A new language belonging to the Indo-European language family was discovered in Bogazkoy-Hattusha in north-central Turkey. It was once the capital of the Hittite Empire, one of the great powers of Western Asia during the Late Bronze Age (1650-1200 BC).
Excavations at Bogazkoy-Hattusha have continued for more than 100 years under the direction of the German Archaeological Institute. The site has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1986. Almost 30,000 clay tablets with cuneiform writing have been found there so far. These tablets, which were included in UNESCO's World Documentary Heritage in 2001, provide rich information about the history, society, economy and religious traditions of the Hittites and their neighbors.
Annual archaeological campaigns led by current director Professor Andreas Schachner of the Istanbul Department of the German Archaeological Institute continue to add to the cuneiform finds. Most of the texts were written in Hittite, the oldest attested Indo-European language and the dominant language in the country. However, this year's digs brought a surprise. Hidden in a ritual cult text written in Hittite is a recitation in a hitherto unknown language.
Professor Daniel Schëemer, head of the Department of Ancient Near Eastern Studies at Julius-Maximilians-Universität (JMU) Wurzburg in Germany, is working on cuneiform finds from the excavations. He reports that the Hittite ritual text refers to the new idiom as the language of the land of Kalasma. This is an area at the northwestern edge of the Hittite heartland, probably in the area of ??present-day Bolu or Gerede.
The discovery of another language in the Bo?azköy-Hattusha archives is not entirely unexpected, as Daniel Schëemer explains: "The Hittites were uniquely interested in recording rituals in foreign languages."
Such ritual texts, written by Hittite king scribes, reflect different Anatolian, Syrian, and Mesopotamian traditions and linguistic environments. Rituals provide valuable insights into the little-known linguistic landscapes of Late Bronze Age Anatolia, where not only Hittite was spoken. Thus the cuneiform texts from Bogazkoy-Hattusha include passages in Luwian and Palaic, two other Anatolian-Indo-European languages ??closely related to Hittite, as well as Hattic, a non-Indo-European language. Now the language of Kalasma can be added to these.
Being written in a newly discovered language, the Kalasmaic text is still incomprehensible. Daniel Schwemer's colleague, Professor Elisabeth Rieken (Philipps-Universität Marburg), a specialist in ancient Anatolian languages, has confirmed that the idiom belongs to the Anatolian-Indo-European language family.
According to Rieken, despite its geographical proximity to the Palaic-speaking area, the text appears to share more features with Luwian. How closely the Kalasma language is related to the other Luvian dialects of Late Bronze Age Anatolia will be the subject of further investigation.