• Ozge Yılmaz

249 hieroglyphs unearthed in Hattusha, the capital of the Hittites, in Turkey

It is aimed to reach new information about the traditions of the Hittite civilization with 249 new hieroglyphs (an ancient writing system) discovered in the Yerkapı Tunnel in Hattusa, the capital of the Hittites.

The capital of the Hittites, one of the first civilizations of Anatolia, is Hattusa in the Boğazkale district of Çorum.Excavations in Hattusa Ruins have been going on since 1907. Today, Prof. Dr. Andreas Schachner from the German Archaeological Institute is the head of the excavation.

Photo: Kemal Ceylan - AA

During the excavations carried out with scientists from different countries and fields of expertise, new symbols, estimated to have been drawn about 3,500 years ago, were found in the 80-meter-long Yerkapı Tunnel, which was built using thousands of stones.

From the excavation team, Assoc. Dr. Bülent Genç (Lecturer at Mardin Artuklu University) noticed the symbols that were presumably drawn with madder on the stones in the middle of the Yerkapı Tunnel while he was visiting the ruins to take photos with the students on August 13.

Having identified 249 symbols in the tunnel, Genç shared his discovery with the excavation head, Schachner. He also brought the hieroglyphs to the scientific world by having the Yerkapi and symbols scanned in 3D.

It is estimated that the icons have survived for thousands of years, undisturbed, due to the tunnel's average temperature in all seasons and its location in a dark environment without sun and rain.

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Schachner told the AA reporter that scientists from different specialties continue to examine the 249 hieroglyphs, which are considered to depict gods.

Schachner stated that "archaeological excavations in Hattusa started from Yerkapı in 1907, and everyone who has excavated, including himself, has passed through the tunnel dozens of times, but no one noticed the hieroglyphs." After the discovery, Hittitologist Assoc. Dr. Metin Alparslan stated that he started working to determine what meanings the symbols might have.

It was stated that Yerkapı Tunnel, located at the top of Hattusa, was extremely important for the Hittites. Schachner said that with the newly found hieroglyphs, they will have the opportunity to better understand what the tunnel was used for.

Schachner stated that 249 similar Anatolian hieroglyphs were identified in the area. These will be analyzed in 8 groups. The hieroglyphs found will be interpreted more like graffiti because they are written with paint. It is also thought that the hieroglyphs found were made quickly and understood quickly.

Expressing that they are excited to discover something new from an archaeological point of view, Schachner said:

“We know the Hittites mostly from the cuneiform texts, but we see that the Hittites and Hittite culture also have a different writing system unique to Anatolia. The interesting thing is that after the Hittite state collapsed, the cuneiform writing disappeared, but Anatolian hieroglyphs continue to be used. In the southern part of Central Anatolia, especially in Southeast Anatolia, we see that such inscriptions were used for 400 years during the Iron Age period, that is, following the Hittites.”