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Archaeologists discover previously unknown ancient language

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Archaeological research in the Middle East reveals how long-forgotten ancient civilizations used previously undiscovered linguistics to promote multiculturalism and political stability It is becoming.

This breakthrough also sheds new light on how early empires functioned.

Ongoing excavations in Turkey are taking place in the ruins of the ancient capital of the Hittite Empire, and it is noteworthy that the imperial civil service included entire departments devoted, in whole or in part, to the study of the religions of the target peoples. Evidence has been obtained.

Evidence suggests that in the second millennium BC, Hittite leaders instructed civil servants to write down and record the religious liturgy and other traditions of their target peoples in their local languages ​​(but in the Hittite script). doing. preserved and embedded in the empire’s highly inclusive multicultural religious system.

So far, modern experts on ancient languages ​​have found that Hittite civil servants preserved and recorded the religious texts of at least five target ethnic groups.

The most recent example was discovered just two months ago. The document was found to be written in a previously unknown Middle Eastern language that had been lost for up to 3,000 years.

One of Hattusa’s city gates still survives. Two stone lions were placed there to ward off evil. Like any newly discovered religious text, its role was to protect the people.

(Daniel Schwemer)

Over several decades, some 30,000 complete and fragmentary clay tablets have been unearthed at the ruins of the ancient Hittite capital Hattusa (now known as Boğazköy), about 160 miles east of modern-day Turkey’s capital Ankara. has been done.

The majority were written in Hittite, the main language of the empire. However, Hittite government scribes estimated that about 5 percent of them were from the empire’s ethnic minority groups: the Luwians (from parts of southeastern Anatolia), the Palais (from parts of northwestern Anatolia), and the Hattians (from central ) written wholly or partly in the language of an ethnic group. Anatolians) and Hurrians (from Syria and northern Mesopotamia).

The most recently discovered minority language recorded by government scribes (and hitherto unknown to modern scholars) is called Karasmai. This is because the language is thought to have been spoken by the subjects of a region called Karasma in the northwest corner of the empire.

Restoration of part of the walls of Hattusa

(Daniel Schwemer)

This discovery suggests that even the empire’s most obscure languages ​​were recorded, studied, and preserved in written form. This suggests that in a particular set of ancient scriptures that archaeologists are currently excavating at Boğaziköy, other previously unknown minor Middle Eastern languages ​​recorded on Hittite clay tablets are This will increase your chances of being discovered.

Imperial civil servant scribes wrote all manuscripts in the Hittite version of an existing Mesopotamian-origin script (the world’s oldest writing system) called cuneiform. Cuneiform consists of wedge-shaped lines arranged in groups representing syllables.

The Middle East region, which is now Turkey, was particularly rich in languages ​​in ancient times.

Linguistic diversity often depends on topography. The more mountains and isolated valley systems there are, the more languages ​​are likely to develop and survive.

Today, only five minority languages ​​are known from the Bronze Age Hittite Empire, but in reality, given the mountainous topography, there may have been at least 30.

In fact, right next to the ancient Hittite Empire was the Caucasus Mountains region, which still boasts around 40 languages ​​today.

Hittite is the world’s oldest proven Indo-European language.

The earliest inscriptions date back to the 16th century BC. As an Indo-European language, it is related to most modern European languages ​​(including English) and many Asian languages ​​(including Iranian and many Indian languages). In fact, despite a 3,000-year time gap, ancient Hittite and modern English share dozens of common words.

Wataru For example, it means “water” in Hittite. Dattaru This was the main part of the Hittite word for “daughter.” It was “wine” wiyanameanwhile card “heart/heart” new It meant “new” in their language.

The excavation of ancient scripts at Bogázköy will help linguistics experts better understand the evolution of the ancient Bronze Age Indo-European languages, which are distantly related to English.

The current excavations are being led by Professor Andreas Schachner of the German Archaeological Institute in Istanbul, while paleolinguists from the University of Würzburg and the University of Istanbul are in charge of studying the text on the tablets.

“The history of the Bronze Age Middle East is only partially understood, and the discovery of additional clay tablet documents is helping to significantly increase scholars’ knowledge,” says the newly discovered document. said Professor Daniel Schwemer, a cuneiform expert at the University of Wurzburg who is leading the study.

Fragments of cuneiform Hittite festival texts discovered this year in the Hittite capital Hattuša/Boğazköy

(Boazköy Mission Archive/Daniel Schwemerg)

The Boğaziköy excavations are currently unearthing 30 to 40 new cuneiform tablets or tablets each year. Boğazköy (ancient Hattusa) is of particular importance because, as the center of the Hittite Empire (c. 1650 BC to c. 1200 BC), it was the capital of one of his first six truly large imperial political systems in the world. is. Therefore, it was one of the world’s first full-fledged document-writing civil service centers.

The Hittite Empire stretched from the Aegean Sea in the west to what is now northern Iraq in the east, from the Black Sea in the north to Lebanon in the south.

This civilization fundamentally changed human history. Because its technological innovations (particularly the invention of iron, the development of sophisticated ultralight tanks, and the creation of a rich civil service) made possible the expansion of war and government, and the creation of ever-larger states. Empire.

Ongoing archaeological research at Boğaziköy is shedding surprising new light on how the Hittite civilization functioned and how it contributed to transforming human history.

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