Saturday, May 25, 2024

The Early Iron Age Revival of the State, XXXI: Queen of Victory


John Byrne, "Goblin Queen" (From a story by Chris Claremont)

Good news! My employer has been persuaded that "But I don't wanna!" is not an adequate argument against the labour code requirement that I get an extra day off to celebrate the birthday of our undying Queen-Empress.That's next week; this week I celebrated it with lots of overtime instead, so I am going to pluck another low-hanging fruit before engaging with postblogging next week. 

So the story here is that the Indo-European languages emerge into the light with The Proclamation of Anittas, a unique document on Old Hittite extant in an early as well as late-Kingdom copies, anchoring the  use of the Hittite tongue to a c. 1600BC central Anatolian context.  And I am engaged here in the fun and low-stakes enterprise of arguing that this is not only the oldest Indo-European, but the source of the language family. Today we're going to go a bit further and single out an individual:  Puduhepa, the Queen of the Night. 

At some point prior to 1350, and perhaps well before 1600, the Anatolian languages had already given rise to two significantly altered Indo-European languages, Greek and proto-Indo-Aryan. In a spirit of extreme epistemic caution, we can link so-called Mycenaean Greek to the the kingdom of "Ahhiyawa" and locate it around Miletos around the Meander. However, actual texts are found on the Peloponnese, Boeotia, and Crete. This only strictly proves that the scribes writing it (only 65 hands are recognised) actually spoke Mycenaean Greek in these areas, but it isn't much of a leap to argue that the  Greek-speaking oecumene was already trans-Aegean. We just don't need the hypothesis, given Miletos' later history as the most prominent of the Greek "colonising" city-states. After all, the issue here is the spread of Indo-European, not to Greece, but around the Mediterranean basin, where Mycenaeans were active as far west as Sardinia by the Late Bronze Age.

Work celebrated my 25th anniversary with the company the other day. I got a substantial quantity of pottery, a fondue pot, and a nice gift certificate.
They left their pots!

Proto-Indo-Aryan is a bit more problematic, being found as admixed vocabulary in Mitanni documents. The Mitanni state dominated the Jazira in the early part of the Late Bronze Age, and Indo-Aryan was  was plausibly spoken somewhere in the Jazira or  adjacent uplands, entering into the Hurro-Urartian language of the Mitanni state perhaps about 1350, earlier, depending on findspot, than our first attestation of Linear B. Putative Mycenaean Greeks are active in the Mediterranean basin as far west as Sardinia; and while there is no archaeological horizon associated with the proto-Indo-Aryans, we have attestation of Indo-Aryan (Old Persian) as early, or earlier, than Old Latin as early as 533BC, well ahead of the earliest Prakrit texts. 

None of this says anything about earlier and undocumented periods: this is a blog post (for what it is worth) arguing that we shouldn't be leaning on that particular Hail Mary. The Queen of Heaven won't help you now, boy! 

Puduhepa was "born at the beginning of the 13th century BC in the city of Lawazantiya in Kizzuwatna." If you are not up to following the links to Wikipedia, Lawazantiya was probably the abandoned city at Tatarli Hoyuk, while Kizzuwatna was a Hurrian-speaking kingdom in "hollow" Cilicia, the lowland region tucked away in the far southeast of Turkey, cut off from Anatolia and Syria by mountain regions and the hinterland of Biblical Tarsus. In modern times it is more closely associated with Anatolia by virtue of the Cilician Gates, a pass cut through the monolithic rock of the Gulek Pass to the valley of the Tarsus River bypassing an upland trackway. The work presumably dates to the Early Iron Age because that's when it stopped not existing, and you could wish that historians of the region paid more attention to it considering the implications for shifting development patterns of much more recent mountain highways, but what are you going to do? Puduhepa is identified as the daughter of the chief priest of the patron goddess of Lawazantiya, Sauska, who is sometimes associated with Ishtar and is "possibly the same deity as DINGIS.GE6, a mysterious figure referred to only by unpronounced Sumerograms. The association seems like a slam dunk given that Puduhepa translated her cult from Lawazantiya to Samuha, but DINGIS.GE6 was an astral and perhaps chthonic figure associated with night incubations.

"General" Hattusili met Puduhepa in 1274 (Egyptian chronology), on his return from the Battle of Kadesh, and Ishtar inspired him with love for the much younger woman and returned with her to the Hittite heartland, where he waged war against his nephew, Mursili III, and defeated him in 1286 (another chronology, obviously). Hattusili is known to us from a small spattering of well-known primary documents and the association of Samuha, presumed to be the site now excavated site on the Kizilmak River where a small collection of Hittite literature (more on that below) has been found. It seems likely that the establishment of the Hurrian goddess at Samuha is associated with the performance of a "Great Itkalzi Ritual," although I might just be reaching for an association with Puduhepa, as so far what we have of the ritual is a 22 tablet "Great Itkalzi" series from Sapinuwa naming Tadukhipa, Queen of Tudhaliya II (1380--1372), as the ritual patron. 

Like Puduhepa, Tadukhipa was born in a Hurrian-speaking milieu (unless we accept the idea of an Indo-Aryan ruling class)  Mittani princess, so it is not surprising that the Great Itkalzi Ritual is largely written in Hurrian, including extended glosses in Hittite with the colophon, "Here the priest is speaking Hurrian." A careful redactor has theorised that the tablet series from Hattusa mixes two different editions. In any case, whatever edition and length, the purpose of the ritual may be conjectured to be purifying the body of the Queen prior to her marriage, and by extension preparing a new temple to the goddess. To the linguist, the most salient point in either case is that Hurrian in its various dialects and creoles creoles is a prestige language spoken by royals and ritual specialists in the Hittite state and as the language of everyday life in Cilicia as of 1280BC. Given that the language is best attested from the Iron Age inscriptions of the Urartan state in highland Armenia, we can see that Hurro-Urartian was a widely-spoken and prestigious language. Puduhapa's death date is not know, but she was a long-lived woman, and two of her grandchildren are the last kings of the Hittite state. (Two grand-daughters were princesses of Egypt and Babylon.) 

And yet Hurro-Urartan is gone and forgotten.  It is not as forgotten as the prestige language of an earlier generation, similarly fossilised in Hittite literary collections. Since ostensibly Hattic names appear in the "Karum letters" of Old Assyrian merchants, Hattic is the oldest attested Anatolian language, although in comparison with the sweeping chronologies of the historical linguists, this isn't saying much, since the letters in question are at best four hundred years older than Puduhepa. Naturally Hattic is asserted to have been the language of the Anatolian Early Bronze Age, and associated with those perennial suspects, Kartvelian and Yenisean. but all we can say is that, in its ritual use in Hittite contexts, all we have is the gloss: "The priest is speaking Hattic," four brief bilinguals, an incantation to the gods of Nerik, and a fragmentary bilingual version of "The Moon God Who Fell From the Sky." If we can trust the asserted chronology of the Hittite writings that come down to us, a somewhat similar fate befell Akkadian as the earliest prestige language associated with cuneiform Hittite. 

Here I need to back up. It is common to refer to the bounteous collections of Hittite literature found at Hattusa/Bogazkoy and other Hittite centres as "archives," but archives are a well-known Middle Eastern phenomenon and contain large quantities of administrative documents. It does not seem possible for a pre-monetary state to function without a massive documentary trail recording taxation and other payments in kind, and the qipu of the Inca and the clay bullae of the pre-literate Mesopotamian states show that invoking "oral culture" does not get us very far. For this reason it has been proposed that the Hittite "archives" are actually working libraries used for other purposes (perhaps literary composition), and that the actual archives used other materials. Kelley Tackett proposes here  that "the writers on [writing] boards," which is an actual noun in Hittite, kept administrative documents on the aforementioned boards, which, being waxed pieces of wood much like the very nice cheese board my company hopes I will appreciate, are organic and long since lost to the ravages of time; and that division of medium and purpose naturally corresponded with choice of language, so that the script and language was Luwian, particularly based on the emergence of a cursive Luwian in stone and on various inscribed objects as a model for the hypothesised written Luwian of the boards. Tackett accepts the scholarly consensus that Hittite was being overtaken by Luwian as the everyday language of the Kingdom in its last generations. One might deduce, although she does not got that far, that one of the purposes of the working libraries was to maintain the prestige of the court language --certainly in studies of  the literary production of more recent dynasties, particularly the Qing and Habsburgs we see something of this. 

However, as Tackett points out, the growing displacement of Hittite by Luwian differed fundamentally from Hittite's replacement of Akkadian in the earliest generations of the Hittite state. She compares the court's resistance to Sargon II's refusal to accept letters in Aramean, the West Semitic language that replaced old East Semitic Akkadian, just as Aramaean had replaced isolate Sumerian in Babylon only at the end of the Classical Antiquity, and so, if Pierre Briant is right, isolate(?) Elamite would replace Old Persian in the Achaemenian Empire before an Indo-Aryan language roared back under the Parthians. 

Perversely, the less common written tablets were in everyday Hittite life, the more important it was for everyday communication to converge on a common vernacular. And the more complex life becomes (without widespread literacy), the more important it becomes to "go with the flow" of language change. "Board" scribes were deemed artisans (and, bizarrely enough, were still paid as artisans in seventeenth century wagon trains!), just as were the "leather scribes" of the Old Persepolis.  One is therefore left to wonder about textile workers who might have produced embroidered, dyed, or simply painted texts. It is particularly noteworthy that in inscriptions that had to meet the broadest public, on statues and on wall paintings, the Hittites gave in and used Luwian hieroglyphs exclusively down through Neo-Hittite times. Although, as she goes on to point out, hieroglyphs are also much more scrutable than cuneiform, with at least the broad strokes of meaning (such as the name of a particular king, for example) obvious on inspection --which doesn't exactly get Herodotus off the hook for being unable to tell the difference between Egyptian and Luwian hieroglyphs! 

I do hope that Kelley Tackett is happy as a junior diplomat, because she wrote a really smart essay. Even when it reads like an undergraduate, as in several inline citations of Saussure, she has a point. All that "semiological" stuff might have gotten a bad rap in the Sixties, but damn it all if the medium really isn't the message! "Wood writers," the people who presumably put names and numbers on ships, wagons, barrels and buildings, really are making the world legible! 

And speaking of craftspeople, let us not ignore the material world! In the "G" section of the Sapinuwa excavations there was found in 2014 a plaza of stone paving on which workshops were erected, and containing numerous sacrificing pits where an unusual amount of taphonomic remains were found. (An interesting administrative document --an exception to the above, please ignore!-- suggests that at one point authorities there had to deal with a delivery of 1200 cattle, while as many as eight furnaces were running at one time.) This suggests an unlikely combination of industrial-scale animal slaughter and metal casting (perhaps using the same fires?) Obsidian was also worked into pieces at the site, interesting in the light of the connotation of chthonic cult with pit sacrifices, and probably boneware. This was production --and consumption-- on an imperial scale, and  goods produced here, such as bronze arrows and a variety of ceramics, were sent "far away." Sardinia might be a stretch, but Hittite and Hurrian cylinder seals have been found at Boeotian Thebes. 

On the consumption side, Gonca 
Önger finds that the animals sacrificed at Sapinuwa were contributed by regions throughout the Empire, were carefully bred, were selected as too old for wool or milk production, and that the artisans of Sapinuwa were abundantly fed with their meat. I mean, if you're not going to pay them, at least you should have pizza days and cake for special occasions! One assumes that this was organised by "scribes who write on sheep backsides" (painting the sheep that you pay your taxes with really ought to be painted with some kind of indication to show that they come from you to avoid any creative confusion along the way) and that outgoing manufactures sometimes had Luwian cursive inscriptions. Meaning was both consumed and produced for export! The first hit for "Mycenaean ceramics Italy" this time around after Wikipedia was a 2002 paper detailing sherds found on the banks of the Adige, which notwithstanding the transgressive frisson one gets singing the forbidden verses of the Deutschlandlied, really is the road to High Germany. Bronze Age Mediterranean influence spread widely in Europe. We knew that. We need to bear in mind that it carried meaning with it. Now, obviously, the content of signs is for the reader; but only to a point, because you can't put words in Master Kikkuli's mouth and expect to learn how to train a chariot horse. There is obviously some question as to whether much of anyone has ever learned to train a horse by reading about training horses; but it seems pretty clear that if you are in the business of trading horses, the phrase "there are four horses in this shipment" should be read as it was sent, and not as you choose to read it. 

I find that, having written all of this, I have not got to nonsense texts like the Sybilline Oracles or the Iguvine Tablets, which I had intended to tackle here. But in doing so I would have riffed on some books I read more  twenty years ago or nearly so, and have not caught up with since, so it is probably just as well that this post come to something of a natural end. The Bronze Age languages of Anatolia changed very quickly. An entire, prestigious language family vanished during the Iron Age, as did East Semitic. The presumed longevity of Indo-European is a hypothesis given far more credulity than it deserves. And the processes of language change are associated with state formation, and, if anything, worked more quickly in the proto-literate earliest phases of state formation than they do today. (I certainly can't think of a post-Iron Age state in which three prestige languages in succession became locally and, eventually,  globally extinct, all in less than four hundred years.) 


1 comment:

  1. The Bronze Age languages of Anatolia changed very quickly. An entire, prestigious language family vanished during the Iron Age, as did East Semitic.

    The Anatolian family's last attestations are, apparently, some Pisidian inscriptions dated to the 2nd c. AD or so, though if you prefer better-attested languages the 3rd c. BC might be a safer endpoint. East Semitic texts were still being written into the 1st c. AD. I guess that is still the Iron Age, but it's a millennium or more after Puduhepa... Or were you alluding to Hurro-Urartian?

    The presumed longevity of Indo-European is a hypothesis given far more credulity than it deserves. And the processes of language change are associated with state formation,

    State formation is regularly associated with the spread of one language and the marginalisation of others, and with the development or borrowing of a new technical vocabulary related to state activities. Insofar as it's associated with more extensive migration and uprooting, it might tend to lead to simplification of complex morphology (if you believe Trudgill, or McWhorter). What it does not typically (or, indeed, ever?) lead to is the rapid creation of a bunch of new languages.

    and, if anything, worked more quickly in the proto-literate earliest phases of state formation than they do today. (I certainly can't think of a post-Iron Age state in which three prestige languages in succession became locally and, eventually, globally extinct, all in less than four hundred years.)

    Maybe Old Persian > Greek > Bactrian? Mon and Pyu > Burmese? (Obviously with reference to writing practices only; almost no language is ever likely to have become extinct at the precise moment it stopped being written, nor to have emerged at the moment when it first started being written...)