Excavation site in Turkey. Image: Andreas Schachner / Deutsches Archäologisches Institut.

Hittite Tablets Unearth Forgotten Ancient Language

According to experts, most of its content remains elusive.


Recent excavations in Turkey have unearthed a previously unidentified Indo-European language. Professor Daniel Schwemer, a distinguished scholar on the ancient Near East from Würzburg, is diving deep into this enigmatic find.

Located in north-central Turkey, Boğazköy-Hattusha stands as a testament to the might of the Hittite Empire, a dominant power in Western Asia from 1650 to 1200 BC. This historical goldmine, recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1986, has been the focus of archaeological pursuits for over a century under the German Archaeological Institute’s watchful eyes.

To date, nearly 30,000 clay tablets adorned with cuneiform writing have emerged from its soil. These inscriptions, acknowledged as part of UNESCO’s World Documentary Heritage in 2001, paint a vivid picture of Hittite society, its economy, religion, and connections with neighboring civilizations.

Under the guidance of Professor Andreas Schachner, the German Archaeological Institute’s Istanbul Department continues to make groundbreaking discoveries. While most unearthed texts bear Hittite inscriptions, this year’s dig presented a twist: a previously unknown language hidden within a Hittite cultic ritual text.


The Hittites: Curators of Linguistic Diversity

Professor Daniel Schwemer, leading the Ancient Near Eastern Studies at Julius-Maximilians-Universität (JMU) Würzburg, is closely examining the newfound inscriptions. He indicates that this mystery language is termed the “language of the land of Kalašma”, possibly linked to present-day regions of Bolu or Gerede.

Schwemer elaborates, “The Hittites had a unique inclination towards documenting rituals in diverse tongues.” These scripts, penned down by royal Hittite scribes, encapsulate various Anatolian, Syrian, and Mesopotamian traditions. Thus, the findings from Boğazköy-Hattusha feature not just Hittite, but also snippets of Luwian, Palaic, and Hattic, among others. Now, the language of Kalašma joins this list.

Deciphering the Kalasmaic Enigma

Although written in the newly discovered Kalasmaic dialect, most of its content remains elusive. Professor Elisabeth Rieken, an expert in ancient Anatolian languages from Philipps-Universität Marburg, confirms its origins within the Anatolian-Indo-European language family.


Rieken observes that the Kalasmaic text, despite its proximity to regions where Palaic thrived, seems to resonate more with Luwian characteristics. The intricate relationship between Kalasmaic and other Luwian dialects from the Late Bronze Age in Anatolia will be further probed in upcoming studies.

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Written by Ivan Petricevic

I've been writing passionately about ancient civilizations, history, alien life, and various other subjects for more than eight years. You may have seen me appear on Discovery Channel's What On Earth series, History Channel's Ancient Aliens, and Gaia's Ancient Civilizations among others.

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