Excavation in Turkey Leads to the Discovery of Ancient Indo-European Language From Kalašma

An excavation conducted at Boğazköy-Hattusha, a UNESCO heritage site in north-central Turkey around present-day Bolu or Gerede, unearthed the cuneiform writing.

A recent excavation in Turkey has led to the discovery of an ancient Indo-European language after researchers found a recitation hidden in the text of a Hittite cultic ritual. Photo courtesy of Andreas Schachner/Deutsches Archäologisches Institut

A recent excavation in Turkey has led to the discovery of an ancient Indo-European language after researchers found a recitation hidden in the text of a Hittite cultic ritual, already being referred to by some as Kalašmaic or the Kalašma language.

The excavation was conducted at Boğazköy-Hattusha, a site in north-central Turkey listed as a world heritage site by UNESCO, according to a news release published by the Julius Maximilian University of Würzburg in Germany.

Nearly 30,000 clay tablets with cuneiform writing have been found at Boğazköy-Hattusha, which was the capital of the Hittite Empire during the Late Bronze Age, which ended around 1200 B.C.E.

The site, which has been under excavation for about 100 years, is under the direction of Andreas Schachner of the Istanbul Department of the German Archaeological Institute while JMU professor Daniel Schwemer is leading research into the cuneiform text.

Most of the texts are written in Hittite so researchers were surprised when they made the discovery of the previously unknown language. The discovery was not entirely unexpected though, as Schwemer noted that the Hittites “were uniquely interested in recording rituals in foreign languages.”

Writing in the ancient text, the Hittites said the language came from the foreign land of Kalašma around present-day Bolu or Gerede.

Such ritual texts were written by scribes to document the traditions of the region and include passages in languages including Luwian and Palaic, two other Anatolian-Indo-European languages closely related to Hittite, as well as Hattic, a non-Indo-European language—and now the language of Kalašma.

Researcher Elisabeth Rieken of Philipps-Universität Marburg said in the news release the new language seems to share more features with Luwian than Palaic.

Little details were provided about the recitation and what it said. Schwemer said by email that the text will be published in the seventh installment of a series of volumes of cuneiform texts on February 9, 2024, with a transliteration published in the Thesaurus Linguarum Hethaeorum Digitalis, a peer-reviewed archive of transliterations of cuneiform manuscripts from Hittite tablet collections.

That same day, researchers Reiken and Ilya Yakubovich will present the first analysis of the text at an online seminar of the Meetings on Aegean Studies 2024, an academic conference. The full peer-reviewed paper with the excavation report will be edited by Andreas Schachner for the journal Archäologischer Anzeiger in late 2024.

Earlier this year, a group of German researchers decoded an ancient script dating back thousands of years to the Kushan Empire for the first time, nearly 70 years after it was first identified.


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