Archaeologists recently discovered a previously unknown ancient language from an ancient inscription during excavations in Turkey.
According to Julius Maximilian Universität Würzburg, a public research university in Germany, the lost language belongs to the Indo-European language family, which includes hundreds of related languages that are all thought to share a common prehistoric ancestor.
Less than half the world’s population speaks Indo-European, a language native to much of Europe, the Iranian plateau and the northern Indian subcontinent. Some of the most widely spoken Indo-European languages are English, Hindi, Spanish, French, Russian, Portuguese, German, Punjabi, and Bengali.
The latest discovery of an Indo-European language was discovered through ritual texts inscribed on a tablet at the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Boazkoy-Katusha in the northern Turkish province of Chorum.Boazkoy-Katusha was the capital of the Hittite Empire, one of the great powers in the Near East during the Late Bronze Age (circa 1650 to 1200 BC)
Excavations at Boazkoy-Katusha have been ongoing for more than a century under the direction of the German Archaeological Institute (DAI).
According to the Julius Maximilian University of Würzburg, some 30,000 clay tablets have been discovered at the site so far, which reveal various aspects of life during the Hittite period. These tablets contain inscriptions in cuneiform script—generally considered the oldest known writing system. Developed by the ancient Sumerians in Mesopotamia over 5,000 years ago, cuneiform is a script used to write many languages of the ancient Near East.
Most of the inscriptions found at Boazkoy-Katusha document the extinct Hittite language, the oldest member of the Indo-European language family. Other languages, such as Luwian and Palak, are also represented on the site.
However, this year’s excavations led by Dr. Andreas Schachner, professor at the DAI Istanbul Department, surprisingly uncovered recitations of a previously unknown extinct language. The language is hidden in a cuneiform tablet containing ritual texts written in Hittite. Hittite ritual texts refer to the lost language as the language of the land of Kalashma, a region that may correspond to the location of the present-day towns of Bolu or Gered in northern Turkey.
“The Hittites had a unique interest in recording rituals in foreign languages,” Daniel Schwimmer, chairman of the Department of Ancient Near Eastern Studies at Julius Maximilian University in Würzburg, said in a press release.
The recently discovered language remains largely incomprehensible. However, according to the Julius Maximilian University of Würzburg, Professor Elisabeth Riken, an expert on Anatolian languages at Philipps University in Marburg, Germany, has confirmed that Karasma belongs to the Indo-European family of languages.
Earlier this year, researchers announced they had successfully deciphered ancient writing that had eluded scholars for decades.
In a study published in the journal Journal of Linguistic Societya team of scientists describe how they partially deciphered the “unknown” Kushan script, an ancient writing system that was used in parts of Central Asia from around 200 BC to 700 AD
Weekly newspaper Schachner was contacted via email for comment.