Excavations at Hittite capital reveal unknown language
Excavations at the site of Hattusa, the capital of the Hittite empire, have revealed a cuneiform tablet written in a previously unknown Indo-European language. According to the tablet, the language comes from the land of Kalashma, on the northwest edge of the Hittite heartland. This new language joins Hittite, Luwian, and Palaic as one of the oldest recorded Indo-European languages, all of which come from Anatolia.
The ancient site of Hattusa (modern Bogazköy in north-central Turkey) has been a treasure trove of archaeological finds for over a century, providing excavators with more than 30,000 tablets. Written mainly in the cuneiform script, these tablets record the history, society, economy, and religious traditions of the Hittites and their neighbors. Most of the tablets date to the Late Bronze Age (c. 1550–1200 BCE), when the kings of Hattusa controlled a vast territory stretching from the Aegean to the Euphrates.
The tablet with the newly discovered language records a religious ritual of the land of Kalashma. “The Hittites were uniquely interested in recording rituals in foreign languages,” explained Daniel Schwemer of Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg, an expert in ancient Anatolian texts.
Although experts are still working on deciphering the new language, they already know a great deal based on its use of cuneiform, which allows them to compare it to other Bronze Age languages. From what they have determined, the language is closely related to Luwian, one of the most common languages of the Hittite empire. Based on the text’s Hittite introduction, the team was able to determine that the language was used in the land of Kalashma.
Hittite was the official language of the Hittite empire and is the oldest recorded Indo-European language. It was the most prevalent language found at Hattusa, although many others have been discovered as well, including other Anatolian Indo-European languages, such as Luwian and Palaic, and many non-Indo-European languages as well.
Sign up to receive our email newsletter and never miss an update.