Giancarlo Tomezzoli

Zeppelinstrasse 43, D-81669 Munich, Germany; E-mail: gtomezzoli@epo.org


1. Introduction.

In the Prae-Historic Section of the Civic Natural History Museum in Verona (Veneto, IT) some archeological findings from the ancient settlement of San Briccio di Lavagno (Verona, IT), including two inscripted horns, are shown to the visitors (cf. Fig. 1). The table near the findings, in Italian, recites:



On a basaltic hill near Lavagno at the end

of the last century come to light various ceramics

and metallic materials of various periods.

Interesting are the horns inscripted in the alphabet

of Magrè (IV – III century B.C.) in close relationship

with those of Magrè near Schio, and Trentino

Alto Adige (Montisei, Sanzeno, Mechei, Malles).


However, no identification, interpretation or translation of the inscriptions on said horns is proposed to the visitors. The only relevant information provided by this table is that the inscriptions are redacted by using the Magrè alphabet (cf. Fig. 2).

In dealing with the ancient people of Rhaethians, ref. (1), on page 16 informs that:

“More interesting is for us to consider the diffusion of the Rhaetic oriental group because that area results marginal or superimposed to the Venetic area; it is constituted: by the tablet of Padua (PID 244), with traits clearly etruscoids, by some inscriptions (Etruscans??) on ring also from Padua, by the inscripted horns of San Briccio di Lavagno (PID 245-6) … . Thus, ref. (1) permits to identify the inscriptions on said horns as PID 245 and PID 246.

The ancient Rhaetians were a Central European people spread in a land comprising: Voralberg and Tirol in present Austria, Trentino and Western Veneto in present Italy, Eastern Switzerland Cantons, part of Bavaria and Baden-Würtenberg in present Germany.

Ref. (2), on page 53, reports:

“246 On two pieces of staghorn, sawn off and bored with holes, like those from Magrè, found in 1883-4 at S. Briccio di Lavagno, about 5 ½ miles north-east of Verona, in the foot-hills of the Monti Lessini (Tredici Comuni), where a pre-Roman site was uncovered during excavations begun by the military authorities for erection of a fortress.


Cipolla suggested that both objects were originally used as knife-handles; … .


Archeologically Verona is important as marking the westward limit of Venetic or Atestine influence, so far, at least present evidence goes … “.



Fig. 1: Inscripted horns in the Civic Natural History Museum in Verona (Veneto, IT).



Fig. 1: Inscripted horns in the Civic Natural History Museum in Verona (Veneto, IT).






Fig. 2: Bolzano, Magrè, Este alphabets (ref. (2)).


Referring specifically to PID 245, ref. (2), on page 53, proposes the following spelling “tinesma” without any attempt of translation or interpretation. Referring specifically to PID 246, ref. (2), on pages 53-54, proposes the spelling “malav.un[” and suggests that a doubt exists about the end of the inscription. It reports also the spelling proposed by Pauli “mapa.n” and Cordenons “mala.u.sn”, however, also in this case no interpretation or translation is provided.

Ref. (3), on page 206, dealing with the Raethic language, informs that:

2. The characteristics of Raetic inferred from the language of Raetic inscriptions are as follows:

1) IE *o becomes a in Raet., cf. Germanic, Messapic, e.g.Raet. elanu (PID 221: Elonius), Raet. Va.l.tikinu (PID 237:Ven: volticenei ‘Volti filii’), Raet. rita- (PID 221, 228:Etr. Ritu- (ŭ > ŏ), Raet. vakhive (PID 247: Voc-), Raet.malav.un (PID 246: Ven. mŏlo.n)”.

In ref. (4), on page 397, M. Bor wrote:

“…, Pallottino considers the Rhaetians and the Etruscans as non-Europeans, whereas the Veneti were in his opinion Indo-Europeans and linguistically close to the Italic group. As is well known, my views about the Venetic language are different, and also I disagree about the Rhaetians and their language.

The Museum in Este preserves the Rhaetian inscriptions. They are engraved on deer horns, actually on short terminal sections of horns.  ../..  … The horns have a hole on the thin end. This give us – besides the language – strong evidence that they were worn by hunters as amulets, and they had a magic significance. Their maximum length is 10 cm, just the size for the purpose. We can expect that these inscriptions were actually spells and warnings against the danger of hunting in those wild mountains”.

In dealing with the cultural relationships between Rhaetians and Veneti, ref. (5), on page 100, informs that:

“…, sure indication of the importance assumed by the hill zone is the development of “cantonal” cult sites (San Briccio di Lavagno, Magrè, Trissino). It is just in these, more than in the inhabited sites, that become evident another remarkable phenomenon, i.e. a gradual process of dissolution of the ethnic-cultural identity, with deep osmosis between Veneti and Rhaetians, as is evident from the presence of ex-votos obtained by horns of deers and animal bones, often with inscriptions in Rhaetic alphabet”.


2. PID 245


Fig. 3: PID 245 inscription.


Fig. 3 shows an enlarged view of PID 245. Observing that characters in Magrè alphabet (Fig. 2) can appear in a direct or reverse orientation, assuming that the two signs on the extreme right of the inscription were not accidental horn defects, but intentionally engraved signs, and reading the inscription from right to left, as usual in the Magrè inscriptions, it is possible to arrive to the following spelling:

I I I I N E S U L A V.


In the inscription:

-          the character after N is not H, but is the result of the fusion of E and S,

-          the last character is V and appears in a reverse orientation,

-          the character preceding V is A and is located below V,

-          this character A is slightly different from those in the Magrè alphabet (Fig. 2) and more close to the sign A in parentheses in the Este alphabet (Fig. 2).


I I I I                : 4 – four, fourth;

NES                 : Slove.: naš, Russ.: наш = Engl.: our;

U L A V          : Slove.: ulov, Pol.: ujak, Slovak.: zajat, Russ.: улов = Engl.: pray, catch, capture.

Translation:           our fourth pray (catch, capture).


3. PID 246.


Fig. 4: PID 246 inscription.


Fig. 4 shows an enlarged view of PID 246. Reading the inscription from right to left, it is possible to arrive to the following spelling:

M A L A I H T N.

In the inscription:

-          the characters A after M and L are slightly different from that in Magrè alphabet (Fig. 2), and close to the third sign of A in the first row of Bolzano alphabet (Fig. 2),

-          the character after MALA is the result of the fusion of three different characters I, H, T,

-          the character H is not that of Magrè alphabet (Fig. 2) but is that of the Este alphabet (Fig. 2).


M A L A: Slove.: malo; Russ.: малый = Engl.: little, child;

I H T N            : Slove.: ihtn, ihtou, ihtav; Russ.: гневный = Engl.: furious, rageous;

Translation: furious child, little furious person, rageous person.


4. Conclusion.

As far as can be understood, the inscriptions suggest that the corresponding horns have the function of portable (ref. 4), little, decorative trophies or amulets. This permits to exclude that these horns were ex-votos (ref. 5). The presence of Este’s characters in the inscriptions confirms that San Briccio di Lavagno was a settlement at the west margin (ref. 2), or westward limit (ref. 5) of the Venetic or Atestine influence and that a real osmotic cultural process taken place in San Briccio di Lavagno between the Venetic and Rhaetic cultures (ref. 5). The Rhaetic language, as well as the Venetic language, seems to be more similar to modern Central European Slavic languages than to the Latin or the Italic group languages (ref. 4).



1.        G. B. Pellegrini, A.L. Prosdocimi, La Lingua Venetica, I – Le Iscrizioni, Ist. Di Glottologia dell’ Univ. Di Padova, Circolo Linguistico Fiorentino, 1967;

2.        R. W. Conway, The Prae-Italic Dialects, II, Part 3, Cambridge, Mass, 1973;

3.        T. Hirunama, The Dialects of Ancient Northern Italy: their positioning and significance, Journal of Indo European Studies, 14, N. 1, 1986;

4.        J. Šavli, M. Bor, I Tomažič, Veneti. First Builders of European Community, Editiones Veneti, Vienna 1996;

5.        L. Capuis, I Veneti, Società e Cultura di un Popolo dell'Italia Preromana, Biblioteca di Archeologia, Vol. 19, Longanesi & C, Milano, 1993.



I whish to thank Prof. A. Perdih for his suggestions in translating MALAIHTN.



V prazgodovinskem oddelku Javnega naravoslovnega muzeja v Veroni (Veneto, Italija) lahko obiskovalci vidijo dva retijska napisa na jelenovih rogovih: PID 245 in PID 246. Napisana sta v magrèjski pisavi in izhajata iz starodavne naselbine San Briccio di Lavagno (Veneto, IT). O teh napisih so razpravljali v številnih člankih, vendar ju doslej še nihče ni razložil ali prevedel.

Črkovanje in razlaga napisov PID245 in PID246 v prispevku sta taka:

PID 245: I I I I N E S U L A V, slovensko: IIII naš ulov = angleško: our fourth pray (catch, capture);

PID 246: M A L A I H T N, slovensko: malo ihtav = angleško: little furious child (person).

Nekdanji Retijci so bili srednjeevropsko ljudstvo, ki je živelo v pokrajinah, ki so sedaj: Voralberg in Tirolska v Avstriji; Južna Tirolska, Trentino in zahodni Veneto v Italiji; vzhodni kantoni v Švici; del Bavarske in Baden-Würtenberškega v Nemčiji.

Iz razlage napisov PID 245 in PID 246 lahko sklepamo, da so bili ti jelenovi rožički mali prenosni znaki zmage ali uspešnega lova ali pa amuleti; sklepati moremo tudi, da niso služili kot votivi. Atestinske črke na teh napisih potrjujejo, da je bilo naselje San Briccio di Lavagno ob zahodnem robu ali na zahodni meji venetskega ali atestinskega vpliva in da so se tu mešali vplivi venetske in retijske kulture. Ta napisa kažeta, da sta retijski in venetski jezik bolj podobna sedanjim srednjeevropskim slovanskim jezikom kot pa latinščini ali italski skupini jezikov.