Archaeologists recently made a startling discovery among the ruins Hattusthe ancient capital of the empire Hittite it is located in today’s Turkey. There they found thousands of ancient engraved clay tablets, including one particularly remarkable one. It actually contains written text cuneiform which according to the researchers written in an ancient language never documented in modern times.
These inscriptions were discovered at the end of a ritual text written in Hittite. It is the language of the empire of the same name that ruled overAnatolia — the Asian part of modern Turkey — two to three thousand years BC. This language, also based on cuneiform, has already been partially translated.
Researchers have not yet published a photo of this famous pill. But according to ScienceAlertnear the end of the Hittite text, archaeologists discovered a phrase roughly meaning ” From now on, read in the language of the land of Kalashma “. And the rest of the text does not correspond to any known language of the ancient Near East.
The Hittites were great polyglots
This last line is an important clue to the origin of this ancient document. Really, Kalashma was an Anatolian province on the border of the Hittite Empire during the Bronze Age.
For researchers, this is an important discovery. This illustrates the Hittites’ fascination with other cultures of the time. According to Daniel Schwemer, an archaeologist from Germany’s University of Würzburg, they have acquired a habit preserve traces of various rituals in foreign languagesto the delight of contemporary archaeologists.
The discovery of a new language in the Hattus archives is therefore not a complete surprise. In the past, other archaeologists have already found other texts in a multitude of ancient Anatolian languages. ” The Hittites had a special interest in foreign languages”summarizes Schwemer.
Cultural and diplomatic strategy
For the historian Tülin Cengiz, cit ScienceAlert, these conservation efforts testify to the existence of a certain culture of tolerance. But their motivation was not only cultural and scientific. It was both a strategic and diplomatic issue.
Indeed, as the Hittite Empire spread between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean, it absorbed a large number of different cultures, each with its own religious customs. Numerous archaeological traces indicate that several hundred deities were worshiped within the Hittite Empire.
Showing some respect for other religions in this way was therefore a way of gaining the respect of other groups. This would help limit religious friction to preserve the stability of the empire as it expanded. And apparently this strategy worked well; the people of Kalashma joined the Hittites in the battle against the Egyptian Empire, 1274 BC. Kr.
From now on, the challenge will be to decipher this new language, which seems to belong to the Anatolian Indo-European family. Currently, researchers have not yet managed to translate this mysterious part of the text.
But they hope to succeed. Indeed, this language has similarities with Luvite, another Anatolian dialect. And it is a surprising similarity, because it was not the majority language in the region; THE palait it was apparently more common. Therefore, it could be a an important part of the great Anatolian linguistic puzzle which the researchers hope to reconstruct.