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Hieroglyphic Inscriptions Illuminate the Demise of the Hittites

The political geography of Western Asia Minor at the end of the Bronze Age (ca. 1200 BCE) has finally been established.

The textbooks on the transcription of Luwian hieroglyphics will have to be rewritten.

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Eight Luwian hieroglyphic inscriptions each more than 3,000 years old have been published for the first time, thereby significantly increasing at one stroke the number of transmitted signs dating to the Bronze Age from this long-forgotten script.

The Swiss geoarchaeologist Eberhard Zangger and the Dutch linguist Fred Woudhuizen today published the documents in an online article made available by Talanta – Proceedings of the Dutch Archaeological and Historical Society (https://luwianstudies.academia.edu/EZangger).

The documents were acquired in June 2017 from the estate of the English prehistorian James Mellaart (1925–2012). According to Mellaart’s notes, the inscriptions had been discovered in western Turkey back in the 19th century.

At the time, nobody could read the signs. Nevertheless, archaeologists produced careful drawings of the documents.

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They were meant to be published in the course of an international research project that ran from 1956 to 1984, but ultimately all the participating scholars died before any such publication had appeared.

Among the documents is a 29-meter long, 30-cm tall limestone frieze that was found back in 1878 in the village of Beyköy, approximately 34 kilometers north of Afyonkarahisar in modern Turkey.

It is the longest thus far discovered document from Bronze Age Anatolia, and as such sheds more light on the use of the Luwian language and the hieroglyphic script, which was widespread for about 1,400 years.

The documents illuminate the end of the Bronze Age in the eastern Mediterranean, including the demise of the Hittite kingdom and the Sea Peoples’ invasions. A few hundred place names are listed in the inscriptions, making it possible to establish the political geography of western Asia Minor at around 1200 BCE. Scholars have been arguing about this for almost a century.

Luwian Studies

Header Image – The inscription from Edremit as first reported in 1878 (upper two rows) and the one from Yazılıtaş seen in 1854 (bottom row).

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Mark Milligan
Mark Milligan
Mark Milligan is multi-award-winning journalist and the Managing Editor at HeritageDaily. His background is in archaeology and computer science, having written over 7,500 articles across several online publications. Mark is a member of the Association of British Science Writers (ABSW), the World Federation of Science Journalists, and in 2023 was the recipient of the British Citizen Award for Education, the BCA Medal of Honour, and the UK Prime Minister's Points of Light Award.
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