Mysterious Artifact Discovered in Spain Could Contain Clues About Origins of the Basque Language

Back in 2021, a team of archeologists discovered a mysterious, hand-shaped artifact in Spain that was estimated to be more than 2,000 years old. The artifact, nicknamed Hand of Irulegi, contained unknown inscriptions, which experts believe contain clues about the origins of the modern Basque language, known as Euskara, according to a recently published study in Antiquity journal.

The team behind the study believes that the inscription was made in one of the ancient Vasconic languages spoken in the northern part of the Iberian Peninsula and that it predates Euskara. This would be the longest and oldest piece of text written in one of these ancient languages if their conclusion is correct.

The linguists are unsure about the exact origins of Euskara, although it is widely accepted that it originated from the various Vasconic languages spoken in the same region.

There are at least five words inscribed on the artifact, uncovered in Aranguren Valley, northern Spain. One of the words that have been identified is “sorioneku”, which is similar to the Basque word “zorioneko”, meaning “fortunate”.

“The hand would’ve had a ritual function, either to attract good luck or as an offering to an Indigenous god or goddess of fortune,” Mattin Aiestaran, an archaeologist at the University of the Basque Country and co-author of the study, told Live Science.

The discovery could prove to be significant. The experts previously believed that the Vascones, a tribe that inhabited the modern Basque area, didn’t use writing until being introduced to the Latin alphabet.

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