Archaeologists have discovered an unknown Indo-European language inscribed on a cultic ritual tablet that was excavated earlier this year from the ruins of a metropolis that flourished in Turkey more than 3,000 years ago.
An unknown language has been identified in a ritual tablet found at Bogazkoy Hattusha. This site was the capital of an influential Hittite empire that thrived between 1650 and 1200 BCE. The ancient city was home to about 50,000 people at its peak, before it was destroyed along with the broader Hittite state by a mysterious catastrophe called the Bronze Age collapse that wiped out many civilizations around the Mediterranean Sea.
Archeologists have found nearly 30,000 clay tablets etched with cuneiform script, which is the earliest known writing system, since they began excavating the expansive ruins of Bogazkoy-Hattusha nearly 100 years ago. Most of the texts are written in the Hittite tongue, though these peoples also took pains to preserve other languages on these tablets, such as Luwian, Palaic, and Hattic.
Now, researchers led by Andreas Schachner, a professor in the Istanbul department of the German Archaeological Institute, report the discovery of a short recitation in an entirely new language, which was written on a tablet unearthed during an expedition at Bogazkoy-Hattusha this year. The Hittites who inscribed this tablet said the language belonged to the people of Kalasma, a region that fell within their empire and was likely located around the modern Turkish province of Bolu.
The enigmatic recitation has not yet been deciphered, though Schachner’s team has confirmed that the text belongs to a wider group of Anatolian-Indo-European languages. And while the researchers were delighted to find the novel inscription, they noted that it was not entirely unexpected because the Hitties took pains to preserve many languages.
“The Hittites were uniquely interested in recording rituals in foreign languages,” said Daniel Schwemer, head of the Chair of Ancient Near Eastern Studies at Julius-Maximilians-Universitat (JMU) Wurzburg, in a statement.
The research team plans to keep trying to decipher the meaning behind the recitation while continuing to excavate at Bogazkoy Hattusha which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 1986.
These efforts could reveal new insights about the reign of the Hittites, an Anatolian people that dominated much of what is now Turkey in the second millennium BCE. This lost civilization, which is frequently mentioned in the Hebrew Bible, left behind a vast trove of monumental architecture, urban infrastructure, and artifacts.
While the Hittites were a major power in this region for several centuries, their empire had begun to decline even before it fell victim to the Bronze Age collapse around the 12th century BCE. This period of chaos was caused by climate change, famine and disease.
While these ancient peoples made an immense archaeological and cultural footprints, the discovery of the new language at Bogazkoy-Hattusha is a reminder of how much left there is to learn about their world.
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