Archaeologists have discovered evidence for a previously unknown ancient language – buried in the ruins of a 2800 year old Middle Eastern palace.
The discovery is important because it may help reveal the ethnic and cultural origins of some of history’s first ‘barbarians’ – mountain tribes which had, in previous millennia, preyed on the world’s first great civilizations, the cultures of early Mesopotamia in what is now Iraq.
Evidence of the long-lost language - probably spoken by a hitherto unknown people from the Zagros Mountains of western Iran – was found by a Cambridge University archaeologist as he deciphered an ancient clay writing tablet unearthed by an international archaeological team excavating an Assyrian imperial governors’ palace in the ancient city of Tushan, south-east Turkey.
The tablet revealed the names of 60 women – probably prisoners-of-war or victims of an Assyrian forced population transfer program. But when the Cambridge archaeologist – Dr. John MacGinnis - began to examine the names in detail, he realized that 45 of them bore no resemblance to any of the thousands of ancient Middle Eastern names already known to scholars.
Typical names, born by the women – the evidence for the lost language – include Ushimanay, Alagahnia, Irsakinna and Bisoonoomay.
Journal of Near Eastern Studies
Evidence for a Peripheral Language in a Neo-Assyrian Tablet from the Governor’s Palace in Tušhan (pp. 13-20) John MacGinnis DOI: 10.1086/664450 Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/664450