Archaeologists may have discovered a new Indo-European language related to Hittite.
In the heart of north-central Turkey lies Boğazköy-Hattusha. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is a testament to the advanced urban architecture and artistry of the bygone Hittite Empire. These remnants of history not only provide a glimpse into an ancient civilization but its linguistic gems.
A Surprising Discovery
The Late Bronze Age, spanning from 1650 to 1200 BCE, saw the rise of the Hittite Empire as a dominant force in Anatolia. Beyond their prowess in warfare, the Hittites had a keen inclination towards documentation. From chronicling their monumental battles to codifying laws, they left no stone unturned. The medium? Clay tablets.
To date, researchers have discovered over 30,000 of these in Boğazköy-Hattusha, with most inscribed in the Hittite language.
A New Indo-European Language Related to Hittite
Among the vast array of Hittite tablets, researchers stumbled upon an anomaly: tablets inscribed in an unknown language.
Preliminary investigations suggest this language belonged to the people of Kalašma, near the north-western fringe of the Hittite heartland. The language’s nuances hint at similarities with Luwian, another tongue from the Hittite era.
Initial studies of the tablets indicate that they might detail ancient cultic rituals specific to Kalašma. Professor Daniel Schwemer from Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg emphasizes the Hittites’ unique interest in foreign languages, especially when associated with rituals.
The mystery language, while distinct, showcases clear ties to the Indo-European family of languages.
This linguistic family spans across vast territories, enveloping languages like Hindi, Persian, Russian, and English. In Europe, apart from the unique Basque spoken in the Basque Country, most languages trace their origins back to the Indo-European lineage.
While the discovery of this new language has piqued the interest of linguists worldwide, much remains to be understood. Researchers are working tirelessly to decode the Kalasmaic text, which remains largely elusive.
The excavation in Boğazköy-Hattusha, spearheaded by the German Archaeological Institute, has garnered support from various organizations including the Thyssen Foundation, the GRH Foundation, the Volkswagen Foundation, and the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This collaborative effort brings together experts from different universities to interpret the vast wealth of information these tablets offer.