Gaulish Multilingualism?: Writing, Receipts, and Colonial Entanglements


  • Matthew Coleman University of Arizona


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.

Author Biography

Matthew Coleman, University of Arizona

Coleman is currently a PhD candidate in Ancient Rome focusing on contact and the development of tradition in the Provinces. His dissertation looks at grassroots social and economic material to find the commonality of symbolic vocabulary that appeared in the first and second centuries CE in the region. He also concentrates on prestige symbolic communication in the Hellenistic East.