Enigmatic Ancient Language: In a captivating find during excavations in Turkey, archaeologists have recently uncovered a previously unknown ancient language inscribed on an ancient tablet.
According to Germany’s Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg, a renowned public research university, this lost language belongs to the Indo-European family, which encompasses numerous related tongues believed to trace back to a common prehistoric ancestor.
Nearly half of the world’s population speaks an Indo-European language, with English, Hindi, Spanish, French, Russian, Portuguese, German, Punjabi, and Bengali among the most widely spoken. These languages are indigenous to various regions, including Europe, the Iranian plateau, and the northern Indian subcontinent.
The latest identification of an Indo-European language stems from a ritual text etched on a tablet found at the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Boğazköy-Hattusha in Turkey’s northern Çorum province. Boğazköy-Hattusha was once the capital of the Hittite Empire, a dominant power in the Near East during the Late Bronze Age (approximately 1650-1200 B.C.).
For over a century, excavations led by the German Archaeological Institute (DAI) have been ongoing at Boğazköy-Hattusha. To date, approximately 30,000 clay tablets have been unearthed, shedding light on various aspects of life during the Hittite era. These tablets bear inscriptions in cuneiform, considered the earliest known writing system. Originating from the ancient Sumerians of Mesopotamia over 5,000 years ago, cuneiform was employed to write several languages of the ancient Near East.
Most of the inscriptions discovered at Boğazköy-Hattusha document the extinct Hittite language, the oldest attested member of the Indo-European family. The site also provides evidence of other languages, such as Luwian and Palaic.
However, this year’s excavations, spearheaded by Professor Dr. Andreas Schachner from the DAI’s Istanbul Department, astonishingly revealed a recitation of a previously unknown extinct language. Encoded within a cuneiform tablet containing a Hittite ritual text, this newfound language was referred to as the “language of the land of Kalašma” in the Hittite inscription. The region associated with Kalašma likely corresponds to modern-day towns of Bolu or Gerede in northern Turkey.
“The Hittites exhibited a unique interest in recording rituals in foreign languages,” stated Daniel Schwemer, Head of the Chair of Ancient Near Eastern Studies at Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg, in a press release.
Although the recently discovered language remains largely enigmatic, Professor Elisabeth Rieken from Germany’s Philipps University of Marburg, an expert in Anatolian languages, has confirmed that the Kalasmaic tongue belongs to the Indo-European family, as reported by Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg.
Earlier this year, researchers achieved a significant breakthrough by partially deciphering the “unknown” Kushan script, an ancient writing system that had confounded scholars for decades. Their findings were published in the journal Transactions of the Philological Society.