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A 3500-year-old hieroglyphic writing in Boğazköy/Hattusha (Turkey)
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A 3500-year-old hieroglyphic writing in Boğazköy/Hattusha (Turkey)

Categories: Uncategorized -Culture and creativity -Archaeology and Heritage

New hieroglyphs painted on the site where the Mission of the Federico II University of Naples operates.

Yerkapı vista da sud Foto A. Schachner, archivio degli scavi di Boğazköy, DAI - Copia
Yerkapı vista da sud Foto A. Schachner, archivio degli scavi di Boğazköy, DAI – Copia

About 200 km east of the Turkish capital Ankara are the ruins of the Bronze Age city of Hattusha, capital of the Hittite Empire.  In the second millennium BC, this empire dominated much of Western Asia and was a powerful antagonist of Egypt, Babylon and Assyria. For 116 years, Hattusha has been the subject of systematic research by an international team of scientists from various disciplines, now directed by Prof. Andreas Schachner of the German Archaeological Institute in Istanbul; the Mission of the Federico II University of Naples, directed by Prof. Leopoldo Repola, and supported with funds of the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, is also operational on the site.

As unusual as a rainy day in early August in central Anatolia, equally unexpected was the discovery made by a member of the excavation team and professor of archaeology at the Artuklu University of Mardin, Dr. Bülent Genç. The discovery took place in Yerkapı (“the Gate in the Ground”), a monument of the upper town known since time immemorial. It is a pyramidal structure, located at the highest point of the city. . It is here that Bülent Genç noticed marks painted with natural pigments of reddish brown color on the coarsely worked stones of the walls of the unlit tunnel.

In the period of the Great Hittite Kingdom, Anatolian hieroglyphs are regularly found on rock monuments or seals, engraved or embossed. The marks discovered in Yerkapı, on the other hand, are written on the stone blocks with paint. Until now, inscriptions painted only from Kayalıpınar (Sivas) and Suratkaya (Muğla) were known. Thanks to Yerkapı’s discovery, it becomes increasingly clear that Anatolian hieroglyphic writing was much more widespread in second-millennium BC society than previously thought. These finds open a completely new and unexpected window on the late Bronze Age.

To document this unique discovery, the hieroglyphs and the entire structure were digitally acquired and modeled in three dimensions by colleagues from the University of Naples Federico II – Department of Earth, Environment and Resource Sciences, who have been operating here since 2014 through an official research mission supported by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

According to the first assessments of the philologists of the excavation team (M. Alparslan and M.Marazzi), there are at least eight different groups of signs that are repeated on the walls of the posterula of Yerkapı; for example one of the signs has been identified so far 38 times. This is obviously not a coherent inscription, but rather short annotations similar to graffiti. Although it is still too early to make a conclusive assessment, we hypothesize that in the Hittite period the names of people or deities were mentioned and perhaps even the testimony of the passage.

The work takes place in Boğazköy/Hattusha as part of the larger project funded by the German Archaeological Institute (DAI), the German Research Foundation (DFG), the Thyssen Foundation, the GRH Foundation and the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Colleagues from DAI, Istanbul University and Federico II and Suor Orsola Benicasa Universities (both from Naples) are collaborating on the documentation and on the first analysis.


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