb J. J. Moret wrote in 1898
in reference to these bracelets: What dis-
tinguishes the schist bracelets of the
tumulus of St. Menoux is their finish. They
are completely round. The worker traced
them with a compass, because the circum-
ference is perfect. As for their polish, it is
so even that it could only have been ob-
tained with the help of a potters wheel.
(Moret, 1900, p.24.)
One finds these bracelets of lignite at most
Iron Age sites in France. Sixty-six frag-
ments of lignite bracelets have been recov-
ered from tombs found in the region of
Pontarlier, Franche-Compt (Vuaillat,
1989). The bracelets date to the Bronze Age
Figure 5: The tumulus of St. Menoux and two bracelets found inside it
Figure 6: A decorated bracelet from the Chalucet workshop
and to the first Iron Age. Some were still
on the wrists of the male and female buri-
als. Two lignite bracelets dating to the late
Hallstatt or early La Tne period were
found in the tumuli of Chaux dArlier,
Doubs (Millotte, 1992). They were small in
size: one had an internal diameter of six
cm, one of five cm. Sixty-five fragments of
lignite bracelets, some with a narrow deep
incision on the outside, were recovered
from the late second century B.C. village
of Arnes, Indre (Bouyer, 1992). Shale
bracelets with an internal diameter of
about seven cm. were found at the farm
La Boisanne at Plouher-sur-Rance, in
Armorique (Menez, 1998). The farm has
been dated to between 250 B.C. and 50 B.C.
In the nineteenth century schist bracelets
were found in tombs in Sane-et-Loire.
Others were found in the cave sepulchres
of the Glie in Charente-Infrieure. Brace-
lets and fragments have been recovered
from many other sites.
Four workshops producing these decora-
tive objects have been identified in France.
In 1878 more than twenty half-finished
rings of bituminous schist were found at
Nacqueville in Normandy (Rouxel, 1912).
Other finds from the same site were dated
to the Neolithic period. Cut-marks on the
bracelets appeared to have been made by
flint tools, rather than by metal tools.
More than one hundred bracelet fragments
of lignite have been found at Chalucet,
another workshop twenty kilometers south
of Limoges (Chevillot, 1976, 1978). The site
has been dated to the end of the sixth cen-
tury-beginning of the fifth century B.C. A
compass was probably used to outline the
shapes, which were then cut, perhaps with
a metal chisel, filed, polished, and deco-
rated with geometric hatching motifs.
Some of the bracelets would have been too
small to fit over the human wrist. Brace-
lets from Chalucet appear at a number of
nearby sites.
Montcombroux-les-Mines and Buxires-
les-Mines near Vichy both had veins of lig-
nite and were sites of bracelets workshops
(Bertrand, 1909). Madame Anne Marie
Decluset in Montcombroux-les-Mines has
a fine collection of bracelets fragments,
flint tools and sandstone polishers found
in association with the fragments. Pierre
Fradin of Varennes -sur-Teche, not far from
Figure 7: Steps in
the fabrication
of schist bracelets.
Photograph taken
at Varenne-sur-Tche
by Patrick Ferryn
Figure 8: Flint tools
found by Madame Decluset
at Montcombroux-les-Mines.
Photograph taken
by Patrick Ferryn
Montcombroux-les-Mines, found another
workshop site in a field plowed for the first
time eight years ago, along with flint tools
and rough pottery fragments. Photographs
taken by Patrick Ferryn illustrate the dif-
ferent stages of bracelet manufacture. In-
ternal dimensions of the photographed
bracelet fragments seem to be between six
and eight centimeters. The discarded
bracelet centers found in association with
some workshops were considered talismans
in the past and were actually used as cur-
rency in Brittany during the 19th century.
One found in Sorbiers long ago was en-
graved with four alphabetic symbols.
Figure 9: Schist nodule with
symbols found at Sorbiers,
near Montcombroux
Another workshop has been excavated at
Mseck Zerovice in Bohemia, where Celtic
people were engaged in the manufacture
of bracelets on a very large scale during
the La Tne period (Venclova, 1992). The
finished products were exported to a large
area of central Europe. These black brace-
lets were made of bituminous argilite, or
sapropelite. Several hundred unfinished
bracelets and twenty-nine finished ones
were found on the floor of a half-buried
rectangular hut at Mseck Zerovice. Brace-
let centers have been found at other Bohe-
mian sites, suggesting that sometimes the
raw material was traded as well as the
completed bracelets. P. Sankot wrote about
these bracelets: the rings are found for the
most part in rich tombs, especially during
the first phase of their appearance; later,
they appear also in tombs belonging to
people of lower social categories.
(Venclova, 1992, p. 114)
On the Isle of Purbeck in Dorset England
the oily shale known as Kimmeridge shale
was mined between the sixth century B.C.
and the Roman period and made into
bracelets that were traded across the En-
glish Channel to a number of European
sites. Kimmeridge shale bracelets have
been found in Iron Age graves in Switzer-
land, Germany and France. Barry Cunliffe
says about the Kimmeridge shale industry:
Excavations at Eldons Seat (Encombe),
Dorset, have allowed the various stages in
the manufacturing process to be worked
out First, it seems that large slabs of shale
were brought to the site, possibly threaded
on poles for ease of carrying. Then, with
the aid of simply struck knives of flint, flat
discs some five inches (thirteen cm) across
were carved out. The next stage involved
either boring a central hole or cutting out
a core, creating a ring which could gradu-
ally be whittled down and finally ground
to form finished bracelets, armlets, anklets
or, occasionally, pendants. (Cuniffe, 1991,
p. 276.) Techniques of manufacture appear
to be similar in the different workshops.
The slabs of schist were usually soaked in
water to soften them before they were cut
into discs.
In 2000, Patrick Ferryn took pictures of
thirteen of these objects at the Glozel mu-
seum.: eleven rings, one partial ring, and a
central disk from a ring. Altogether, includ-
ing Morlets pictures from the Corpus of
Inscriptions, we can identify sixteen rings.
How do they compare with rings and
bracelets from other sites? Most of the
Glozel rings are smaller than those from
other sites, and many of them are inscribed
with alphabetic symbols and decorative
elements. They are not completely round
and are also more roughly finished than the
completed bracelets found at St. Menoux,
at Vix, and at other sites. The crudity of
the Glozel rings may relate to the fact that,
like the urns and other artifacts from
Glozel, they appear to have been hastily
made, perhaps to be used in some kind of
dedicatory rite.
The internal diameter of the Glozel rings
varies from 2.4 to eight centimeters. Eleven
of the rings shown in Patricks pictures
have an internal diameter of less than 4
centimeters, larger than rings for the fin-
ger but too small to fit over a human wrist,
and were therefore not designed to be used
as actual bracelets. One ring was un-
adorned. Three rings were decorated on
both sides with alphabetic symbols, two
rings have symbols on one side and a deco-
rative hatching on the other side, and six
rings have alphabetic symbols on only one
side. One has animal heads engraved on
both sides along with letters.
Figure 10: Steps in the fabrication of a bracelet made from Kimmeridge shale
Dr. Morlet wrote about these rings in
Glozel, his comprehensive description of
the site (Morlet, 1929, pp. 36-39):
Considered from a technical point
of view, the rings from the site of Glozel
reveal an interior surface that is uniformly
polished, while on the exterior one can of-
ten see the depression where small flakes
were detached by percussion before the
These are rings into which it is im-
possible to introduce a hand. Therefore it
is not a question of bracelets.
Nevertheless, we found two pieces
of much bigger rings, covered with char-
acters. One of them also is decorated on its
interior edge with small incisions close to-
gether. These big rings could be used as
bracelets. They must have been more frag-
ile, because of their size, which explains
why we found only fragments. Perhaps
these half-circles of rings were joined to-
gether with the help of ties to form a com-
plete bracelet.
Most of these rings have one side
covered with alphabetic signs like those on
the tablet; the other is plain or sometimes
engraved with little parallel lines as a kind
of decoration.
Some of them have linear characters
on both sides, and on one of them you can
see three animal heads as well (caprids and
Other rings without signs but ex-
actly like the preceding ones may have been
unfinished pieces, or, to be more precise,
those where the engraver had not yet come
to complete the work of the polisher. We
have also found small rings in the form of
finger rings. It is easy to put a finger in-
side and they could, it seems, have been
used for this purpose. One of them has little
lines of ornamentation on one side. These
same lines exist on some schist rings of a
larger size.
Finally, we have found three insides
of rings, detached by multiple blows; this
seems to indicate that the schist rings were
made at the site.
Figure 11: 984.2.181
Figure 12: GF67
Table 1. Idionyms and Celtic words in Fig.11
(The work of Dr. Hans-Rudolph Hitz)
1. Inscription on a schist ring (Fig. 11,
984.2.181, not shown by Morlet) contain-
ing a dedication.
One observes the idionym Tote. Cuve
must be the name of the tribe of Cubes
(Cubi, see Remarks), because the Glozelic
alphabet doesnt have the letter /b/.
As verb, there is avot, in Gaulish has
made, and one finds Tovanui - for Tovanos
(in the dative in -ui).
One finds the ligatures <ot> in Tote and
<nu> in Tovanui.
2. Inscription on a schist ring (Fig.
12, GF 67, GLO-49.5) containing a dedica-
tion. For a name, there is again Tot(e) - with
the omission of the sign of the vowel <e>
(Hitz, 2001) - and Kuva shown as Cuve, the
tribe of the Cubes (Cubi) - but the verb has
made is lacking here. The name
Antiautcnoi (in the dative in-oi) contains
Tote avot Cuve Tovanui
Tote a fait (has made) Cube Tovanui
Tote, the Cube, made it (for) Tovanos
Table 2. Idionyms and Celtic words in Fig.12
Figure 13: GF84
Table 3. Idionyms and Celtic words in Fig.13
Antiautos with the Gallic patronym -cnos
son of .
In this text, there are the ligatures <ot> in
Tot(e) and <ti> in Antiautcnoi.
Kuva Tot Antiautcnoi
Kuva Tot(e) Antiaut cnoi
Cube Tote Antiaut son of
Kuva Tot Antiautcnoi, or the Cube Tote -
made it - (for) the son of Antiautos
The use of the Gaulish patronym -cnos -
son of - shows that the lexicon of Glozel
represents a local form of the Gaulish lan-
3. Inscription on a schist ring (Fig. 13, GF
84, GLO-51.4) containing a dedication.
One observes the idionyms Veda and Octu,
and there is the word sinte, probably with
the meaning in Gaulish sinde this. For a
verb, one finds av, in Gaulish avot has
In this text, there is a ligature <av> in av
and perhaps another <si> in sinte.
Veda sinte av Octu
Veda sinte av Octu
Veda this made Octu
Veda made this (for) Octu
Figure 14: GF82
Table 4. Idionyms and Celtic words in Fig.14
Figure 15: GF 66
Table 5. Idionyms and Celtic words in Fig.15
4. Inscription on a schist ring (Fig. 14, GF
82, GLO-50.2) containing a dedication.
The first symbol is problematical. One
finds the idionym Eoch related to the
name in Gaulish Eochaid .
As verb, there is avut to compare to the
Gaulish avot has made.
? avuteoch ? avuteoch
avut Eoch
has made Eoch
Eoch has made
5. Inscription on a schist ring (Fig. 15, GF
66, GLO-51.3) containing a dedication.
One observes the idionym Aphu Divana
which is not clear, but the letter <ph> in
Aphu must have been borrowed from the
Greek alphabet. As for Divana, the word
is probably related to the root deva /
*deiva which means in Gaulish divine.
And there is perhaps a name T(e)ce which
is difficult to read.
Figure 16: GF91
Table 6. Idionyms and Celtic words in Fig.16
As the verb, one encounters eu, which can
be compared to the Gaulish eu has given
(Hitz, 2001).
There is a ligature <na> in Divana and per-
haps another <ec> in Tece (?)
Tece eu Aphu Divana
Tece eu Aphu Divana
Tece eu Aphu Divana
Tece ddi (has given)
(to) Aphu Divana (?)
6. Inscription on a schist ring (Fig. 16, GF
91, GLO-50.1) containing a dedication.
One observes the idionyms Titiu et Vinno .
The text is mutilated, and one encounters
a letter <e> which must belong to a verb,
perhaps to the Gaulish dede has given
There is a ligature <nn> in Vinno.
e titiuvinno
e Titiu Vinno
(ded)e Titiu Vinno
has given Titiu Vinno
Titiu gave it (to) Vinno
7. Inscription on a schist ring Fig. 17, GF
70, GLO-49.1) containing a dedication. The
signs on the back are problematical. I read
On the front, there is Anu, with a double
ligature in the name <anu>, combined with
the name -etio. In dt one finds probably
again the verb d(e)t(e) has given:
Anuetio dt
Figure 17: GF70, found by Bosch-Gimpera on the
third day of the excavations of the International
Anuetio d(e)t(e)
Anuetio has given
Etio gave it to Anu
Historical narration
Concerning the name of the tribe of
As part of the content of the text on the
first two schist rings, one can read the
names Cuve Tote and Kuva Tote. (Fig. 11,
Fig. 12). We can conclude that this man Tote
was a Cube and lived at Glozel where he
worked as an engraver of the textual in-
scriptions. And the Bituriges who lived in
the center of Gaul, northwest of Glozel in
what is today Berry, had the surname Cubi,
thus Bituriges Cubi.
The Bituriges are a tribe divided into two
Bituriges Cubi in the country of Berry in
the center of Gaul with Avaricum (today
Bourges), as their capital and
Bituriges Vivisci in the Bordelais to the
southwest of Gaul with Burdigala (today
Bordeaux) as their capital (Holder, 1896,
I, p. 434).
Livy mentions that the first Celts who
penetrated the plain of the Po in Italy were
the Bituriges. During centuries this tribe
lived in the center of Gaul. The expansion
across the Alps began about 400 B.C. (?)
when the plain of the Po was already
densely populated (Cunliffe, 1980, p. 133).
According to Livy, it was probably the tribe
of the Bituriges Cubi who moved - accom-
panied by a grand number of members of
other neighboring tribes, especially the
Insubres (Insubri) separated from the
Eduens (Aedui) who settled in the area of
Milan - in the plain of the Po at about 400
B.C. (?).
There, these Gauls entered into contact
with the Lepontiens - who were Celts and
spoke Lepontic - a Celtic language related
to Gaulish - and became aware of their
writing, the Lepontic alphabet - which had
its origin in a North Etruscan alphabet.
And the Gauls borrowed the Lepontic al-
phabet and created for their Gaulish lan-
guage an alphabet Gaulish cisalpin.
General Discussion of the Inscriptions of
The Writing of Glozel
An important indication of the going and
coming between the cisalpine Celtic area
and transalpine Gaul is shown by the im-
portation of the two Celtic alphabets
(Lepontic and cisalpine Gaulish ) into Gaul
and then to Glozel. There, the engravers of
Glozel with other scribes from the area cre-
ated the primary alphabet (Hitz, 2001).
And the engravers of Glozel continued to
practice the art of writing, and they main-
tained an intensive exchange of ideas with
the neighboring scribes. This is how the
primary alphabet of Glozel developed into
a stricter version, le Glozlic (Hitz, 2001).
At Glozel, a Gallic population existed from
the fourth century B.C. (?) which later used
a form of the Lepontic and Gaulish
cisalpine alphabets, imported from
cisalpine Gaul, to write its texts, especially
on urns and vases. One observes in these
texts from Glozel the appearance of the
sign <digamma> for the fricatives /f, v, w/,
but it was abandoned in the Lepontic al-
phabet after 300 B.C. (?) - and probably the
same at Glozel.
As for the inscriptions on the schist rings,
the digamma doesnt exist, and they are
probably dated after 200 B.C. (?) accord-
ing to the character of the letters used. Af-
ter the disappearance of the digamma for
the fricatives /f, v, w/, it seems that one used
the letter <ph> in the texts, which must
have been borrowed from the Greek alpha-
bet (Fig. 15).
One can observe another development in
the writing because of the usage of certain
ligatures in the inscriptions on the schist
rings. But the ligatures appear in a greater
quantity on the tablets of fired clay which
date to the epoch of Imperial Rome, begin-
ning with the Ist century A.D. (?).
The declension of stems in -o (i.e. Tovanos)
possesses in Indo-European an unusual
form of dative *-(i. This ending has evolved
in two directions, in Gaulish either towards
-oi, then -o, or towards -(i, later simplified
-( (Lambert, 1994, p. 51).
In the name Tovanui (of Tovanos) one can
observe an old dative in -ui (Fig. 1), and
in the name Antiautcnoi (of Antiautcnos)
one finds the form of an old dative in -oi
(Fig. 2). These two ancient forms from
Glozel show an early Gaulish state of the
In the name Antiautcnoi , the use of the
Gallic patronym cnos - son of - a typi-
cally Gaulish word appears. In his book
Celtes - images de leur culture (Birkhan,
1999, p. 233) - where my decipherment of
a Glozel urn is published - avot Voie Nike
Teda the Boen Nikos made (for) Teda -
Professor Birkhan states that this text from
Glozel would be in Gaulish Boios Nikos
avot Tedai - with the same translation.
One can then conclude that the lexicon of
Glozel represents a local form of Gaulish.
The inscriptions of Glozel on urns, vases
and schist rings should be dated, accord-
ing to the paleography, the grammar and
the lexicon/syntax to the La Tne epoch:
the texts on urns and vases to about 300
B.C. and the texts on schist rings to about
200 B.C
The inscriptions of Glozel on the tablets of
fired clay - which are not mentioned in this
paper - should be dated, according to the
appearance of a greater number of ligatures
and later character to the epoch of Impe-
rial Rome, from the Ist century A.D.
The Glozel rings are the only schist rings
known to be decorated with characters.
Although in 1939 Jean Gattefoss, an en-
gineer from Lyon, found a ring with thir-
teen alphabetic symbols on one side and
two on the other, it was near Moulin Piat,
two and a half kilometers south of Glozel.
Most of the Glozel stone rings bear deci-
pherable dedicatory inscriptions dating to
the La Tne period. Although derived from
the same tradition as stone rings found
elsewhere in France, they differ from the
majority of these rings in three ways. Al-
most all of them are too small to be worn
as bracelets. They are crudely polished and
not completely round. Many of them are
inscribed with alphabetic letters or deco-
rative lines. This may be because they were
not made as personal ornaments, like the
rings found in Iron Age graves, but as dedi-
catory objects created quickly for use in
some kind of religious rite. The urns, vases,
and tablets from Glozel also bear dedica-
tory inscriptions.
It is interesting that Dr. Hitz is unable to
make sense of the letters on six rings. These,
like a number of the bone pieces with let-
ters, may have been created in the medi-
eval period by people who could not read
the Glozel writing. One of them bears two
unique letters, not found in any of the in-
scriptions that can be deciphered.
The stone from which the Glozel rings are
made probably came from the workshop
at Montcombroux-les-Mines, where brace-
lets were produced from the end of the
Bronze Age through the La Tne period.
Authors: Alice and Robert Gerard, Hans-
Rudolph Hitz, and Roslyn Strong
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