When Cambridge archaeologist John MacGinnis examined a tablet listing the names of 60 women found at an Assyrian governor’s palace in southeastern Turkey, he noticed that most did not bear resemblance to other ancient Near Eastern names or languages. As names were usually formed out of ordinary words, the tablet from ancient Tushan indicates the discovery of a “new” ancient language.
The international team of archaeologists working at Tushan (Ziyaret Tepe) found the tablet in an archive, suggesting that the list may have been created as a record of working people kept for economic reasons. MacGinnis believes the women, whose names include Ushimanay, Alagahnia, Irsakinna and Bisoonoomay, came from the Zagros Mountains in Western Iran. During the 8th-century B.C.E., the Assyrian kings Tiglath Pilasser III and Sargon II carried out military campaigns in the Zagros area, a region whose ancient languages are not well known.