What's the name of the Hittites now?

23.09.2020 11:55

Hittite cuneiform texts are available online

Petra Giegerich Communication and press
Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz

Cuneiform manuscripts from clay tablet collections of the Hittites from around 3,500 years ago are made fully accessible online in a new DFG project

The Hittites lived in Anatolia about 3,500 years ago. They recorded state treaties and decrees, prayers, myths and incantation rituals on clay tablets - in a language that could only be deciphered around 100 years ago. Now the Hittite texts written in cuneiform are made fully digitally accessible. The basis for this is formed by around 30,000 manuscripts, most of which are written in the Hittite language, but to a lesser extent also in other languages ​​such as Luwian or Palai. Scientists from the universities of Mainz, Marburg and Würzburg as well as the Academy of Sciences and Literature, Mainz are involved in the cooperation project. The "Thesaurus Linguarum Hethaeorum digitalis" (TLHdig) project will be funded by the DFG with around 520,000 euros over the next three years.

Mainz as a worldwide center of Hittitology is further upgraded

"This should also be seen as recognition of Mainz as a scientific location, where Hittitology has been anchored since the 1960s," says Prof. Dr. Doris Prechel from the Institute for Classical Studies at JGU and cooperation partner in the project. In Mainz, the Hittite Archive of the Academy of Sciences and Literature houses the world's largest inventory of Hittite scripts, i.e. texts translated from the original cuneiform script into Latin letters. "We have a fabulous starting point here and with the digital thesaurus we will create a milestone for Hittitology worldwide." Doris Prechel and her working group are contributing a collection of texts with incantation rituals. These rituals mostly consisted of magical techniques to win the goodwill of the gods and, for example, to ward off danger to the royal family or the state.

With the new project, the cooperation partners now want to take the step into the 21st century: A large part of the 30,000 clay tablets and fragments that were found in the then Hittite capital Hattusa and documented on over a million index cards are already digitized. They should now be provided with explanations and adjusted. The text collection can be reached via the "Hittitologie-Portal Mainz". New cuneiform texts that will be added in the future from Hittite sites can also be integrated. This creates a "living archive" of cuneiform manuscripts in romanization and gives research on the culture and history of the Hittites a completely new access to the text sources.

Hittite is particularly interesting as the oldest Indo-European language

"Many cultures have lost their written material, for example when it has not survived on papyrus," explains Doris Prechel. The clay tablets, on the other hand, were made durable by the burning process and now provide us with information from all areas of human life in the second millennium BC. The Hittite culture is also interesting in terms of linguistic history because Hittite is the oldest known Indo-European language. Today Indo-European languages ​​are distributed all over the world and represent the language family with the most speakers at all.

http: //download.uni-mainz.de/presse/07_altertum_altorient_keilschrift_digital_df ...
The traditional method - here a hand copy of the cuneiform text from a clay tablet
Photo / ©: Doris Prechel

http: //download.uni-mainz.de/presse/07_altertum_altorient_keilschrift_digital_df ...
The traditional method: After a manual copy has been made, the context is mapped on index cards.
Photo / ©: Doris Prechel

Related Links:
https://www.ao.altertumswwissenschaften.uni-mainz.de/ - Ancient Oriental Philology at JGU
https: //www.ao.altertumswwissenschaften.uni-mainz.de/2020/09/09/neues-dfg-projekt ... - DFG project "TLHdig"
https://www.ao.altertumswwissenschaften.uni-mainz.de/dpht-hethitische-rituale/ - Digital publication of Hittite texts - Hittite rituals
http://hethiter.net - Hittitology Portal Mainz

Read more:
https://www.uni-mainz.de/presse/aktuell/9582_DEU_HTML.php - press release "From Haft Tappeh into the World Wide Web (09/30/2019)
https://www.magazin.uni-mainz.de/10477_DEU_HTML.php - JGU magazine article "Nuclear physics and cuneiform science work hand in hand (07/01/2019)
https://www.magazin.uni-mainz.de/3948_DEU_HTML.php - JGU magazine article "Learning to decipher cuneiform (23.09.2015)

Scientific contact:

Prof. Dr. Doris Prechel
Department of Ancient Near Eastern Philology
Institute for Classical Studies
Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz
55099 Mainz
Tel. +49 6131 39-38320
Email: [email protected]

Features of this press release:
Journalists, everyone
History / archeology, information technology, language / literature
Research projects, collaborations