Ilse Wegner Introduction to the Hurrian Language


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Ilse Wegner

Introduction to the Hurrian Language

Among the numerous languages of ancient near east, Hurrian is an important one, but in contrast to Akkadian or Hittite there are few investigations of this language, and summary works documenting present knowledge are non-existent. The present “Introduction” shall then be interested in providing access to the grammar as reflected in present research. Many grammatical phenomena that are introduced here may however in the future be modified or even completely reevaluated by others, especially since the study of the Hurrian language is strongly contested. A scientific grammar in the strict sense is not included in this introduction. The previous aids to the learning of Hurrian are however all out-of-date (?) and derive from three grammars and one glossary as well as from numerous scattered published articles. Works that introduce grammar to the student by means of largely coherent text fragments do not exist. These details shall here be taken into account. As reading pieces artificially formed sample sentences are not used. The sample texts originate primarily from the Mittani letters and a few examples of the Boğazköy texts. Following after a strictly grammatical portion comes a series of transcriptions, with a translation and a commentary provided as lessons. Lessons 1-10 are text passages from the Mittani letters, Lesions 11-13 originate from the Hurrian-Hittite bilinguals of Boğazköy, and lesson 14 treats the Tišatal-Inscription. The text passages that are taken from the Mittani letters are not arranged by content criteria, but instead suitable text fragments are chosen so that the grammatical material progresses from introductory to difficult.

I give many heartfelt thank in this connection to Dr. Chr. Girbal for reviewing the manuscript, for valuable references and corrections. For the Hurrian, above all the Mittani letters in many cases we had conservations through which I received important advice, but also some errors were preserved.

Dr. J. Klinger has kindly presented clear explanations involved in the construction of the stress patterns. Heartfelt thanks to him for this not underestimated help.
To my husband Volkert Haas I thank for making various suggestions, advice and corrections, and above all for the constant encouragement that brought this teaching book to completion.
Berlin, im March 1999, Ilse Wegner
I. Introduction
1. Time and Space of the tradition. A survey of the Hurrian language tradition in time and space.
a) The time span: written that is demonstrably Hurrian comes from 2230 B.C (Akkadian Period 2230-2090, for the short chronology; otherwise add 60 years) up to 1200 B.C. after that still surviving in the hinterlands of East Anatolia.
Possibly the Hurrian also appears considerably earlier in North Iraq and East Anatolia, like in the old Sumerian, where some have suggested the craftsman term ta/ibira “Coppersmith” could be obtained from a plausible hurrian derivation: root tab/v “pour” + I +ri, that a agent oriented participle ending forms = “he, the one who pours”1.
b) The spatial extent:2 The first comprehensible appearances of the Hurrian occur in North Iraq and Northeast Syrian (Khabur region), in both regions from ca. 2230 B.C. Later there is an expansion to the Mediterranean and Anatolia, with Hittite using the Hurrian since 1400 B.C. mainly in texts of the cultic sphere.
In detail there is following determinations. The oldest reports of the Hurrian language, in first place personal names (PM) and possibly also geographic names of the transtigridian region3, as mentioned above, come from the Akkadian period.

Akkadian Period (ca. 2230-2090)

In broadly separated locations in the northern conquests of the Akkadian kings relevant inscriptions are found:
ba) In Gasur – the future Nuzi, situated in the northern east Tigris area— some of the numerous personal names can be identified as Hurrian (Gelb, Hurrians and Subarians 52f).
bb) Azuhinnu, situated on the Lower Zab, is mentioned in a year-date of Naram-Sin (ca. 2150) whose ruler was captured by Naram-Sin. The name of this ruler Tahiš-atili is Hurrian (Lambert RA 77, 1983, 95). An old Babylonian period historical text that describes a general rebellion against Naram-Sin also names a king of Simurrum with the Hurrian Name Puttim-atal (perhaps, however this text described a later event; Wilhelm, Grundzüge 11).
bc) Tell Brak, in the upper Khabur-region, is through the discovery of an old Akkadian seals to be identified with Nagar. These seals also mention the name of the city’s lord, who carries the Hurrian name Talpuš-atili4; the name element atili
later probably atal, means approximately “the strong” (Wilhelm, SCCNH 8 1996, 336). The use of the element –atal is widespread over centuries (see e.g. the Names Na-x-s.e-a-tal in the Ugarit-letter RS 23.031 quoted in Fl. Malbran-Labat, L’epigraphie akkadienne. Rétrospective et perspectives, in: Ras Shamra-Ougarit XI, 1995, 37).

bd) Tell Mozan, also in the upper Habur region, can be identified through the continuing excavations since 1987 with the later texts as the well-known city of Urkeš, the old cult-center of the Hurrian godfather Kumarbi. From the over 600 sealings associated with a queen of Urkeš with the Akkadian name Uqnïtum “The lapis-lazuli girl”, there is a king (endan) of the city named Tupkiš (abbreviation for Tupki-š(enni)) and a wet nurse named Zamena; both of the latter names are doubtless hurrian. Also the in another context we encounter the PN Unab=še(nni) which is hurrian,5 The name element tupki is encountered –still over a thousand years later—in Nuzi, Alalakh and Boğazköy. The meaning of this word is unclear.

be) Tall as-Sulaima in the Hamrim-regoin supplies an old Akkadian letter containing the name Tulpib=še, with the element –še shortened from šenni “brother” (Wilhelm, SCCNH 8, 1996, 337).
Thus far the discussed cases of the Hurrian language from this epoch consist merely of personal or place names, so it is the following texts are more interesting, sicne for the first time Hurrian grammatical elements can be found:
Gutian Period (2090-2048) up to Ur-III period:
bf) These appear in the so-called clothes-list from Nippur, the religious center of Sumeria (Gelb, Hurrians at Nippur, in FsFriedrich, 1959, 183 ff.). Besides Hurrian personal names like Še
hrin-ewri and Tubi, we encounter here grammatical elements like hi/e and –na e.g. 12 TÚG ‘à-ku-hi-na (root ag-) 8 TÚG hi-šè-lu-hi-na (root hešl-), 5 TÚG zi-im-zé-hi-na (root zimz-). These mentioned tablets are (tell of) valuable inscriptions of white marble that were a “splendid-covering letter of a gift delivery”. The origin of the tablets is not known.

bg) Among the ruins made when the Guti destroyed the Akkadian dynasty (the Akkadian dynasty ended swiftly with Šar-kali-šarri [ca. 2114-2090]) brought about the first inscription bearing witness to a tangible Hurrian state. From this period we have a discovery from Samarra named the Bronze Tablet. The inscription is composed in the Akkadian language and is written in the old Akkadian form. Its contents include a “Foundation Inscription” for a temple of the God Nergal, which is first mentioned in Inscription of Naram-Sin. The god Nergal is referred to as the “King of Hawalum”, a state in the Diyala-region.

At the foundation of this temple one can recognize a king with the old Hurrian name Atal-šen (šen a reduction of šenn “brother”), who is described as the king of Urkeš and Nawar. His father is given as the still not well-known king Šatar-mat, this name also can be interpreted as Hurrian.6
The inscription says (quoted from Wilhelm, Xeenia 21, 1998, 47):
“To Nergal, the King of Hawalum, Atal-šem, the capable herdsman?, the king of Urkeš and Nawar, the son of the King Šatar-mat, the builder of the Temple of Nergal, the destroyer of (his) rivals. Whoever destroys this tablet, Šamaš and Ištar will make his seed be ‘pulled up’. Šaum-šen (has) …. made/is the maker of the ….”
Atal-šen is identified is this inscription as the king (LUGAL) of Urkeš and Nawar. Urkeš was first assumed to be in the West Tigris area (THUReau-Dangin RA 9, 1912, 1 ff.), later in the Habur drainage (Goetze, JCS 7, 1953 62 f.), then equated with Tell Amuda, on the Syrian-Turkish Border and finally has been identified with Tell Mozan.7 Nawar was earlier identified with a land named Namri or Namar, which was located in the Zagros region between the Diyala and the Lower Zab. This led to the suggestion of a very extensive early Hurrian state. Recent finds prove however that Nawar was also in the Habur-region, so that the assumption of early Hurrian state-building is to be rejected (D.Oates, Iraq 49, 1987, 188). The name Nawar has recently been interpreted as Hurrian (nav=ar “Place of the pasture”) (Wilhelm, Amurru 1, 1996, 178 f.)
Ur III Period (2047-1940):

bh) In the following Ur III period a Hurrian-speaking population settled in the mountainous zones west and north of Mesopotamia, as well as the region north of the diyala. In the countless economic texts of the Ur III period Hurrian PNs are still frequent (e.g. in Drehem, a suburb of Nippur, Šagir-Bazar is attested). Probably the bearers of Hurrian personal names arrived as prisoners of war in Southern Mesopotamia under Šulgi (2029-1982), the second king of the Ur III dynasty. From the Ur III period comes the oldest reference known to date to the great Hurrian goddess Ša(v)uška from Niniveh, in the test Dša-ui8(ÙLU)-ša, Dša-ù-ša, Dša-u-ša (all without the element –k- [Wilke, Drevnij vostok 5, 1988, 21ff.]). The name of this goddess is “the most great (godhead)” (Wegner, SCCNH 7, 1995, 117 ff.)

The reign of Šu-sin (1972-1964) marked a turning point in the story of the Ur-III dynasty. Under the pressure from Amorite tribes from the northwest the country was driven into a defensive posture, as can be seen bbt the construction of a wall against these nomadic groups (the wall was located north of Baghdad, extending from the Euphrates to the Tigris and on to the Diyala).
Two documents from Ešnunna (-Tell Asmar)8, composed in the third year of the reign of Šu-Sin (e.g. 1970), mention a Hurrian prince named Tiš-atal, called the “Man of Niniveh”, and thus must have ruled over the northern part of Assyria, including the temple-city of Niniveh, A ruler with a similar name, and most likely identical with Tiš-atal, the “man of Niniveh”, is attached to the tradition of Atal-šen or even Tupkiš. Like Atal-šen this (second) Tiš-atal (old reading: Tiš-ari) left a foundation inscription on the construction of a Nergal temple, except this document was written in the Hurrian language! This document, – known as the Tiš-atal- or Urkeš-inscription—is therefore the oldest known inscription in the Hurrian language.9
Tiš-atal is described in this inscription –just as the above-mentioned Tupkiš—as “endan” of Urkeš, a thus far not fully understood title. At first this title was interpreted as coming from the Sumerian entu- (priestess) (in early works of the text we find the reading “Tiš-atal priestess?” from Urkeš), but today one favors a Hurrian derivation. Probably it contains the element –tan, which would correspond in later texts to the suffix –tann/tenn that serves to indicate job designations. The remaining en is the derived either from the Sumerian EN “lord” or the Hurrian en(i) “God” (Wilhelm, The Hurrians 1989, 11).

A king from Kar(a)har in seal legends is also named Tiš-atal (DTiš-atal LUGAL Kar(a)har). (Earlier the name was read as Ankiš-atal, which is also in RIA). Kar(a)har = Harhar is situated west of the Tigris in the Diyala Area. The possibility that this Tiš-atal, king of Kar(a)har is to be identified with the Tiš-atal of Urkeš, is made very unlikely by the great distance between the towns.

Old Babylonian Period (ca 1800-1530)
bi) In the Old Babylonian period one finds increasingly widespread Hurrian Personal Names, but also texts in the Hurrian language itself. From southern Mesopotamia possibly from the city of Larsa itself or from Enegi, which lies in the region influenced by Larsa, comes invocations in the “Hurrian”, that is “Subarian” language (to so-call non-canonical invocations VAS 17, 5,6 and YOS 11, 64); ten texts were recognized as Hurrian by van Dijk, one as Subarian.10 One of these invocations properly is against serpents(?), another names “Teššub of Kumme”. Altogether however, these invocations are largely incomprehensible.
Language relationships: The term su-bir4ki (= Akkadian geographical term s/šubartu) for Sumerian and Babylonian corresponds to the region of northwestern Mesopotamia. eme-su-bir4ki (=subarian language) was originally a collective term for the languages of the people from this region, and thus originally did not correspond to a linguistic unit.

A. Ungnad11 says the name Subarian, that is Subarish only applies to the language of the Mittani letters and the Bogazköy-Hurrian.

I.J. Gelb (Hurrians and Subarians 108) however draws a sharp division between “Subarian” and “Hurrian” in that he uses Subarian for the linguistic and ethnic substratum of northern Mesopotamia from the earliest times, distinguishing the Hurrians as later arrivals.

These positions later had to be given up because the clearly Hurrian language is described by Sumerians and Babylonians as “subarian”12, nevertheless in earlier times the term “Subarian” also concealed non-semitic and non-hurrian languages (possibly Lullubaian or also Gutian?). In later times however eme-su-bir4ki doubtless also meant Hurrian.

The term “Hurrian” appears in the texts from Boğazköy, which appears in the Akkadian language writing of the days as the “Hurri-Land”, that is “The people of Hurri”. However the word was first read as harri (the cuneiform sign HUR also has the values HAR and MUR) and as the united gods in the treaty between Šuppiluliuma I and Šattiwaza of Mitanni have Indo-Aryan parallels, it was interpreted the “Hurrians” as the oldest Indo-Aryans.13 This hypothesis was very soon found to be untenable when texts were discovered that had the Hittite adverb hurlili “Hurrian”, that is hurla- “Hurrian” as an equivalent in the Mittani letter itself (namely the membership adjective hurr=o=he/hurv=o=he in the titulary(?) of the king Tušratta from Mittani) and succeeded finally in convincing all that “hurri” instead of “Subarian” was the proper entire name. It is thanks to Speiser’s great engagement with this issue that the name “Hurrian” was finally universally established.14
Old Babylonian Mari
bj) A further source of Hurrian texts from the old Babylonian period is Mari, an important metropolis on the middle Euphrates. The archive of Mari has so far produced six Hurrian texts, of which five are described as invocations and one text is probably a letter.15

One of the invocations (Nr 1.) is directed – as far as it is understandable—against the “tooth worm” and thereby forms a parallel to the familiar Akkadian invocation. Another (nr 4) was a recitation for trapping the gergiššum- (skin) illness. The Hurrian gods Teššub, Kumarbi and Ša(v)uška (here still in the old form ša-ú-úš-a-an) are named, otherwise these texts are still poorly understood. Numerous Hurrian personal names are found in ration lists, where it sounds like they lie at the lower levels of society.

bk) The modern site Tell Bï’a, situated near Raqqa on the upper Euphrates, is traditionally identified with the cuneiform inscriptions as the city Tuttul. From this excavation comes a still incomprehensible text that is a duplicate to the Mari-Invocation Nr 4 (gergiššum- (skin) illness). Another as with the Mari-tablets has on its front an Akkadian text, showing the invocation from the tablets of Tell Bï’a on the front and back sides. Also this text is nearly incomprehensible, still the preserved Akkadian tablet inscription fixes the invocation in any case against the illness “ red skin rash” (gergiššum).16
Hurrian Personal Names appear now pile up in various places, so outside Mari in Šağir-Bäzär (here the names are about 20% Hurrian), Tell ar-Rimah (=Karana, situated between Niniveh and the Sinğar regions), Dilbat, Tikunani (in the Northern Khabur region), etc. The names for the most part are contained in name lists covering natural tasks and craftworks. The prism of the King Tunib-Teššub of Tikunani contains a list of Habiru people, of which a great portion have Hurrian names. Also from Tikunani comes a text fragment in the Hurrian language.17
bl) In Šušarrä, on the upper course of the Lower Zab, there exists a local kingdom, its ruler having the Hurrian personal name Kuwari. Numerous personal names (e.g. Hašib-Teššub, Talpu-šarri, Unab-šenni, etc.) and Hurrian words suggest that a Hurrian-speaking populace was dominant here.18
In the second half of the 18th century, after the death of Šamši-Adad of Assyria numerous local principalities formed in upper Mesopotamia whose rules had Hurrian names.19
Alalakh VII

bm) For westernmost discovered old Babylonian period site with texts possessing not only Hurrian personal names, but also words with Hurrian grammatical elements, is Alalakh level VII (first half of the 17th century, ca 1560). The city of Alalakh situated on the lower reach of the Orontes. Approximately half the preserved personal names are now Hurrian.20 The Hurrian influence reached in the state cult with one oath in a contract being an oath to Teššub and Ištar.

Middle Babylonian Period (15th/14th centuries)
The following layers, Alalakh VI-V, were inscriptionless. In the following level Alalakh IV are found a distinct number of Hurrian personal names; about three quarters of all the personal names are now Hurrian. Hurrian or Hurrian-Akkadian words are encountered as technical terms of the political and economic administration and cult practices, but also as typical daily subjects. It is Hurrian numerals that are used. Here Hurrian texts still have not been found. To the east of the Orontes in the state of Qatna there is an inventory text for the goddess bëlet ekalli with Hurrian technical terms. Hurrian personal names are attested as well. From Nuzi, the successor state to the old Assyrian Gasur, but also properly descended from the kingdom of Arrapha, come thousands of documents, whose language, while Akkadian, in the Lexicon and Syntax has a strong Hurrian stamp (so-called “Hurro-Akkadian”21).
Mittani Letter
bn) The thus far important testimonial of the Hurrian Language is the well-known since 1888/9 letter from the Mittanian King Tušratta to the Pharaoh Amenhotep that was written in 1365 (Mittani letter)/ The letter belong to a dossier of 14 writings altogether (12 letters and 2 gift lists) that Tušratta had sent to the Egyptian court (Amenhotep III and Amenhotep IV). Unlike the other Tušratta writings, which all were done in the Akkadian language, in this one Tušratta produced an over 500 line long letter in Hurrian. Probably this document accompanied the bridal party of the Princess on her trip to the Egyptian court. The tablet was found in the Egyptian archive of El-Amarna.

The contents of the Mittani Letter are part of the marriage correspondence between Tušratta and Amenhotep III and discuss the project of the marriage between the Pharaoh and a daughter of Tušratta with the name Tadu-Heba. The negotiation over the adventure had stretched over several years and ended happily with the arrival of the Princess in Egypt. Amenhotep III, however, died soon after the marriage. Marriage alliances between Egypt and Mittani were an established tradition. There was a marriage between a daughter (name unknown) of Artatama (I) (the grandfather of Tušratta) and the Pharaoh Thutmose IV; also a daughter of Šuttarna II, the father of Tušratta, and thus sister of Tušratta, named Kelu-Heba became a secondary wife to Amenhotep III.

The “Mitanni-Letter” is close in thematic and stylistic terms to the letters Tušratta composed in Akkadian, so one can treat the document as a quasi-bilingual work and develop a good chunk of grammar and semantics. This letter is in linguistic sense the most reliable source. It forms the basis for the development of Hurrian grammar and is the foundation of all the grammars thus far ; it also serves as the prime example for this work. The Mittani Letter is particularly notable for having a strict orthography, the other Hurrian texts are not done in this manner.
History of the Mittani State: The origins of the Mittani State are still murky. Shortly before or after 1500 there emerged in northern Mesopotamia the kingdom of Mittani. The oldest record for the name Mittani does not comes a Mesopotamian archives, but the grave inscription of an Egyptian official from the time of Thutmose I (ca 1497-1982) “… a land, one called it Mittani. The enemy….” (Brunner MIO 4, 1956, 323-327). As Mait(t)ani the land is mentioned in older Mesopotamian sources (Sauštattar Seal of Urkunden from Nuzi; Ma-i-ta-ni). In sources from Nuzi/Arrapha of the 15th and 14th centuries there appears for Mittani the still totally obscure name Hanigalbat or Haligalbat, in the oldest form also Habingalbat. With the Mittani king Parrattarna through the mention in the Idrimi inscription, we get a first approximate data, ca. 1470 (Rouault SMEA 30, 1992, 254.)

At the apex of the of the Mittani state stands one dynasty, whose kings’ non-Hurrian throne names are deceptive and certainly or still with great probability are linked to indo-aryan to etymologically (artatama = vedic rtá-dhäman “this living place that Rta is”, Tušratta22= vedic tveša-ratha- “this war-chariot(?) monster advances”, Šattiwaza = old Indo-Aryan *sati-väja “contestant of good obtains”, Vedic väja-säti “the obtainer of goodness” [Mayrhofer, Arier, 1974, 23-25]). Among the gods worshipped by the Mittani kings of the later 14th century of the Mittani kings, there were included Mitrá, Váruna, Índra and the Näsatya-dieties, gods of the Vedas, the oldest Indian literature. These gods were in two god summaries of contract texts, namely they are mentioned in the contracts between Šuppiluliuma I and Šattiwaza as divine oaths. The rest of the Indo-Aryan language terms are found in the names of the military nobility titles like marianni=na “charioteer”, in the expression for the bride-price úadu-ranni (=Indo-Aryan vadhü-rä “bride-gift”23 ), and in certain expressions on the training of chariot horses (Kikulli-Text). The name Mittani is a geographical term and not a language of ethnic term.

Tell Brak
bo) Tell Brak (=Nagar in the upper Habur region) provides a Mittani-period letter fragment in the Hurrian Language (published in Wilhelm Iraq 53, 1991, 159ff.). In this legal document the names of the Mittani kings Artašumara and Tušratta are found.24
bp) The next place to mention that has provided Hurrian material is on the North Syrian coast located in the mercantile state of Ugarit (modern Ras Shamra). From the tombs come important texts for the understanding of Hurrian of various types, including:

1. A short Akkadian-Hurrian Bilingual 8 Akkadian, 11 Hurrian lines;

2. A Sumerian-Hurrian List of the series HAR-ra = hubullu 9. Tablets;

3. A Sumerian-Akkadian-Hurrian and a Sumerian-Akkadian-Hurrian-Ugaritic vocabulary

4. Various Hurrian fragments in Babylonian script, including a letter that mentions the city of Carchemish

5. A religious Hurrian Text in Ugaritic consonantal script, which is important for the consonantal values.25

bq) Dating among the later Hurrian language inscription are the texts from Emar (destroyed 1187; modern Meskene, situated on the middle Euphrates). These include a lexical list of the Series AN=anum and omens. All the texts are at present still unpublished, several words and forms have however appeared in the works published by Laroche 1976-77 and 1980 “Glossaire de la langue hourrite” (GLH).
Assyrian Merchant Colony
br) In Asia Minor there are references to the Hurrian language in the following situations:

While thousands of documents from the old Assyrian period have been preserved, Hurrian words or Hurrian Names in these texts are still only found occasionally. This situation can however change through the progress with the publication of the remaining Kültepe texts.26

One of the rulers of Kaniš (modern Kültepe) received a legal letter from a prince of the city Mama (located in the vicinity of Maraš) with the name Anum-hirbe.27 This name is –by general consensus—agreed to be Hurrian. A linguistic analysis of the name has been done by Wilhelm in Amurru 1, 1996, 176 Anm. 15: an=o=m hirve (so it does not include the God-name Anum, but instead the verbal root an- “be happy”).

Another letter of North Syrian origin from Kaniš names the sender as a certain Ehli-Addu and the letter receiver as Unapše. Under the named witnesses appears the probably also Hurrian name Tuhuš=madi. This witness came from Haššu in north Syria; another witness who comes from a place in the same region named Zibuhuliwe.28 Furthermore the Unapše addressed letter mentions a “scribe who understood and read Hurrian”29

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