An ancient language which could shed light on some of history’s first ‘barbarians’ has been discovered on clay tablets in Turkey.
Archaeologists excavating the site of an Assyrian imperial governors’ palace in the city of Tusha uncovered the tablets, which reveal the names of 60 women. When studied in detail, archaeologists realised the names didn’t bear any resemblance to the thousands of Middle Eastern names already known to researchers.
Because ancient Middle Eastern names are normally composites, made-up, in full or abbreviated form, of ordinary words in the relevant local lexicon, the unique nature of the tablet’s 45 mystery names is seen by scholars as evidence of a previously unknown language.
The clay tablet text originally formed part of the palace’s archive – used by local Assyrian imperial officials to record their administrative, political and economic decisions and actions.
The 60 women (including the 45 with evidence of the previously unattested language) were almost certainly being deployed by the palace authorities for some economic purpose (potentially a female-associated craft activity like weaving). Indeed the text mentions that some of them were being allocated to specific local villages. (Source: Independent)
Linguistics experts will now work alongside archaeologists to try and identify the mystery language, and see if it has links to other known languages from the era.