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Thread: Unknown ancient language found buried in the ruins of a 2800 year old ME palace.2715 days old

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    Default Unknown ancient language found buried in the ruins of a 2800 year old ME palace.

    Ancient language discovered on clay tablets found amid ruins of 2800 year old Middle Eastern palace




    Archaeologists have discovered evidence for a previously unknown ancient language – buried in the ruins of a 2800 year old Middle Eastern palace.

    The discovery is important because it may help reveal the ethnic and cultural origins of some of history’s first ‘barbarians’ – mountain tribes which had, in previous millennia, preyed on the world’s first great civilizations, the cultures of early Mesopotamia in what is now Iraq.

    Evidence of the long-lost language - probably spoken by a hitherto unknown people from the Zagros Mountains of western Iran – was found by a Cambridge University archaeologist as he deciphered an ancient clay writing tablet unearthed by an international archaeological team excavating an Assyrian imperial governors’ palace in the ancient city of Tushan, south-east Turkey.


    The tablet revealed the names of 60 women – probably prisoners-of-war or victims of an Assyrian forced population transfer programme. But when the Cambridge archaeologist – Dr. John MacGinnis - began to examine the names in detail, he realized that 45 of them bore no resemblance to any of the thousands of ancient Middle Eastern names already known to scholars.

    Because ancient Middle Eastern names are normally composites, made-up, in full or abbreviated form, of ordinary words in the relevant local lexicon, the unique nature of the tablet’s 45 mystery names is seen by scholars as evidence of a previously unknown language.

    The clay tablet text originally formed part of the palace’s archive – used by local Assyrian imperial officials to record their administrative, political and economic decisions and actions.

    The 60 women (including the 45 with evidence of the previously unattested language) were almost certainly being deployed by the palace authorities for some economic purpose (potentially a female-associated craft activity like weaving). Indeed the text mentions that some of them were being allocated to specific local villages.

    Typical names, borne by the women – the evidence for the lost language – include Ushimanay, Alagahnia, Irsakinna and Bisoonoomay.


    Now archaeologists and linguistics experts are set to analyse the mystery names in even greater details to try to discover whether the letter-order or letter frequency shows any similarities to previously attested ancient tongues to which this mystery language could be related.

    The 45 women are thought to come from somewhere in the central or northern Zagros Mountains – because that is the only area in which the Assyrians were militarily active at the relevant time where the ancient languages are still largely unknown.

    It’s likely that the women were compulsorily moved from their Zagros Mountains homeland and assigned to work near Tushan sometime in the second half of the 8th century BC – probably as a result of conquests carried out in the Zagros by the Assyrian kings Tiglath Pilasser III or Sargon.

    The excavation of the palace at Tushan is being carried out by a German archaeological team directed by Dr. Dirk Wicke of Mainz University as part of an archaeological investigation into the ancient Assyrian city led by Professor Timothy Matney of the University of Akron in Ohio. Full details about the discovery of the mystery names are published in the current issue of the Journal of Near Eastern Studies .
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    Interesting find.It may be the language of Lulubi/Gutians?

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    Good find but why is it perceived to be a language

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    Thanks for posting this, hyllus.

    The below map is from a lecture given by Dr. Mario Fales a few months back:

    I [Nebuchadnezzar] made a trench searching for the old foundation deposits ( . . . ), and I found the foundation of Naram-Sin, the king of Babylon, a remote ancestor, and I did not remove his inscription, but put my own inscription together with his inscription.
    The Pious King: Royal Patronage of Temples
    By Caroline Waerzeggers

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    Very interesting stuff! Thanks for posting this thread. Unfortunately, the Neo-Assyrian Empire, like many other empires after it, disrupted many indigenous languages. I'm just glad my ancestors documented as much as they did from ancient history.

    Linguistics ---> Assyriology

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    I wonder what it is. Some comments on the article said it could be some sort of semitic language although that seems unlikely imo.

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    The script seems to be in cuneform but I wonder if the language itself is related to the Hittite or neo-Hittite period?
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    Quote Originally Posted by The American View Post
    The script seems to be in cuneform but I wonder if the language itself is related to the Hittite or neo-Hittite period?
    Maybe, apparently, some linguists believe it may have been spoken in or near the Zargos Mountains in Western Iran. It could be related to the Kassite or Hurrian languages.

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    Quite possibly Gutian, they were Zagros dwellers, probably related to the Hurrians. Though, afaik, when their (short) reign over Mesopotamia ended, they retreated back into the mountains.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Pulaar View Post
    Good find but why is it perceived to be a language
    You can see the organization of the characters, which hints of being a written language. Also others ancient cultures within the periphery utilized similar form of characters like above.

    Example Ancient Assyrian Cuneiform Writing.


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    Possibilities
    What then could the origins of these names be? Very likely we are dealing with a language isolate, and it may be that it is a language about which we have no other information or that may present traces in proper names that it has not yet been possible to reconstruct into a parent language. As regards the nature of such a proposed background language there are, in my appreciation, four possibilities:

    (1) Shubrian
    These names could be Shubrian, that is to say the indigenous language of the region prior to the arrival of the Assyrians (and Arameans). The existence of Shubria, and Shubrian, is well-established, but it is not known to what language group Shubrian belonged. On the basis of the names of some of the kings of Shubria, it has been suggested that the language was a relative of Hurrian, but, in reality, that dataset is too small to allow reliable conclusions...

    (2) Pre-Hurrian substratum
    An alternative could be that the region was host to some other pre-Hurrian language about which we have no other information.

    (3) Iranian (non-Indo-European)
    Another possibility is that the names belong to a population group originating in western Iran but speaking a tongue that did not belong to the Indo-Iranian language group. This strikes me as particularly plausible as it is certain that the Assyrians deported populations from Iran to other parts of the empire.

    (4) Recent arrival
    A final suggestion is that the language could belong to a new wave of population influx. One possibility would be the Mushki (Phrygians) who were moving into eastern Anatolia around this time. If this were the case, for the names to appear in an administrative list at Tušhan would mean that such people had either deliberately infiltrated the Assyrian empire (which might seem foolish) or that they had been captured on campaign. It may be that a mixture of the above sources is involved. The following general remarks may be made concerning features of these names:

    (1) the overwhelming majority end
    in a vowel, -a, -a, -e, -e, -i, -i
    (2) four begin in ši-
    (3) five end in - ši/še
    (4) all Akkadian phonemes are used in the representation
    of these names with the possible exception of
    /ṣ/ and (or) /z/.

    The above will by now have amply emphasized the linguistic interest of this text. The names listed evidently come from a variety of linguistic backgrounds. The small number whose etymology can be identified include Assyrian, Hurrian, Luwian, and possibly Indo-Iranian, but in the case of the great majority the background cannot be identified. How did these people come to be under the palace administration of Tušhan? In principle there would seem to be three possibilities: descendants of the indigenous population, prisoners of war, and deportees. It may be pertinent to note that the phraseology ina pan PN occurring in our text is also characteristic of lists of deportees,17 but this is not the only use of the phrase, and it seems likely that it would equally have been used for prisoners of war and resident individuals under the palace authority. The group could in any case have comprised elements from all three sources. Until a convincing identification for the linguistic milieu is made, it is probably not possible to be more specific than this.18

    Evidence for a Peripheral Language in a Neo-Assyrian Tablet from the Governor’s Palace in Tušhan

    John MacGinnis

    Journal of Near Eastern Studies
    Vol. 71, No. 1 (April 2012), pp. 13-20
    I [Nebuchadnezzar] made a trench searching for the old foundation deposits ( . . . ), and I found the foundation of Naram-Sin, the king of Babylon, a remote ancestor, and I did not remove his inscription, but put my own inscription together with his inscription.
    The Pious King: Royal Patronage of Temples
    By Caroline Waerzeggers

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