2018 ● Volume 50

REDISCOVERED LUWIAN HIEROGLYPHIC INSCRIPTIONS FROM WESTERN ASIA MINOR

Abstract

The estate of the British prehistorian James Mellaart (1925–2012) contained Mellaart’s tracing of several Luwian hieroglyphic inscriptions, including a particular prominent one that was originally drawn by the French archaeologist Georges Perrot in 1878. In search of building materials, peasants in the village of Beyköy, approximately 34 kilometers north of Afyonkarahisar in western Turkey, had retrieved a number of stones from the ground. Together they make up a frieze 29 meters in length and about 35 centimeters in height. Not yet able to read the symbols, Perrot drew the stones in the wrong sequence. After Perrot had recorded the inscription, the villagers installed the stones into the foundation of a newly-built mosque. When Luwian hieroglyphic was deciphered, Perrot’s drawing was meant to be published within the framework of a joint Turkish/US-American research project focusing on thus far unpublished documents that had come into the possession of the Ottoman government during the 19th century. The Turkish archaeologist Uluğ Bahadır Alkım produced a preliminary interpretation of the contents and established the correct sequence of the stones shortly before he died in 1981. – The Beyköy inscription contains 50 phrases and is thus the longest known Bronze Age hieroglyphic document. It outranks by far any documents known from western Anatolia. The inscription was commissioned by great king Kupantakuruntas of Mira. It commemorates his deeds, and in so doing provides a detailed account of his realm and conquests. The text dates back to the upheavals of the Sea Peoples, ca. 1190–1180 BC. It relates the maritime conquests in the eastern Mediterranean under the command of great prince Muksus from the Troad. The western Anatolian naval forces proceeded all the way to Ashkelon in southern Palestine, bordering on Egypt. The memory of this endeavor was preserved in Greek literary tradition in the form of the legendary tales about Mopsos. In short, the Luwian hieroglyphic text from Beyköy gives us a fascinating insight into the history of a region and a period which has thus far been shrouded in darkness. It is reproduced and discussed here together with three more substantial Luwian hieroglyphic documents and four fragments from Mellaart’s estate.

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