Neo-Hittite Inscription

Neo-Hittite Inscription

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HITTITES, an ancient people of Anatolia. The name Hittites is taken from the biblical Hebrew Ḥitti (gentilic), plural Ḥittim, which stems from the form 𞉊tti found as a geographic term in cuneiform texts, the vowel change resulting from a Hebrew phonetic law. The form 𞉊tti is used in Akkadian. Since this name always occurs in combination with a noun, such as "country of 𞉊tti," "king of 𞉊tti," etc., it is uncertain whether the final-i is part of the stem or rather the Akkadian genitive ending that would make the nominative 𞉊ttu. The occurrence of a term 𞉊ttum in Old Assyrian texts (with the-m suffix of the Old Period) had been cited in support of the second alternative. The problem is, however, complicated by the fact that the same sources mention a place called 𞉊ttuš, whose relation to 𞉊ttum is not clear, and that in later periods the Hittites themselves used the form 𞉊tti for both the country and its capital when they wrote Akkadian, but 𞉊ttuᘚ, also in both usages, when writing Hittite, while an adjective, 𞉊ttili, was derived from the short form. In writing these names the Hittites often used the word sign for "silver," writing SILVER-ti for Akkadian 𞉊tti, SILVER- for Hittite 𞉊ttuᘚ. It is worth noting that one of the Ugaritic words for "silver" Ugaritic ḥtt is an Anatolian loanword (Tropper, 111, 122). Conventionally the form 𞉊tti is used by moderns.

𞉊tti was originally the name of the region comprising the large bend of the river Halys (Kizil Irmak) and of the city whose ruins are at the village of Boghazköy (c. 100 miles directly east of Ankara). The Hittites who ruled that country during most of the second millennium B.C.E. were invaders speaking an Indo-European language when they arrived they found a population that spoke a different language, of agglutinative type, and this non-Indo-European tongue they called 𞉊ttili – "belonging to 𞉊tti." Although both the name Hittite and the term 𞉊ttili are derived from the same geographic name, they refer to entirely different entities. To avoid confusion scholars call the old indigenous language "Hattic" or "Proto-Hattic," the people "Hattians" or "Proto-Hattians," while reserving the term "Hittite" for the Indo-European-speaking newcomers, who took over much of the civilization of the indigenous population in material culture and religion. The reason that Hattic texts have survived at all is that the Hittites still used them in the cult. Thus, there is cultural continuity, the Hattian element being an integral part of the civilization of the Hittites. The Indo-European language called Hittite by moderns was called Nesian by the Hittites themselves, the name being derived from that of Neᘚ, one of their early capitals (see below).


It is not known when or from where the Indo-European-speaking Hittites came. The problem becomes even more complex if the other Indo-European languages of Anatolia are considered. The documents of the Assyrian merchant colonies (see ʪsia Minor ) give only partial answers to these questions. Among the proper names of local persons there are some that contain Indo-European Hittite elements accordingly, some individuals, at least, belonging to the newcomers were present in Kaneš in the 19 th century B.C.E. The Hittites derived their own kingdom from the kings of Kušᘚr, a town, according to Old Assyrian documents recently made available, situated in the mountainous region southeast of Kaneš. An important source for the early period is the inscription of a certain Anitta, king of Kušᘚr, found in the Hittite capital and written in Hittite (COS I, 183�). In it the king relates that his father, Pithana, conquered the city of Neᘚ but spared its people. When he subsequently speaks of his own deeds Anitta mentions Neᘚ as his own city to which he brings captives and booty and where he builds temples. Thus, despite the title King of Kušᘚr, Neᘚ seems to have been the royal residence. Both Pith㋪na and Anitta are attested to in the Assyrian merchant documents found in the later settlement at Kaneš (see ʪsia Minor ) where they apparently ruled. According to some scholars Neᘚ and Kaneš are the same city this theory, if correct, would greatly contribute to an understanding of the historical situation.

The Hittite empire of the second millennium B.C.E. (c. 1800�). Based on the Westminster Historical Atlas to the Bible, Philadelphia, Pa., 1945.

Anitta tells about a number of conquests, the most important being that of 𞉊ttuᘚ, which he burned and whose site he cursed. Among the remains of 𞉊ttuᘚ at Boghazköy, documents of the type representative of the later merchant colony were found in houses which had been destroyed by fire, perhaps indicative of the destruction by Anitta. Within the period of the later colony, Pith㋪na and Anitta fall relatively late, perhaps in the middle of the 18 th century B.C.E., or even later. Still, knowledge is lacking for the period between Anitta and the beginning of the Old Hittite Kingdom, whose founder was a certain Labarna, alternatively, Tabarna, king of Kušᘚr, indicating that the kingdom was still connected with that town. That Labarna founded a new dynasty seems likely because of the later tradition which carries historical accounts back to him, but no further his name was taken by all later kings, so that it almost became a title (comparable to Roman "Caesar"). Labarna's conquests, learned of only from a later source, included Tuwanuwa (near Nighde) and Hupišna (Ereghli). Contemporary sources are for the first time available on his successor, who called himself Labarna (II) and King of Kušᘚr, but who was better known to posterity by his second name, 𞉊ttušili. This name is the gentilic derived from Hattuᘚ, and, indeed, in his own inscriptions 𞉊ttuᘚ figures as the capital. He moved there, apparently, despite the old curse. Labarna and his successors definitely were Indo-European-speaking Hittites for Pithana and Anitta this is uncertain but not impossible. If one could reconstruct the course of events so that the Indo-European-speaking Hittites first held the eastern town of Kušᘚr and from there moved to Neᘚ (= Kaneš?), then to the region of Tyana (Nighde), and finally to 𞉊tti, it would indicate that the last part of their movement was from East to West, which would favor the eastern route also for their entry into Anatolia. Hattušili I fought extensive wars, partly in Anatolia and partly in northern Syria. He boasts of having been the first to cross the Euphrates and of having destroyed Alalakh (Tell Atchana). As his successor 𞉊ttušili appointed an adopted son, Muršili (I), who continued the move toward the southeast by conquering the kingdom of Aleppo and even raiding Babylon, which marks the fall of the First Dynasty of Babylon, dated (in the "middle" chronology) 1595 B.C.E. This brings Labarna to about 1660.

Muršili was assassinated, and a period of dynastic struggle followed until King Telipinu (c. 1550) introduced strict rules for hereditary succession (COS I: 194�). After him only the names of some rulers are known. About 1450 a new dynasty came to the throne, founding the so-called New Kingdom. After modest beginnings and serious setbacks, this kingdom rose to empire under King Šuppiluliuma (I) (c. 1370�). Being a younger son, he usurped the throne, but his military and diplomatic success atoned for the usurpation. Having reconquered the lost territories in Anatolia, Šuppiluliuma moved against the kingdom of Mitanni in northern Mesopotamia, one of the great powers of the time. After an unsuccessful first attempt, he defeated Mitanni and conquered most of its Syrian territories as far south as Kadesh on the Orontes. At a later date he took advantage of dynastic struggles in Mitanni by helping one of the contenders and installing him as his vassal. In Syria the Hittites also threatened the Egyptian possessions Hittite sources here supplement the information contained in the ʮl-Amarna letters. Thus a treaty concluded by Šuppiluliuma with Aziru, king of Amurru (COS II, 93�), shows that the latter actually switched his allegiance from Egypt to 𞉊tti despite the letters he wrote to the Pharaoh. Most characteristic of the Hittites' prestige is the request of the widow of Tutankhamen, who wrote to Šuppiluliuma asking for a Hittite prince whom she would marry and make king of Egypt. The plan failed because her opponents killed the Hittite prince when he arrived, and his father had to send an army to avenge him.

Šuppiluliuma's successors were, on the whole, able to maintain the empire. Muršili II (c. 1345�) incorporated into the empire as vassals the Arzawa countries of southwestern Anatolia. Muwatalli fought the famous battle of Kadesh (1300 B.C.E.) against Ramses II of Egypt. Claimed as victory by both sides, the battle left the status of Hittite and Egyptian possession in Syria unchanged. Against the danger stemming from Assyria's rise to power, 𞉊ttušili III concluded a peace treaty with Ramses (1284 B.C.E.) and later (1271) gave him his daughter as wife. Friendly relations between the two powers continued from that time. Tudhaliya IV (c. 1250) still held Syria, including Amurru most of his military activity was in the west. During his reign one foreign power, Aḥḥiyawa, probably the Akhean kingdom of Mycenae and mentioned already by earlier kings, seemed to be aggressive in western Anatolia. Under Tudhaliya's son, Arnuwanda, the situation in the west apparently further deteriorated. The last king, Šuppiluliuma II, tells of a naval victory over ships of Cyprus, but shortly thereafter the Hittite empire is destroyed. The end is marked by burnt levels in all sites and by the disappearance of written sources. However, it is not known how or by whom the destruction was brought about, or what role inner weakness may have played. The only information comes from the Egyptian records of Ramses III, which mention, in his eighth year (c. 1190), the attack of so-called Peoples of the Sea who are said to have overrun all the countries "from 𞉊tti on."

The downfall is followed by a dark age at the end of which the map of Anatolia had been redrawn. Small states known as Late Hittite or Neo-Hittite, because of the inscriptions written in the so-called Hittite hieroglyphs found in the areas they occupied, extended far into Syria, Hamath on the Orontes being the southernmost. In contrast to the small states of Anatolia, some – but not all – of those in Syria were taken over by Arameans: Till Barsip on the Euphrates became Aramean Bit Adini about 950 B.C.E. shortly after, the Aramean Gabbar founded a dynasty at Samɺl (Zinjirli), similarly the region around Arpad became the Aramean Bit Agusi about 890, while Hamath fell to the Arameans as late as about 820 B.C.E. In contrast, Carchemish on the Euphrates was ruled by "Late Hittites" (Luwians according to their language) until it became an Assyrian province in 717. The important point is that the Assyrians, who continually fought these small states until Sargon II finally incorporated them into his empire as provinces, continued to call the whole region Hatti, regardless of whether the people were Luwians or Arameans. Even more than a century after the last "Hittite" state had disappeared, the Babylonian chronicle introduces Nebuchadnezzar's first war against Jerusalem (598 B.C.E.) with the words "he went to 𞉊tti." The name Hatti was now used in a vague sense for the entire Mediterranean littoral.

Hittites in the Bible

The Anatolian Hittites of the second pre-Christian millennium seem to have left no traces in the Hebrew Bible. Those books of the Bible that mention Hittites in connection with events of the monarchy clearly refer to the "late Hittites" of that same period: "Uriah the Hittite" under David (II Sam. 11:3 I Chron. 11:41) Solomon's Hittite wives (I Kings 11:1) and the horses sent by him to "all the kings of the Hittites and the kings of the Arameans" (I Kings 10:29 II Chron. 1:17 cf. also II Kings 7:6). In contrast to these passages are those that mention Hittites as part of the pre-Israelite population of Palestine (Gen. 15:20 23 26:34, et al., Ex. 3:8, et al. Deut. 7:1 Josh. 3:10 9:1 et al. Judg. 3:5 I Kings 9:20 = II Chron. 8:7 Ezra 9:1 Neh. 9:8), especially of its mountainous part (Num. 13:29 Josh. 11:3). The Hittite empire of the second millennium never included Palestine. To explain these passages some scholars have adduced the so-called Khirbet Kerak ware, a kind of pottery similar to wares found in Anatolia and further east. If this pottery really attests Anatolians in Palestine, they would be Hattians at best, and the time lapse from the Early Bronze Age to the conquest would be more than a millennium, a very long time for a name to be remembered. Others have adduced a Hittite source according to which, some time before Šuppiluliuma I, some Hittites migrated from Anatolia "into Egypt." If this means Egypt proper it has no bearing on the question (despite the convenient parallel it furnishes to the Children of Israel). Only if it is assumed that "Egypt" refers to Egyptian-held territory which happened to be Palestine can the phrase serve as an explanation for the mention of those early Hittites. Neither of these theories is convincing. It is rather that the writers of the Bible used the designations "Hittite" and "Canaanite," mostly pejoratively, for the aboriginal inhabitants of the country. Esau's Hittite wives (Gen. 26:34) are called Canaanites in Gen. 27:46. "The "Hittites" of David's time, Uriah (II Sam. 11:3, 17, 21) and Ahimelech (I Sam. 26:6), may have traced their descent to old pre-Israelite families. By the eighth century, māt 𞉪tti, "Hittite land" in Neo-Assyrian sources, had acquired the sense of everything west of the Euphrates up to the Mediterranean. The phrase ereẒ ha-ḥittim, "the land of the Hittites" (Josh. 1:4) is a Hebrew reflex of this usage and is absent from the Septuagint to this verse.

[Hans G. Guterbock /

S. David Sperling (2 nd ed.)]

Hittite Hieroglyphic Writing

What used to be called "Hieroglyphic Hittite" is now more accurately referred to as "Anatolian Hieroglyphic" (Hawkins, Melchert). The preserved hieroglyphic texts are actually written in Luwian, like Hittite, an Indo-European language. Although closely related to the Hittite language, Luwian is distinct. The term "hieroglyphic" used for Hittite writing was borrowed from the Egyptian terminology, and it simply implies that the Hittite writing, like the Egyptian, is pictographic. In no way does it imply that the Hittite hieroglyphic writing was borrowed from the Egyptian hieroglyphic or that it was in any way related to it.

The Hittite writing was in use from about 1500 to 700 B.C.E. in a large area extending from central Anatolia to northern Syria. Two main periods are distinguished: the earlier from 1500� B.C.E., and the later from 1200 to 700 B.C.E. The language of the "Hittite hieroglyphic" inscriptions is related to the so-called "cuneiform Hittite" (or "Nesian"), so named because it is preserved in the cuneiform writing borrowed from Mesopotamia. Both of these languages and writings were used at the same time in the Hittite Empire, but while the use of cuneiform Hittite was limited to a small area around Boghazköy, the capital of the empire, and died out at the time of the empire's collapse around 1200 B.C.E., "hieroglyphic Hittite" (i.e., Luwian) was used throughout the empire, and remained in use up to about 700 B.C.E. The deciphering of Hittite hieroglyphic writing was achieved only in the 1930s through the combined efforts of P. Meriggi, I.J. Gelb, E.O. Forrer, H.T. Bossert, and B. Hrozný. In the years after the Second World War, a great advancement in the deciphering of Hittite writing and language resulted from the discovery of bilingual Hittite and Phoenician inscriptions at Karatepe in Cilicia.

Two formal types of writing existed. The first was a monumental type with signs faithfully imitating the forms of pictures. The second, a cursive type, developed from the monumental type, with forms of signs so divergent from the original pictures that it is often difficult – if not impossible – to recognize their original pictographic form.

Hittite writing, like such other ancient Oriental systems as the Mesopotamian, Egyptian, and Chinese, represents word-syllabic type of writing. It consists of three classes of signs: logograms or word signs syllabic signs, developed from the logograms by the rebus principle and auxiliary marks and signs, such as punctuation marks and signs for determinatives, classifiers, or semantic indicators. In the use of logograms and auxiliary marks and signs, the Hittite system is identical or very similar to other word-syllabic systems. The normal Hittite syllabary consists of about 60 signs of the type ta, ti, te, tu, each representing a syllable beginning with a consonant and ending in a vowel. The writing does not indicate any distinction between voiced, voiceless, and aspirated consonants.

Nowhere but in the Aegean area in writings such as Linear B and Cypriote is there a syllabary identical to that of the Hittites. Accordingly, Hittite hieroglyphic writing can be assigned, together with Cretan writing and its derivatives, to the Aegean group of writings.


Pritchard, Texts, 120𠄸, 207�, 318𠄹, 346�, 393�, 497� H.G. Güterbock, in: V. Ferm (ed.), Forgotten Religions (1950) idem, in: EM, 3 (1958), 320� idem, Mythologies of the Ancient World, ed. by S.N. Kramer (1961), 141� O.R. Gurney, The Hittites (1961) E. Akurgal, Art of the Hittites (1962) CAH2, vols. 1𠄲. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: J. van Seters, in: VT, 21 (1972), 64� idem, In Search of History (1983), 100� J.D. Hawkins, in: World Archaeology, 17 (1986), 363� (with bibliography) idem, Corpus of Hieroglyphic Luwian Inscriptions…Iron Age (2000) idem, G. McMahon, in: BA 52 (1989), 62� idem, ABD, 3:228� I. Singer, apud S. Izreɾl and I. Singer, The General's Letter from Ugarit (1990), 115� G.O. Gurney, The Hittites (1991) P. Houwink ten Cate, ABD, 3:219� R. Drews, The End of the Bronze Age (1993) H. Hoffner, apud M. Roth, Law Collections from Mesopotamia and Asia Minor (1995), 213� idem, Hittite Myths (1998) idem, Encyclopedia of Religion, 6:4068� S. Ahituv, Joshua (1995), 73 H.C. Melchert, in: P. Daniels (ed.) The World's Writing Systems (1996), 12� G. Beckman, Hittite Diplomatic Texts (1999) J. Tropper, Ugaritische Grammatik (2000).

Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.

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One of the most contested issues within the field is related to the choice of proper terms for this group of states. On that issue, scholars are divided into several categories. Some prefer terms that are derived from endonymic (native) names for Luwians and Arameans, thus using terms like Luwian-Aramean or Aramean-Luwian. Others prefer to use terms that are derived from various exonymic (foreign) names, thus proposing designations like Syrian-Anatolian or Syro-Anatolian, based on Greek term Anatolia, combined with anachronistic application of Syrian labels, in the sense that was introduced much later, by ancient Greeks, as their designation for Arameans and their land (Aram). Such preference for foreign terms, advocated by some western scholars, is viewed as being culturally biased, and thus insensitive towards native (endonymic) terminology. Some scholars still use older terms, like Syro-Hittite and Neo-Hittite, but those terms have several additional meanings in scholarly literature. More precise term Post-Hittite is also used, as a broad designation for the entire period of Anatolian history spanning from the 12th to the 6th century BCE. [7] [8] [9] [10] [11]

Anachronistic uses of Syrian labels in modern scholarly literature were additionally challenged after the recent discovery of the bilingual Çineköy inscription from the 8th century BCE, written in Luwian and Phoenician languages. The inscription contained references to the neighbouring Assyria, inscribed in a specific form that renders as Syria, thus providing additional (and in the same time the oldest) evidence for the dominant scholarly view on the origins and primary meanings of the term Syria, that originated as an apheretic form of the term Assyria, and was redefined much later, by ancient Greeks, who introduced a territorial distinction between two names, and started to use term Syria as a specific designation for western regions (ancient Aram). For ancient Luwians, Syria was designation for Assyria proper, thus revealing the later Greek use of the term Syria as very different from its original meaning, and also anachronistic if used in modern scientific descriptions of historical realities, related to Luwian and Aramean states of the Iron Age. [12] [13] [14]

The collapse of the Hittite New Kingdom is usually associated with the gradual decline of Eastern Mediterranean trade networks and the resulting collapse of major Late Bronze Age cities in the Levant, Anatolia and the Aegean. [15] At the beginning of the 12th century BC, Wilusa (Troy) was destroyed [16] and the Hittite New Kingdom suffered a sudden devastating attack from the Kaskas, who occupied the coasts around the Black Sea, and who joined with the Mysians. They proceeded to destroy almost all Hittite sites but were finally defeated by the Assyrians beyond the southern borders near the Tigris. [17] Hatti, Arzawa (Lydia), Alashiya (Cyprus), Ugarit and Alalakh were destroyed. [17]

Hattusa, the Hittite capital, was completely destroyed. Following this collapse of large cities and the Hittite state, the Early Iron Age in northern Mesopotamia saw a dispersal of settlements and ruralization, with the appearance of large numbers of hamlets, villages, and farmsteads. [18] Syro-Hittite states emerged in the process of such major landscape transformation, in the form of regional states with new political structures and cultural affiliations. David Hawkins was able to trace a dynastic link between the Hittite imperial dynasty and the "Great Kings" and "Country-lords" of Melid and Karkamish of the Early Iron Age, proving an uninterrupted continuity between the Late Bronze Age and the Early Iron Age at those sites. [19] [20] [21]

Aside from literary evidence from inscriptions, the uninterrupted cultural continuity of Post-Hittite states in the region, during the transitional period between the Late Bronze Age and the Early Iron Age, is now further confirmed by recent archaeological work at the Temple of the Storm God on the citadel of Aleppo, [22] and Ain Dara temple, [23] where the Late Bronze Age temple buildings continue into the Iron Age without hiatus, with repeated periods of construction in the Early Iron Age.

The Syro–Hittite states may be divided into two groups: a northern group where Hittite rulers remained in power, and a southern group where Aramaeans came to rule from about 1000 BC. These states were highly decentralised structures some appear to have been only loose confederations of sub-kingdoms. [24] [25]

The northern group includes:

    . It may have included a group of city states called the Tyanitis (Tuwana, Tunna, Hupisna, Shinukhtu, Ishtunda) (with Melid) (with a stronghold at modern Karatepe)

The southern group includes:

    (whose capital was probably Tell Tayinat) [26][27] (with Sam'al) (with the city of Til Barsip) (with Guzana) (also Pattina or Unqi) (with the city of Kinalua, maybe modern Tell Tayinat[28] ) , a religious center (with the cities of Arpad, Nampigi, and (later on) Aleppo) (the capital city of which was at Hatarikka)

Luwian monumental inscriptions in Anatolian hieroglyphs continue almost uninterrupted from the 13th-century Hittite imperial monuments to the Early Iron Age Syro-Hittite inscriptions of Karkemish, Melid, Aleppo and elsewhere. [29] [30] Luwian hieroglyphs were chosen by many of the Syro-Hittite regional kingdoms for their monumental inscriptions, which often appear in bi- or tri-lingual inscriptions with Aramaic, Phoenician or Akkadian versions. The Early Iron Age in Northern Mesopotamia also saw a gradual spread of alphabetic writing in Aramaic and Phoenician. During the cultural interactions on the Levantine coast of Syro-Palestine and North Syria in the tenth through 8th centuries BC, Greeks and Phrygians adopted the alphabetic writing from the Phoenicians. [31]

A linguist’s answer

5 The appropriate formulation of this question is that of the northern border of the Luwian-speaking area in Central Anatolia. Note that intersection with other language areas (notably Phrygian and Kaškean) is possible, moreover, rather expected, but this won’t be pursued further here.

6 Though the number of Luwian inscriptions beyond the Kızılırmak is remarkable, their sheer presence unfortunately does not mean the presence of Luwian speakers. A good example of this problem is provided by Tell Ahmar, where the Luwian inscriptions disguise the Semitic names of the local protagonists, and thus probably the Semitic speaking majority of the local population, restricting the usage of Luwian to the official level (cf. Bunnens 2006: 86-87 with refs.).

  • 4 The otherwise unattested name Katunis of the KIRŞEHİR-letter (§4) can be explained as a regular con (. )
  • 5 Ni(ya)s is well attested in the Luwian corpus, cf. KULULU lead strip 1 (19), 2 §1, Hawkins’s normal (. )
  • 6 The only unexplained name is Sipis, though a Luwian connection may be possible if it represents a c (. )

7 The content and the medium of these inscriptions can, however, provide a key to understanding the local sociolinguistic situation. Unfortunately, the stone blocks of ÇALAPVERDİ 1-2 cannot contribute to this problem, as they are badly preserved and practically unintelligible. The rock inscription of KARABURUN, a kind of compact of King Sipis with a governor also called Sipis, and the KIRŞEHİR-letter with the fragment on lead strips, a letter of a high official to his overlord shows only that Luwian was used for representative and administrative purposes and tells nothing about the speakers. Though the protagonists have mainly Luwian names (Katunis,4 Muwatalis, Ni(ya)s5, Tuwatis),6 one could explain away this evidence arguing that this reflects only the custom of a Luwian(ised) elite of a non-Luwian population. ALİŞAR, however, shows a graffito consisting of an only partially preserved word and a personal name Hatusamuwas on the ring- base of a vessel. The placement of the graffito on the bottom of the vessel argues against the possibility of a Besitzerinschrift and thus against the possibility of arriving to Alişar from somewhere else through commerce or similar. Unless one prefers Anatolians traveling with potsherds in their pocket, this graffito is therefore to be treated as a product of a local person. Thus this graffito is a clear piece of evidence that Luwian was used also for everyday purposes and, furthermore, we have to count with Luwian speakers in this area. In other words, linguistically speaking the area between Alişar and the Kızılırmak, and in general the area of the Luwian inscriptions to the north of Kızılırmak must be considered as a part of the Luwian speaking area. As for the chronology: this region was of course a Luwian speaking area from the beginning of the Neo-Hittite period and the decline and disappearance of this language is part of a bigger, unsolved problem that cannot be treated here. The date of these specific inscriptions will be discussed below in the historical section.

Neo-Hittite Art and Architecture

SELLIER, Guillaume, From the Hittite Empire to the Neo-Hittites Kingdoms : transition between the recent Bronze Age and the first Iron Age in the SyroAnatolian areas, 13th-9th centuries B.C. MA thesis History, Université du Québec à Montréal, 2020, 404p.
(URL :

Between the 17th and 12th centuries BC, the Hittite kingdom gradually extended its hegemony over most of the Syro-Anatolian regions. The authority of Hattuša was then archaeologically associated with standardized Hittite pottery (HMW), testifying to the politico-economic integration of the different regions in the imperial Hittite sphere (15th-12th centuries BC). When the Hittite Empire disappeared under unclear circumstances around 1180 BC, it left a political vacuum that no source, whether local or exogenous, could explain for several centuries. According to the Egyptian, Mesopotamian and Levantine archives, the " 1200 's crisis " would have brought the palatial world of the recent Bronze Age including the Hittite Empire, into the " Dark Age ". It would have been lost to the ravages of the " Sea Peoples "and other bands of looters. For the past thirty years, the technological advances of archeology, the mutlidisciplinarity, as well as numerous new discoveries and a renewed interest of the Ancient Near East specialists, ail benefited to the current knowledge of the SyroAnatolian region during the transition between the end of the Late Bronze Age and the beginning of the Iron Age (12th-9th centuries BC). Nowadays, the Early Iron Age (EIA) appears as a transitional period essential to the restructuring of the Syro-Anatolian world, as it appears in the neo-Assyrian sources (9th-8th centuries BC) and it offers new perspectives to understanding continuities and changes at work. Thus, at the end of the Late Bronze Age (1180 BC), the majority of the main Syrian-Anatolian centers experienced a turbulent period (variable destruction, abandonment, population displacements, etc.). During the Early Iron Age I (EIAI ca. 1180-1050 BC), a strong cultural continuity of Hittite-Luwian tradition is perceptible on the most parts of the Hittite Empire, which took many ethno-cultural elements of the Hittite civilization (ceramics, Luwian hieroglyphics, architecture, funeral and worship practices, etc.), but with a Luwian form. Many sites were quickly reoccupied. Some Imperial Hittite centers survived as Karkemiš on the Euphrates or Tarḫuntašša in Cilicia. New centers emerged and radiated temporarily on small regions like Kaman-Kalehoyük. The main changes appeared in Early Iron Age II (EIAII ca. 1050-900 BC), while the weakening of the Medio-Assyrian Empire (ca. 1070 BC) opened the voice to the Arameans between the Euphrates and the Orontes, and that the contraction of the Luwians peoples in Western Anatolia allowed the establishment of Phrygians (ca. 950-900 BC).

Keywords: History, Antiquity, Hittite, Anatolia, Syria, Bronze Age, Iron Age


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Hittites: ancient nation in Central Anatolia, named after their capital Hattusa, builders of one of the great Bronze Age empires.


When scholars started to study the archives of Hattusa, the capital of the Hittites, they were surprised to discover texts in no less than eight languages. This tells a lot about the background of the Hittite Empire.

One of the oldest languages must have been Hattic, which can be traced back to the third millennium BCE. The inhabitants of Alacahöyük must have spoken this language. Towards the end of the third millennium, Indo-European tribes started to arrive from Anatolia, who brought four new languages: Palaic (associated with the cult of the weather god Zaparwa), two Luwian languages (spoken in the western part of Anatolia), and a language that was called "Nešili" by its speakers.

/> A divorce contract from Kaneš

The speakers of this last-mentioned language would settle in central Anatolia, within the great arc of the river Halys, and would start to use an older city, Hattusa, as their capital. Hence, they are now called "Hittites" and their language is called "Hittite" (although "Nešili" would have been more correct).

The disturbance created by the migration of these tribes is documented in the archive of cuneiform texts that was found in Kültepe (ancient Kaneš or Nesa). The texts, written by merchants from Assyria who had founded a karum (a trading outpost) at walking distance from the royal palaces of Kaneš, document an Anatolian society with several city-states, including Kaneš, a still unidentified town called Kussara, and Hattusa. The tablets refer to the immigrants and presuppose a lengthy process of both gradual infiltration and open warfare. By the mid-eighteenth century BCE, a king Anitta of Kussara had unified several city-states and had started to call himself "great king". His palace has been identified in Kaneš.

Kaneš was destroyed in the mid-eighteenth century by an unknown enemy, after which we have no written information. This lacuna in our understanding lasts for about a century. When we have written sources again, by the mid-seventeenth century BCE, we read about a king who claims to descend from the rulers of Kussara but has taken up residence in Hattusa, and has named himself after his city: Hattusili I.

Old Kingdom

The first kings of the Hittite Kingdom were surprisingly successful. Their conquests are documented in the historical introduction to the "edict" of a later king, Telepinu. He mentions a king Labarna as the kingdom's founder and tells how Labarna's successor Hattusili (r. c.1650-c.1620) note [Hattusili and Labarna may be the same person, son and father, or son and grandfather.] fought several wars, making their "kingdom neighbor to the sea", and even adding Kizzuwatna (Cilicia), the fertile plain south of the Taurus Mountains. This southward expansion brought the Hittites in conflict with the kingdom of Halpa or Halab in northern Syria (modern Aleppo).

Although certain towns were captured and permanently garrisoned, these wars were usually plundering campaigns. In the first years of the sixteenth century - in 1587 BCE, according to the low middle chronology, Mursili I even reached and sacked Babylon. This had no real consequences for the Hittites, but created chaos in Mesopotamia, where the ruling dynasty was replaced and local powers were important.

One of these was Mitanni, which became a major competitor of the Hittites. Partly as a consequence of the rise of this rival power, the Hittites were unable to consolidate their gains. During the reign of Hantili I (r.c.1585-c.1560), a crisis in the ruling dynasty led to the collapse of Hittite power. The next kings (Zidanta, Ammuna, and Huzziya) were quite ineffective, until Telepinu (r.c.1525-c.1500) restored order and laid down the principles of decent government in the decree mentioned above. It was a sign of the times that the relation with Kizzuwatna was defined in a treaty: the country was no longer subject, but independent.

Alacahöyük, Hittite Palace

Alacahöyük, Sphinx Gate, Relief (copy)

Alacahöyük, Hittite vase (Old Kingdom)

New Kingdom

Telepinu is usually associated with a Middle Kingdom, but essentially, we know very little about the fifteenth century, apart from the fact that the Hittite state was threatened from all sides. Telepinu's eighth successor was named Tudhaliya I, ruled from c.1420 to c.1400 and was the ruler from a new dynasty. He was succeeded by Arnuwanda and two other Tudhaliyas, until in c.1355 BCE, Šuppililiuma became king.

He was the founder of the New Kingdom and the creator of a professional army of hundreds of chariots. During a reign of thirty-five years, he defeated Mitanni in the southeast and invaded Syria, which had for more than a century been held by the Egyptians. Benefiting from Egypt's domestic problems during the reign of Akhenaten, Šuppililiuma added the northern part of Syria to the Hittite Kingdom. In about 1320, he left his kingdom to his eldest son Arnuwanda II, and appointed younger sons as vice-kings in Aleppo and Karchemish.

Hattusa, Sculpture of a bull

Hattusa, Statuette of a warrior

Gold statuette of the Hittite sun-goddess Arinna

Pinarbasi, Inscription of Tudhaliya IV

Hattusa, Epic of Gilgamesh

Hattusa, Hittite laws about personal damage

Hattusa, Letter of king Hattusilis III to king Kadashman-Enlil II of Babylonia

Hattusa, Treaty between king Tudhaliya IV and king Karunta of Tarhuntašša

An interesting incident is the "dahamunzu episode": the widow an Egyptian king requesting a Hittite prince as her new consort. Unfortunately, we do not know whether this woman had been the wife of Akhenaten (who died in 1336) or Tutankhamun (died in 1327), but it is obvious that the Hittites were now considered a serious power. It also proves that the Egyptian court did not really care about the loss of its northern territories.

After the brief reign of Arnuwanda II, another son of Šuppililiuma became king: Mursili II (r. c.1318-c.1290). At the beginning of his reign, he managed to overcome Arzawa, a powerful federation in western Anatolia. It was divided into three vassal kingdoms: Seha (the valleys of the Caicus and Hermus), Haballa (the interior), and Mira (the valley of the Meander). At this moment, the Hittite Empire consisted of central and southern Turkey with northern Syria, while western, northern, and eastern Turkey were part of the Hittite zone of influence.

Western Affairs

Mursili's son Muwatalli II (r.c.1290-c.1272) had to cope with some problems in the west, where an adventurer named Piyamaradu created a lot of trouble. He received support from one Tawagawala of Millawanda, the brother of the king of Ahhiyawa. All names are Greek: Tawagawala is *Etewokleweios or Eteocles, Millawanda is the city of Miletus, and Ahhiyawa is a rendering of Achai(w)a and probably refers to a state in Mycenaean Greece.

The rebel attacked Wilusa (also known as Troy), forcing its king Alaksandu to ask for help from the Hittites. (The name Alaksandu resembles the Alexandros of the Iliad.) King Muwatalli first ordered the king of Seha to support Wilusa, but when he was defeated by Piyamaradu, he personally intervened. After this, Wilusa was a vassal of the Hittites. The treaty survives in no less than six copies the terms were guaranteed by a Trojan god named Apalliunas, who is better known as Apollo.

It is certain that the support that the Ahhiyawans offered to the rebel Piyamaradu was military in nature, because a later Hittite ruler, Hattusili III (r.c.1265-c.1240) refers, in a document known as the "Tawagawala letter", to an armed conflict between himself and the king of Ahhiyawa - a conflict that had in the meantime been settled peacefully, which gives Hattusili confidence to call upon his "brother" to help him finally solve the Piyamaradu affair.

It is possible that the (indirect) military support of the king of Ahhiyawa to Piyamaradu is the historical nucleus of the stories about the Trojan War, but we can be sure only when we will have a tablet that mentions an Ahhiyawan king actually attacking Wilusa.

Southern Affairs

While the Hittites were dealing with Piyamaradu in the west, a new dynasty had come to power in Egypt: the Nineteenth Dynasty. One of its kings, Ramesses II, decided to reconquer northern Syria. This forced king Muwatalli to concentrate his forces in the south, where he managed to catch the Egyptian by surprise on the plain of the river Orontes, where a great battle between two chariot armies took place in 1274. Both sides claimed victory and there were new campaigns, but in 1259, a treaty was concluded, in which Syria was divided between the two superpowers.

The Egyptian account of the battle (an inscription on a wal in Luxor) mentions several allies of the Hittites: Mitanni (which must refer to the southwestern provinces, ruled by the vice-king in Karchemish), Kizzuwatna (the vice-kingdom in the south), Arzawa (the former federation in the west), and the Dardany, who may have lived in the area of Troy. The only parts of Anatolia that were outside Hittite control were Masa in the northwest, Greek Millawanda in the west, and Lukka in the southwest.

The Orontes and Tell Kadesh

An Egyptian poem about the battle of Kadesh

Hattusa, Letter from the Hittite queen Puduhepa to the Egyptian queen Nefertari

The End

In spite of the Hittite successes, there were troubles as well. In the east, the Assyrian kingdom was benefiting from the demise of Mitanni, and it has been argued that the Hittites were willing to conclude a peace treaty with Egypt to have a free hand to deal with Assyria. We also learn about northern enemies, the Kashka, who could be quite aggressive.

/> Boğazkale, Early Iron Age helmet

The foreign enemies were not the only problems the successors of Muwatalli II had to deal with. There were problems within the royal house as well. His first son, Mursili III (r.c.1272-c.1265) had to send a relative into exile and was dethroned by Hattusili III, who was forced to create a new vice-kingdom, Tarhuntassa, in the southwest. We already noticed that he had to request support from the king of Ahhiyawa to solve the Piyamaradu affair.

Hattusili's son Tudhaliya IV (r.c.1240-c.1215) was still residing in Hattusa and ordered the reliefs at nearby Yazılıkaya, but the problems were increasing. Hattusa was evacuated - it was dangerously exposed to Kashka attacks - and during the reigns of Arnuwanda II and Šuppililiuma II, we read about a civil war with the vice-king of Tarhuntassa. What really happened, is unclear: precisely because the empire collapsed, we have only a couple of written sources.

Still, it seems reasonably clear that after c.1190 BCE, power was in the hands of the vice-kings of Tarhuntassa and Karchemish. These two states would split up in several minor kingdoms (the Neo-Hittite successor states). The demise of the Hittite state also created a power vacuum, which was filled by invaders from the Balkans (the Phrygians). Several nations, usually called the "Sea People", would start to wander and created great unrest in the eastern Mediterranean. The Assyrian Empire would in the end recreate some stability.

The World of the Neo-Hittite Kingdoms: A Political and Military History

In 2012, thirty years after the chapter by John David Hawkins for the Cambridge Ancient History, Trevor Bryce has published a monograph in English on the history of the Neo-Hittite kingdoms. Within the last two decades Hawkins published the Corpus of Hieroglyphic Luwian Inscriptions of the Iron Age, 1 and archaeological excavations in Turkey and Syria have produced such new and significant results, that the book represents a much needed novel synthesis of this period. In general, this book has the potential for a very wide impact on the study of pre-classical Anatolia than that of previous studies. A closer look at Neo-Hittite polities is of major interest to researchers in ancient Near Eastern studies who have long been waiting for a reference work on this important and not easily accessible portion of the Eastern Mediterranean history. Furthermore, researchers of archaic Greece and Biblical studies will benefit immensely from a deeper historical picture of the Neo-Hittite world and the ever more evident interconnections with Neo-Hittite polities.

The book is based on the Hieroglyphic Luwian inscriptions published in the Corpus and on the inscriptions published between 2000 and 2010. Part I serves as an introduction and focuses on the Late Bronze Age foundations of the Neo- Hittite kingdoms, sketching a political outline of the Hittite empire with specific attention to its fall and aftermath. Bryce then analyzes the Hieroglyphic Luwian sources in their geographic context, first from the Neo-Hittite internal perspective (Part II), and then sets them in a broader historical context mainly defined by interaction with the growing Assyrian Empire (Part III). Appendices, bibliography and indices close the monograph.

The book will serve as an essential reference for all scholars dealing with the Neo- Hittite kingdoms. It suffices to say that the indices and Appendix 2 alone, detailing the Neo-Hittite dynasties and providing references to textual sources for each ruler, are much awaited, previously unavailable tools. The same holds true for Bryce’s emphasis on the historical developments through time and space in Anatolia. His reconstruction is indebted to the introductions Hawkins wrote to each chapter of his Corpus (p.3), but the coherent treatment of all written sources on the political history in Part II, “intended as a reference source, for consultation by readers as the need arises” (p.79) is very well conceived and easy to use. In this sense the monograph differs from Bryce’s previous works on Ancient Anatolian history, and in particular from his masterpiece, The Kingdom of the Hittites. 2 Rather, the book’s organization compares to Klengel’s handbooks on Syria and Hittite Anatolia, 3 with the list of sources relevant to each polity, followed by a historical sketch of the political events. Part II is, in my view, the best and most innovative section of the book.

In serving a broader audience, however, Bryce’s monograph is more problematic. Two main issues stand out: 1) the decision not to include the archaeological record as part of the historical reconstruction and 2) the approach to the content of the written sources.

A political history of pre-classical western Asia that does not take into account the archaeological record is unusual, but it becomes even more problematic when the investigation centers on the post-palatial period. This period, roughly 1200-900 BCE, is characterized by a dearth of epigraphic material consequently its history necessarily depends on the results of archaeological research. Recent excavations have added important clues for the reconstruction of basic aspects of socio-political organization during this period. 4 Bryce correctly mentions the need for “a comprehensive account of the Neo-Hittite artistic achievement”, and raises the wish that his “book will provide a useful historical background for such a work’ (pp. 5-6). This means, however, that the monograph is not providing a comprehensive historical picture based on all available sources – written and archaeological. The recent monograph of Alessandra Gilibert 5 shows how synthesizing the archaeological and written sources of the Syro- Hittite polities can provide a novel understanding of the dynamics of power of this period. Beyond art history and architecture, however, elements such as the change seen in settlement patterns, site occupation and material culture are crucial in reconstructing political dynamics, particularly for the understudied Early Iron Age.

The second criticism concerns Bryce’s traditional approach to the written sources. He accepts the historicity of the texts at face value and does not engage at all with larger scholarly debates concerning the interpretation of ancient sources. This type of analysis is less problematic for the little studied Hieroglyphic Luwian sources, but his approach to the texts becomes questionable when the picture provided for the Neo-Hittite polities intersects with other historical trajectories. This concern is illustrated, for example, by his treatment of the colonization of the western Anatolian coast by Greeks tribes in the post-Mycenaean period. The account offered by Bryce follows the one provided by Herodotus and Strabo, and does not consider the entire debate of the deconstruction of the first colonization. 6 The same is evident also for Bryce’s approach to the Assyrian royal inscriptions, where other more interpretative approaches to the sources are not considered. 7 The approach to chronology and historicity of the early phases of the Biblical account is more careful and nuanced nonetheless, Bryce finally chooses the scenario that better fits his reconstruction without explaining the reason for his choice. In support of his approach, one should mention that a historiographic tendency of adhering more to the content of the sources characterizes recent research in ancient Near Eastern Studies. see, for example, the monograph of David Schloen, or the contribution by Itamar Singer on the revision of the postmodernist thought on Near Eastern historiography. 8 The issue is not whether Bryce’s approach is functional or provides too shallow an understanding of the history of this period, rather that nowhere in the book does he contextualize his method against the scholarship of others. This lack of discussion on historiographic method is a major problem in the attempt to insert the Neo-Hittite polities into the bigger historiographic debate on the whole Eastern Mediterranean.

With regards to specific content issues, the picture of the migration of Luwians into southern Anatolia and northern Syria (defined as ‘Luwian speakers’, ‘populations from Central and Western Anatolia’, ‘an extremely elusive people’, thus showing some uncertainty with the concepts of ethnicity vs. language: p. 17ff. 57f.) is not thoroughly discussed. Bryce often refers to a wide group of scholars supporting this mass migration (pp. 1, 31, 80), but he then mentions only Singer and Collins (p.58). He presents the thesis of the abandonment of Hattusa by Suppiluliuma II along with his court and army, and in some passages he suggests that they moved to the southeastern regions of the former empire (p.12, 17) elsewhere he looks however more skeptical (p.57), cautious (p. 63), or instead speculates that the kings of Kummuh are seen as possible descendants of the Hittite Great Kings (p. 111). Elsewhere he suggests that a large population movement to Syria could have taken place earlier, after the conquest of Suppiluliuma I (p. 59-60). This reconstruction is not supported by onomastic and other evidence in the sources from Emar and Ugarit there, few individuals from Anatolia are attested, though those present are very powerful and have ties with the Hittite administration. Elsewhere in the book, Bryce refutes the vision of a large Neo-Hittite (?) population in Syria, supporting the view of a restricted ruling class (p.134). But at the same time he suggests contacts and conflicts between Neo-Hittite and Aramean states (p.48), thus acknowledging a concrete ethnic boundary. The whole question of ethnicity is better addressed in those specific contexts where boundaries emerge and identities are claimed. The settlement of Zincirli is a context in which this approach can be fruitful (p.169), but its adoption into the whole historical scenario is risky. Dividing Neo-Hittite polities from other Syrian polities on the basis of the presence of Hieroglyphic Luwian inscriptions is also problematic, as it reconstructs the presence of Anatolian elites based only upon the use of Hieroglyphic Luwian script.

The short section on the Phrygian kingdom (pp. 39-43) requires a more nuanced treatment. The formation of a kingdom based in Gordion during the Early Iron Age is presented as the sum of two migrations, one from the west (Phrygians), and one from the east (Muski). Bryce seems unaware of the debate on the reality and mode of the Phrygian migration from Thrace, 9 but also the connection between this already problematic first wave of people and the development of the kingdom of Gordius/Kurtis and Midas. These rulers bear local Anatolian names and can therefore be linked to local, post-Hittite milieus a possibility that should be better kept open. Moreover, Bryce holds to the traditional dating of the death of Midas and the fall of Gordion at the end of the 8th century, and bases the political scenario of central Anatolia on it. The archaeologists excavating Gordion, have abandoned this dating 10 and the issue is strongly debated today, but nothing of this debate is echoed in the book. As stated previously, this failure to acknowledge recent archaeological research creates major flaws in his overall historical model.

The role of Karkamiš for the continuity of Hittite traditions into the Iron Age is carefully presented. He writes that Kuzi- Teššub proclaimed ‘himself the heir of the last Great King of Hatti’ (p.83). While it is true that, after the fall of Hattusa, Karkamiš was ruled by a Hittite dynasty established by a son of Suppiluliuma I, Kuzi- Teššub and Ura Tarhunzas, bear the title of Great King of Karkamiš, not of Hatti, and in no inscriptions do we see a clear intent of appropriating the Hittite imperial past. Moreover, the reconstruction of the Early Iron Age history of the city, with Ir- Teššub as successor of Kuzi-Teššub (p.196), is possible, but not supported by any evidence.

The meaning of official titles in Hieroglyphic Luwian inscriptions of the Iron Age also needs reconsideration. *handawatis, REGIO.DOMINUS, and tarwanis, have long been considered synonyms for monarchs in different city-states, often depending on local developments (see in particular pp. 89-90 148). In fact, the set of the offerings to the temple of the Storm-god of Aleppo in the newly published ALEPPO 6 inscription shows that a defined hierarchy of titles and offices still existed and was respected in the eleventh century BCE Syria, 11 but it is possible that these titles lost their specific meaning in a later phase (8 th century).

To conclude, Trevor Bryce has produced a well-conceived, thorough handbook for the political history of the Neo-Hittite kingdoms based on analysis of written records. The book is a basic tool for research in the eastern Mediterranean of the Iron Age. Bryce also provides a scholarly foundation for embedding post-Hittite developments within the more complex scenario of Western Asia between 1200 and 700 BCE. However, in order to fully join the political discourse in ancient history and engage with contemporary socio-political phenomena such as the imperial program of Assyria, the rise of the poleis in the Aegean, and the ‘ethnic state’ and ‘limited kingship’ of the southern Levant, archaeological data and the discussion of the historiographic method need to be added to this work.

1. J. David Hawkins, Corpus of Hieroglyphic Luwian Inscriptions of the Iron Age, Berlin-New York 2000.

2. Trevor Bryce, The Kingdom of the Hittites, Oxford 1998 (2005).

3. Horst Klengel, Geschichte Syriens im 2. Jahrtausend. Berlin 1965 idem, Syria 3000-300 B.C., Berlin 1992 idem, Geschichte des hethitischen Reiches, Leiden-Boston-Köln 1999.

4. Among others: Hermann Genz, “The Early Iron Age in Central Anatolia”, in B. Fischer et al. (eds.), Identifying Changes: the Transition from Bronze to Iron Ages in Anatolia and its Neighboring Regions, Istanbul 2003, 179- 191 Fabrizio Venturi, La Siria nell’età delle trasformazioni (XIII-X sec. a.C.), Bologna 2007 Timothy Harrison, “Lifting the Veil on a “Dark Age”: Ta‛yınat and the North Orontes Valley During the Early Iron Age”, in D. Schloen (ed.), Exploring the Longue Durée: Essays in Honor of L.E. Stager, Winona Lake 2009, 171- 184.

5. Alessandra Gilibert, Syro-Hittite Monumental Art and the Archaeology of Performance, Berlin-New York 2011.

6. Among others: Jonathan Hall, Ethnic Identity in Greek Antiquity, Cambridge- New York 2000 C. Brian Rose, Separating Fact from Fiction in the Aiolian Migration, Hesperia 77 (2008), 399-430 T. Derks, N. Roymans (eds.) Ethnic Constructs in Antiquity : The Role of Power and Tradition, Amsterdam 2008 (contributions by Morgan and Crielard).

7. Among others: F.Mario Fales (ed.), Assyrian Royal Inscriptions: New Horizons in Literary, Ideological, and Historical Analysis, Rome 1991 (in particular the contributions by Liverani and Tadmor).

8. Respectively: Daniel Schloen, The House of the Father as Fact and Symbol. Patrimonialism in Ugarit and the Ancient Near East, Winona Lake 2001 I. Singer, , “Between Scepticism and Credulity: In defense of Hittite Historiography “, in idem, The Calm before the Storm: Selected studies of Itamar Singer on the Late Bronze Age in Anatolia and the Levant Atlanta 2011, 731-766.

9. Among others: Mary M. Voigt, Robert C. Henrickson, “Formation of the Phrygian state: the Early Iron Age at Gordion”, in Anatolian Studies, 50, 37-54 Rose 2008 (see note 8).

10. C. Brian Rose, Gareth Darbyshire (eds.), The New Chronology of Iron Age Gordion, Philadelphia 2011.

11. ALEPPO 6, ll. 5-9: see J. David Hawkins, “The Inscriptions of the Aleppo Temple”, Anatolian Studies 61 (2011), 35-54. ​

The World of The Neo-Hittite Kingdoms: A Political and Military History

This book provides an account of the military and political history of the Neo-Hittite kingdoms, which developed in south-eastern Anatolia and northern Syria during the Iron Age following the collapse of the Late Bronze Age Hittite empire. The book is divided into three parts. Parts I begins with a chapter on the last decades of the empire and proceeds, in Chapters 2-4, from a treatment of the Hittites’ Anatolian successors to a discussion of the chief features of the Neo-Hittite kingdoms and their possible links with the biblical Hittites. Part II deals with the individual Neo-Hittite kingdom . More

This book provides an account of the military and political history of the Neo-Hittite kingdoms, which developed in south-eastern Anatolia and northern Syria during the Iron Age following the collapse of the Late Bronze Age Hittite empire. The book is divided into three parts. Parts I begins with a chapter on the last decades of the empire and proceeds, in Chapters 2-4, from a treatment of the Hittites’ Anatolian successors to a discussion of the chief features of the Neo-Hittite kingdoms and their possible links with the biblical Hittites. Part II deals with the individual Neo-Hittite kingdoms, their rulers, and their Luwian hieroglyphic inscriptions, and also with the contemporary Aramaean states and the other kingdoms of the age, notably the Neo-Assyrian empire. Part III integrates the histories of the various Neo-Hittite states with those of their neighbours and contemporaries up to the time when the last Neo-Hittite kingdom was absorbed into the Assyrian provincial administration. The overall aim of this Part is to provide a historical synthesis of the Neo-Hittites and their contemporaries in the period from the 12th to the late 8th century. Assyria will play a major role throughout this synthesis, but the focus will be primarily on the cities, states, and territories that made up the world of the Neo-Hittite kingdoms.

Bibliographic Information

Print publication date: 2012 Print ISBN-13: 9780199218721
Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2012 DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199218721.001.0001


Affiliations are at time of print publication.

Trevor Bryce, author
Emeritus Professor of the University of New England and and Honorary Research Consultant, University of Queensland, Australia.

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Back then, the mighty Hittite kingdom spanned much of the territory known today as Turkey and Syria. Then, as the Late Bronze Age graduated into the Iron Age I, around 1177 BCE, the entire civilization of the Mediterranean and the Near East collapsed – and the "Sea Peoples," including the Philistines, ascended.

Until now, the "Sea Peoples Invasion" theory postulated that the Philistines arose and swept over the region from a base in the Aegean. But recent discoveries at a remote archaeological site in southeast Turkey indicate that the Philistines were already there as the great civilizations collapsed. Amidst the thunderous implosion around them, the Philistines somehow thrived – and supplanted the Hittite rule in that area, apparently making it their home base.

This unexpected conclusion is supported by new explanations of anomalies found at Tel Tayinat, an archaeological site in the Amuq plain, which spans the border of modern Syria and Turkey.

Tell Tayinat is located about 25 kilometers inland, not where the capital of the sea-faring Philistines was expected to be located. Google Maps, elaboration by Haaretz

Not the Sea People we thought

Tel Tayinat contains the ruins of a city going back thousands of years. Evidence found at the site proves that its ancient name was Kunulua (or Calno).

Until recently, it was assumed that the site was Hittite because of its location, and that after their empire collapsed its residents evolved into the "neo-Hittite" culture which continued using the ancient names, artistic styles and symbols of the Hittites. Who exactly the "neo-Hittites" of Kunulua were remained a mystery – until now. They were, archaeologists are starting to believe, the Philistines.

The new theory that Tel Tayinat was a Philistine capital arose from anomalous pottery findings and other oddities found in excavations headed by Prof. Timothy Harrison of the Toronto University's Department of Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations.

Bichrome pottery, typical of Philistine ware. So much was found at Tell Tayinat that it had to have been made there, not imported. Peter Hagyo-Kovacs

The Philistines were one of many groups referred to in ancient records as the "Sea Peoples". As listed on the mortuary temple of Ramses III at Medinet Habu, they included the Danian, Ekwesh, Lukka, Shekelesh, Sherden, Teresh, Tjeker, Weshwesh and the "Peleset" – "Plishtim" in Hebrew, or, the Philistines.

One reason Tel Tayinat had been assumed to be Hittite is its inland location, some 25 kilometers distance from the Mediterranean shore. The Philistines, who had famously plagued the peoples around the Mediterranean basin, had been thought to mainly stick to coastal areas.

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The first anomaly that in retrospect argued Kunulua was Philistine city was vast amounts of unique pottery called Late Helladic IIIC ware (or Mycenean IIIC ware) – which is one of the markers of the Philistines, and is found in abundance in other Philistine sites, in Israel in particular. The original excavation of Tel Tayinat in the early 1900s had uncovered layers of this stuff, but no one knew what to make of it. Some suggested the Hittite inhabitants had imported it as a luxury good.

Other distinct Philistine markers found in large amounts in Iron Age levels at Tel Tayinat including unperforated cylindrical loom weights.

Mere "international trade" by Hittites couldn't explain the sheer amounts of these items and pottery remains found at Tel Tayinat and its surroundings. Petrographic analyses proved that this pottery was actually locally made and was used for a different way of food preparation by the locals.

A bronze artifact symbolizing the universe, used by Hittite priests more than 4,000 years ago. Wikimedia Commons

A mysterious king and a mistake

More than one inscription found at Tel Tayinat, written in the Luwian language used by the Hittites, referred to a mysterious "King Taita", ruler of "Walistin" or "Patin" and an earlier find in Hamath, Syria spoke of a King Taita of "Walistin."

No one had ever heard of him. It seemed a new kingdom with a new and powerful king was being uncovered at Tel Tayinat.

A breakthrough came while excavating the temple dedicated to the storm god Adda or Hadad in Aleppo, Syria, in 2003: Kay Kohlmayer, the site’s director, found a relief and dedicatory inscription to "Taita, King and hero of Patastini" and another to "Taita, conqueror of Carchemish". Taita had restored this ancient temple and had a dedicatory inscription made of his great achievements.

Hadad temple, Syria: The mysterious king Taita is the right-hand relief in the center. Orf3us, Wikimedia Commons

Based on this new discovery, the reinterpretation of one Luwian hieroglyphic sign and the amassing archaeological evidence John David Hawkins, a Luwian expert, thinks that everybody had been reading these inscriptions wrong, and that the ‘W’ sound should in fact be read as a ‘P’ making Walistin, Palistin, "Patasatini" should be read as “Palasatini" or "Palastin". That would correspond with the ancient Egyptian mention of "Peleset" as one of the ten Sea People groups.

In fact, the Hittitologist Prof. Itamar Singer had long thought the Sea Peoples - or at least some of them – came from western Anatolia. There just wasn’t enough evidence to prove him right, until now.

“Around 1100 BCE, there are indications of a larger political integration of north Syria under the rule of King Taitas," says Prof. Gunnar Lehmann of Ben Gurion University, who recently conducted a major survey of coastal sites in Turkey. "The inscriptions and the monuments of this king are all written in Luwian hieroglyphs, his reliefs are neo-Hittite but the pottery is Aegeanizing," meaning shows Aegean influences “It would be very strange indeed if what we have at Tayinat wasn’t [a Philistine hub].”

Rather than the "Sea Peoples Invasion" theory, Toronto's Harrison suspects that over time, Philistines migrated in small numbers to the area, and assimilated with the locals. Their arrival was a complex scenario, he says, not some Hollywood movie-type blitz.

Luwian hieroglyphics on a stele found in Sultanhan, Turkey. Georges Jansoone, Wikimedia Commons

Afterthought: Prophet Isaiah and a smoking gun

Not only was the homeland of the Philistines found in Tayinat. So, possibly, was evidence of the historic veracity of the Prophet Isaiah.

In 2012, the University of Toronto team uncovered the top half of a buried life-size statue of the Hittite king Suppiluliuma. A Luwian inscription on the statue's back recounts his exploits, linking him with a ‘Patinian’ king who fought against the onslaught of Assyria's Shalmaneser III in 858 BCE.

It was common for Hittites to have colossal statues guarding the entrances to cities. But when the Assyrians conquered the area in 738 BCE, they would bury sacred items, such as this statue.

Scholars have long suspected that Prophet Isaiah’s oracle against Assyria ("Is not Calno as Carchemish. As my hand hath found the kingdoms of the idols," Isaiah 10:9-10) alludes to the Assyrian destruction of Kunulua. The buried statue of Suppiluliuma may actually be the physical manifestation of this historic event.

A relief of King Suppiluliuma II, found in the Hittite capital of Hattusa, in central Turkey. The king is depicted as god and warrior. China Crisis, Wikimedia Commons skip -

Watch the video: 1177 BC: The Year Civilization Collapsed Eric Cline, PhD


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