249 Hittite hieroglyphs found in ancient tunnel

(ORDO NEWS) — A university professor unexpectedly discovered 249 hieroglyphs painted on the stone walls of the Yerkapi tunnel in the ancient Hittite capital of Hattusa near modern Bogazkale, Turkey.

Lecturer at the Department of Archeology, Mardin Artuklu University Assoc. Dr. When Bulent Genç was walking through the tunnel with his students last month, he noticed the symbols painted on the boulders with red pigment. A preliminary interpretation suggests that they may be symbolic representations of deities.

The tunnel, over 240 feet long, was built 3,500 years ago using thousands of large boulders of rough stone inside an artificial mound on the walls of the ancient city near the gates of the Sphinx.

Archaeologists believe that it was not just a passage through the fortifications, used for practical purposes to protect the city, but rather for religious ceremonies.

Remains of 12 other similar tunnels have been found under the walls of the Hittite era, but this one is by far the best preserved. Constructed as a triangular barrel vault with a slightly flattened top corner, it is in such good shape that it is completely passable and structurally sound.

It was first excavated in 1907, and since then many archaeologists and other visitors have passed through the Yerkapi Tunnel, but so far no one has noticed the hieroglyphs.

They were preserved because they were protected from the sun, wind and rain by a tunnel that also has a constant cool temperature throughout the year, which is ideal for conservation purposes.

Hattusa was founded by the Hattian Bronze Age culture around 2000 BC. Writing was introduced to the settlement by Assyrian merchants over the next few centuries, and when it became the capital of the Hittite Empire in 1700 BC, Hittite replaced Hittite in writing. the documents. Tens of thousands of Hittite cuneiform tablets have been discovered at Hattus.

After the collapse of the Hittite Empire in 1200 BC. the use of cuneiform ceased in the area, but Anatolian hieroglyphs continued to be used for another four centuries after the collapse of the Bronze Age.

The discovery of tunnel hieroglyphs suggests an early origin for a non-cuneiform writing system that was local and unique to Anatolia, not imported from Assyria, and used for symbolic purposes even though cuneiform dominated administrative and accounting purposes.

Pointing out that the hieroglyphs in the tunnel are similar to each other, the head of the excavation, Andreas Schachner, said:

“When we share the symbols with the scientific world, our colleagues working on the Hittites will have an opinion and maybe come up with one or more ideas.”

“In total, we have identified 249 Anatolian hieroglyphs here, but not all of them are different from each other. In total we can divide them into 8 groups.

They add innovation to us socially. Since they are written in paint, we need to interpret them more in a graffiti style.

We think it was done quickly and in a way that could be quickly understood,” he explained.

While stating that most of the hieroglyphs found in Anatolia can be seen on monumental inscriptions or seals with meanings of their own, Schachner stressed that the discovery of symbols in the tunnel led to the idea that hieroglyphs were used much more widely during the Hittite period.

All 249 characters have been 3D scanned so they can be further studied. The researchers hope the symbols will help shed new light on the tunnel and its role in Hittite culture.


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