Gaulish Multilingualism?: Writing, Receipts, and Colonial Entanglements
Keywords:Gaul, Rome, bilingualism, La Graufesenque, pottery, entanglement, material culture
The site of La Graufesenque in southern France was one of the largest producers of terra sigillata pottery in the Roman Empire during the first century CE. It is also the site of a large repository of receipts in Gaulish, which were used for tracking pots fired in the massive kilns. While the combination of borrowed words and Latin alphabet that craftsmen inscribed on pots mirrored linguistic patterns in other areas of the Gaulish Provinces, the script itself reveals a unique linguistic style. Coleman argues these receipts represent an ‘entanglement’ of languages rather than a case of what we call bilingualism today. The potters at La Graufesenque wrote within a cosmopolitan community, but in a uniquely local style. Understanding the nuances of these receipts may lead to a more precise analysis of the societal changes in Gaul under the Roman Empire.
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