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Anatolian hieroglyphs

Anatolian hieroglyphs
Luwian Hittite hieroglyphs
Hittite hieroglyphs
ISO 15924 Hluw, 080

Anatolian hieroglyphs are an indigenous logographic script native to central Anatolia, consisting of some 500 signs. They were once commonly known as Hittite hieroglyphs, but the language they encode proved to be Luwian, not Hittite, and the term Luwian hieroglyphs is used in English publications. They are typologically similar to Egyptian hieroglyphs, but do not derive graphically from that script, and they are not known to have played the sacred role of hieroglyphs in Egypt. There is no demonstrable connection to Hittite cuneiform.[1][2][3]


File:Luwian Language de V2.svg
Geographical distribution of Anatolian hieroglyphs. Thick lines represent the most finds

Individual Anatolian hieroglyphs are attested from the second and early first millennia BC across Anatolia and into modern Syria. The earliest examples occur on personal seals, but these consist only of names, titles, and auspicious signs, and it is not certain that they represent language. Most actual texts are found as monumental inscriptions in stone, though a few documents have survived on lead strips.

The first inscriptions confirmed as Luwian date to the Late Bronze Age, ca. 14th to 13th centuries BC. And after some two centuries of sparse material the hieroglyphs resume in the Early Iron Age, ca. 10th to 8th centuries. In the early 7th century, the Luwian hieroglyphic script, by then aged some 700 years, was marginalized by competing alphabetic scripts and fell into oblivion.


While all the preserved texts employing Anatolian hieroglyphs are written in the Luwian language,[4] some features of the script suggest its earliest development within a bilingual Hittite-Luwian environment. For example, the sign which has the form of a "taking" or "grasping" hand has the value /ta/, which is precisely the Hittite word ta-/da- "to take," in contrast with the Luwian cognate of the same meaning which is la-.[5] There was occasionally some use of Anatolian Hieroglyphs to write foreign material like Hurrian theonyms, or glosses in Urartian (such as 500x33px á - ḫá+ra - ku for 100x33px aqarqi or 500x33px tu - ru - za for 100x33px ṭerusi, two units of measurement).


As in Egyptian, characters may be logographic or phonographic—that is, they may be used to represent words or sounds. The number of phonographic signs is limited. Most represent CV syllables, though there are a few disyllabic signs. A large number of these are ambiguous as to whether the vowel is a or i. Some signs are dedicated to one use or another, but many are flexible.

Words may be written logographically, phonetically, mixed (that is, a logogram with a phonetic complement), and may be preceded by a determinative. Other than the fact that the phonetic glyphs form a syllabary rather than indicating only consonants, this system is analogous to the system of Egyptian hieroglyphs.

Unlike Egyptian hieroglyphs, the lines of Luwian hieroglyphs are written alternately left-to-right and right-to-left. This practice was called by the Greeks boustrophedon, meaning "as the ox turns" (as when plowing a field).

Some scholars compare the Phaistos Disc and Cretan hieroglyphs as possibly related scripts, but there is no consensus regarding this.


File:Anatolian - Seal of Tarkummuwa, King of Mera - Walters 571512.jpg
Hittite hieroglyphs surround a figure in royal dress. The inscription, repeated in cuneiform around the rim, gives the seal owner's name: the Hittite ruler Tarkummuwa. This famous bilingual inscription provided the first clues for deciphering Hittite hieroglyphs.

Anatolian hieroglyphs first came to Western attention in the nineteenth century, when European explorers such as Johann Ludwig Burckhardt and Richard Francis Burton described pictographic inscriptions on walls in the city of Hama, Syria. The same characters were recorded in Boğazköy, and presumed by A. H. Sayce to be Hittite in origin.[6]

By 1915, with the Luwian language known from cuneiform, and a substantial quantity of Anatolian hieroglyphs transcribed and published, linguists started to make real progress in reading the script.[6] In the 1930s, it was partially deciphered by Ignace Gelb, Piero Meriggi, Emil Forrer, and Bedřich Hrozný. Its language was confirmed as Luwian in 1973 by J.D. Hawkins, Anna Morpurgo Davies and Günther Neumann, who corrected some previous errors about sign values, in particular emending the reading of symbols *376 and *377 from i, ī to zi, za.


Transliteration of logograms is conventionally the term represented in Latin, in capital letters (e.g. PES for the logogram for "foot"). The syllabograms are transliterated, disambiguating homophonic signs analogously to cuneiform transliteration, e.g. ta=ta1, tá=ta2, tà=ta3, ta4, ta5 and ta6 transliterate six distinct ways of representing phonemic /ta/.[7] Some of these homophonic signs have received further attention and new phonetic interpretation in recent years, e.g. tà has been argued to stand for /da/,[8] and á seems to have stood for /ʔa/ (distinct from /a/), representing the descendant of Proto-Indo-European */h₁/.[9]

See also


  1. Payne, A. (2004). Hieroglyphic Luwian. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz. p. 1. ISBN 3-447-05026-8. 
  2. Melchert, H. Craig (2004). "Luvian". In Woodard, Roger D. The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the World's Ancient Languages. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-56256-2. 
  3. Melchert, H. Craig (1996). "Anatolian Hieroglyphs". In Daniels, Peter T.; Bright, William. The World's Writing Systems. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-507993-0. 
  4. Plöchl, R. (2003). Einführung ins Hieroglyphen-Luwische (in Deutsch). Dresden: Verlag der TU Dresden. p. 12. ISBN 3-86005-351-5. 
  5. Yakubovich, I. (2008). "Hittite-Luvian Bilingualism and the Origin of Anatolian Hieroglyphs". Acta Linguistica Petropolitana 4 (1): 9–36. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 Pope, Maurice (1999). The Story of Decipherment: From Egyptian Hieroglyphs to Mayan Script (rev. ed.). New York: Thames & Hudson. ISBN 0-500-28105-X. 
  7. see also the article at the Indo-European Database
  8. Rieken, E. (2008): "Die Zeichen <ta>, <tá> und <tà> in den hieroglyphen-luwischen Inschriften der Nachgroßreichszeit." In: Archi, A.; Francia, R. (eds.): VI Congresso Internazionale die Ittitilogia, Roma, 5.-9. Settembre 2005. Roma: CNR, 637-647.
  9. Simon, Zsolt (2013). "Once again on the Hieroglyphic Luwian sign *19 〈á〉". Indogermanische Forschungen 118: 1–22. 

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