Cradle of Civilization

A Blog about the Birth of Our Civilisation and Development

The roots of the Urartian/Vannic/Khaldian/Haldian scripture

Posted by Fredsvenn on October 26, 2014

Ararat-Urartu-Armenia

Land of Aratta-Armanum-Ararat-Urartu-Armenia

(different synonyms used by different peoples throughout different times for the same land and people)

The homeland of the Sumerians

The Samarra bowl, at the Pergamonmuseum, Berlin

The swastika in the center of the design is a reconstruction

Swastika – in the “Vinca script” 6000-7000 BC

Aratta

Aratta, mentioned in Enmerkar and the Lord of Aratta, where a previous confusion of the languages of mankind is mentioned, is a land that appears in Sumerian myths surrounding Enmerkar and Lugalbanda, two early and possibly mythical kings of Uruk also mentioned on the Sumerian king list.

Aratta is described in Sumerian literature as a fabulously wealthy place full of gold, silver, lapis lazuli and other precious materials, as well as the artisans to craft them. It is remote and difficult to reach. It is home to the goddess Inanna, who transfers her allegiance from Aratta to Uruk. It is conquered by Enmerkar of Uruk.

The goddess Inanna resides in Aratta, but Enmerkar of Uruk pleases her more than does the lord of Aratta, who is not named in this epic. Enmerkar wants Aratta to submit to Uruk, bring stones down from the mountain, craft gold, silver and lapis lazuli, and send them, along with “kugmea” ore to Uruk to build a temple.

Inanna bids him send a messenger to Aratta, who ascends and descends the “Zubi” mountains, and crosses Susa, Anshan, and “five, six, seven” mountains before approaching Aratta. Aratta in turn wants grain in exchange.

However Inana transfers her allegiance to Uruk, and the grain gains the favor of Aratta’s people for Uruk, so the lord of Aratta challenges Enmerkar to send a champion to fight his champion. Then the god Ishkur makes Aratta’s crops grow.

Enmerkar and En-suhgir-ana – The lord of Aratta, who is here named En-suhgir-ana (or Ensuhkeshdanna), challenges Enmerkar of Uruk to submit to him over the affections of Inanna, but he is rebuffed by Enmerkar.

A sorcerer from the recently defeated Hamazi then arrives in Aratta, and offers to make Uruk submit. The sorcerer travels to Uruk where he bewitches Enmerkar’s livestock, but a wise woman outperforms his magic and casts him into the Euphrates; En-suhgir-ana then admits the loss of Inanna, and submits his kingdom to Uruk.

Subartu

The land of Subartu (Akkadian Šubartum/Subartum/ina Šú-ba-ri, Assyrian mât Šubarri) or Subar (Sumerian Su-bir4/Subar/Šubur) is mentioned in Bronze Age literature. The name also appears as Subari in the Amarna letters, and, in the form Šbr, in Ugarit, and came to be known as the Hurrians or Subarians and their country was known as Subir, Subartu or Shubar.

Subartu was apparently a polity in Northern Mesopotamia, at the upper Tigris. Most scholars accept Subartu as an early name for Assyria proper on the Tigris, although there are various other theories placing it sometimes a little farther to the east, north or west of there.

The precise location of Subartu has not been identified. From the point of view of the Akkadian Empire, Subartu marked the northern geographical horizon, just as Martu, Elam and Sumer marked “west”, “east” and “south”, respectively.

The Sumerian mythological epic Enmerkar and the Lord of Aratta lists the countries where the “languages are confused” as Subartu, Hamazi, Sumer, Uri-ki (Akkad), and the Martu land (the Amorites).

Similarly, the earliest references to the “four quarters” by the kings of Akkad name Subartu as one of these quarters around Akkad, along with Martu, Elam, and Sumer. Subartu in the earliest texts seem to have been farming mountain dwellers, frequently raided for slaves.

I. J. Gelb and E. A. Speiser believed East Semitic speaking Assyrians/Subarians had been the linguistic and ethnic substratum of northern Mesopotamia since earliest times, while Hurrians were merely late arrivals. It is now believed that the Hurrians had lived in these areas since earliest times, while the Semites were late arrivals.

Aššur

Aššur (Akkadian) (Ashur/Assyria, Assyrian / Aššur; Assyrian Neo-Aramaic / Ātûr), is a remnant city of the last Ashurite Kingdom. The remains of the city are situated on the western bank of the river Tigris, north of the confluence with the tributary Little Zab river, in modern-day Iraq, more precisely in the Al-Shirqat District (a small panhandle of the Salah al-Din Governorate).

The city was occupied from the mid-3rd millennium BC (Circa 2600–2500 BC) to the 14th Century AD, when Tamurlane conducted a massacre of its population.

Archaeology reveals the site of the city was occupied by the middle of the third millennium BC. This was still the Sumerian period, before the Assyrian kingdom emerged in the 23rd to 21st century BC.

The oldest remains of the city were discovered in the foundations of the Ishtar temple, as well as at the Old Palace. In the following Old Akkadian period, the city was ruled by kings from Akkad. During the “Sumerian Renaissance”, the city was ruled by a Sumerian governor.

Aššur is also the name of the chief deity of the city. He was considered the highest god in the Assyrian pantheon and the protector of the Assyrian state. In the Mesopotamian mythology he was the equivalent of Babylonian Marduk.

Aššur is the name of the city, of the land ruled by the city, and of its tutelary deity. At a late date it appears in Assyrian literature in the forms An-sar, An-sar (ki), which form was presumably read Assur. The name of the deity is written A-šur or Aš-sùr, and in Neo-assyrian often shortened to Aš.

In the Creation tablet, the heavens personified collectively were indicated by this term An-sar, “host of heaven,” in contradistinction to the earth, Ki-sar, “host of earth.”

In the Babylonian creation myth Enuma Elish, Anshar (also spelled Anshur), which means “sky pivot” or “sky axle”, is a sky god. He is the husband of his sister Kishar. They might both represent heaven (an) and earth (ki). Both are the second generation of gods; their parents being the serpents Lahmu and Lahamu and grandparents Tiamat and Abzu. They, in turn, are the parents of Anu, another sky god.

In view of this fact, it seems highly probable that the late writing An-sar for Assur was a more or less conscious attempt on the part of the Assyrian scribes to identify the peculiarly Assyrian deity Asur with the Creation deity An-sar.

During the reign of Sargon II, Assyrians started to identify Anshar with their Assur in order to let him star in their version of Enuma Elish. In this mythology Anshar’s spouse was Ninlil. They do evil, unspeakable things. Then, Abzu decides to try to destroy them. They both hear of the plan and kill him first.

Tiamat gets outraged and gives birth to 11 children. They then kill them both and then are outmatched by anyone. Marduk (God of rain/thunder/lightning) kills Tiamat by wrapping a net around her and summoning the 4 winds to make her swell, then Marduk shoots an arrow into her and kills her. Half of her body is then divided to create the heavens and the Earth. He uses her tears to make rivers on Earth and take her blood to make humans.

On the other hand, there is an epithet Asir or Ashir (“overseer”) applied to several gods and particularly to the deity Asur, a fact which introduced a third element of confusion into the discussion of the name Assur. It is probable then that there is a triple popular etymology in the various forms of writing the name Assur; viz. A-usar, An-sar and the stem asdru.

If this name /Anšar/ is derived from */Anśar/, then it may be related to the Egyptian hieroglyphic /NṬR/ (“god”), since hieroglyphic Egyptian /Ṭ/ may be etymological */Ś/.

Humbaba

In Ancient Mesopotamian religion, Humbaba or Huwawa, also Humbaba the Terrible, was a monstrous giant of immemorial age raised by Utu, the Sun. Humbaba was the guardian of the Cedar Forest, where the gods lived, by the will of the god Enlil, who “assigned [Humbaba] as a terror to human beings.” He is the brother of Pazuzu and Enki and son of Hanbi.

Hebat, also transcribed, Kheba or Khepat, was the mother goddess of the Hurrians, known as “the mother of all living”. She is also a Queen of the deities. She is married to Teshub and is the mother of Sarruma and Alanzu, as well mother-in-law of the daughter of the dragon Illuyanka.

The name may be transliterated in different versions – Khebat with the feminine ending -t is primarily the Syrian and Ugaritic version. In the Hurrian language Hepa is the most likely pronunciation of the name of the goddess. In modern literature the sound /h/ in cuneiform sometimes is transliterated as kh.

The Hittite sun goddess Arinniti was later assimilated with Hebat. A prayer of Queen Puduhepa makes this explicit: “To the Sun-goddess of Arinna, my lady, the mistress of the Hatti lands, the queen of Heaven and Earth. Sun-goddess of Arinna, thou art Queen of all countries! In the Hatti country thou bearest the name of the Sun-goddess of Arinna; but in the land which thou madest the cedar land thou bearest the name Hebat.”

Hebat was venerated all over the ancient Near East. Her name appears in many theophoric personal names. A king of Jerusalem mentioned in the Amarna letters was named Abdi-Heba, possibly meaning “Servant of Hebat”. She is likely to have had a later counterpart in the Phrygian goddess Cybele. During Aramaean times Hebat also appears to have become identified with the goddess Hawwah, or Eve.

Armani/Armanum

Armani, (also given as Armanum) was an ancient kingdom mentioned by Sargon of Akkad and his grandson Naram-Sin of Akkad as stretching from Ibla (Ib-la, Eber/Abel) to Bit-Nanib, its location is heavily debated, and it continued to be mentioned in the later Assyrian inscriptions.

Urartu

Urartu (Assyrian: māt Urarṭu; Babylonian: Urashtu), corresponding to the biblical Kingdom of Ararat (Armenian: Արարատյան Թագավորություն) or Kingdom of Van (Urartian: Biai, Biainili;) was an Iron Age kingdom located in the region of Lake Van, with its capital near the site of the modern town of Van, in the Armenian Highland, modern-day Eastern Anatolia region of Turkey.

Strictly speaking, Urartu is the Assyrian term for a geographical region, while “kingdom of Urartu” or “Biainili lands” are terms used in modern historiography for the Proto-Armenian (Hurro-Urartian) speaking Iron Age state that arose in that region.

That a distinction should be made between the geographical and the political entity was already pointed out by König (1955). The landscape corresponds to the mountainous plateau between Asia Minor, Mesopotamia, and the Caucasus mountains, later known as the Armenian Highlands.

The kingdom rose to power in the mid-9th century BC, but was conquered by Media in the early 6th century BC. The heirs of Urartu are the Armenians and their successive kingdoms.

Boris Piotrovsky wrote that “the Urartians first appear in history in the 13th century BC. as a league of tribes or countries which did not yet constitute a unitary state.

In the Assyrian annals the term Uruatri (Urartu) as a name for this league was superseded during a considerable period of years by the term “land of Nairi”.

Scholars believe that Urartu is an Akkadian variation of Ararat of the Old Testament. Indeed, Mount Ararat is located in ancient Urartian territory, approximately 120 km north of its former capital.

In addition to referring to the famous Biblical mountain, Ararat also appears as the name of a kingdom in Jeremiah 51:27, mentioned together with Minni and Ashkenaz.

In the early 6th century BC, the Urartian Kingdom was replaced by the Armenian Orontid dynasty. In the trilingual Behistun inscription, carved in 521 or 520 BC by the order of Darius the Great of Persia, the country referred to as Urartu in Assyrian is called Arminiya in Old Persian and Harminuia in Elamite.

Shubria was part of the Urartu confederation. Later, there is reference to a district in the area called Arme or Urme, which some scholars have linked to the name Armenia.

Khaldi/Ḫaldi/Hayk

Scholars such as Carl Friedrich Lehmann-Haupt (1910) believed that the people of Urartu called themselves Khaldini after their god Khaldi (also known as Ḫaldi or Hayk) was one of the three chief deities of Ararat (Urartu). His shrine was at Ardini. The other two chief deities were Theispas of Kumenu, and Shivini of Tushpa.

Hayk or Hayg, also known as Haik Nahapet (Հայկ Նահապետ, Hayk the Tribal Chief) is the legendary patriarch and founder of the Armenian nation. His story is told in the History of Armenia attributed to the Armenian historian Moses of Chorene (410 to 490).

A connection was made in Armenian historiography of the Soviet era, with Hayasa-Azzi or Azzi-Hayasa mentioned in Hittite inscriptions, a Late Bronze Age confederation formed between two kingdoms of Armenian Highlands, Hayasa located South of Trabzon and Azzi, located north of the Euphrates and to the south of Hayasa.

The Hayasa-Azzi confederation was in conflict with the Hittite Empire in the 14th century BC, leading up to the collapse of Hatti around 1190 BC.

Haya/Nidaba

In Sumerian mythology the god Haya is known both as a “door-keeper” and associated with the scribal arts. His functions are two-fold: he appears to have served as a door-keeper but was also associated with the scribal arts, and may have had an association with grain.

Haia is mentioned together with dlugal-[ki-sá-a], a divinity associated with door-keepers. Already in the Ur III period Haya had received offerings together with offerings to the “gate”. This was presumably because of the location of one of his shrines.

At least from the Old Babylonian period on he is known as the spouse of the grain-goddess Nidaba/Nissaba, who is also the patroness of the scribal art. From the same period we have a Sumerian hymn composed in his honour, which celebrates him in these capacities.

The hymn is preserved exclusively at Ur, leading Charpin to suggest that it was composed to celebrate a visit by king Rim-Sin of Larsa (r. 1822-1763 BCE) to his cella in the Ekišnugal, Nanna’s main temple at Ur.

While there is plenty of evidence to connect Haya with scribes, the evidence connecting him with grain is mainly restricted to etymological considerations, which are unreliable and suspect. There is also a divine name Haia(-)amma in a bilingual Hattic-Hittite text from Anatolia which is used as an equivalent for the Hattic grain-goddess Kait in an invocation to the Hittite grain-god Halki, although it is unclear whether this appellation can be related to dha-ià.

Haya is also characterised, beyond being the spouse of Nidaba/Nissaba, as an “agrig”-official of the god Enlil. He is designated as “the Nissaba of wealth”, as opposed to his wife, who is the “Nissaba of Wisdom”.

Attempts have also been made to connect the remote origins of dha-ià with those of the god Ea (Ebla Ḥayya), although there remain serious doubts concerning this hypothesis. How or whether both are related to a further western deity called Ḥayya is also unclear.

Haya is the spouse of Nidaba/Nissaba, goddess of grain and scribes. Nidaba was the patron deity of the city of Ereš (Uruk), which has not yet been identified geographically although it is known to have been in southern Mesopotamia. She reflects fundamental developments in the creation of Mesopotamian culture, those which take us from agriculture to accounting, to a very fine literary tradition.

Nidaba was originally an agricultural deity, more specifically a goddess of grain. The intricate connection between agriculture and accounting/writing implied that it was not long before Nidaba became the goddess of writing. From then on her main role was to be the patron of scribes. She was eventually replaced in that function by the god Nabu.

Traditions vary regarding the genealogy of Nidaba. She appears on separate occasions as the daughter of Enlil, of Uraš, of Ea, and of Anu. Nidaba’s spouse is Haya and together they have a daughter, Sud/Ninlil. Two myths describe the marriage of Sud/Ninlil with Enlil.

This implies that Nidaba could be at once the daughter and the mother-in-law of Enlil. Nidaba is also the sister of Ninsumun, the mother of Gilgameš. Nidaba is frequently mentioned together with the goddess Nanibgal who also appears as an epithet of Nidaba, although most god lists treat her as a distinct goddess.

In a debate between Nidaba and Grain, Nidaba is syncretised with Ereškigal as “Mistress of the Underworld”. Nidaba is also identified with the goddess of grain Ašnan, and with Nanibgal/Nidaba-ursag/Geme-Dukuga, the throne bearer of Ninlil and wife of Ennugi, throne bearer of Enlil.

Urartian/Vannic/Khaldian/Haldian

Urartian, Vannic, and (in older literature) Chaldean (Khaldian, or Haldian) are conventional names for the language spoken by the inhabitants of the ancient kingdom of Urartu. It was probably spoken by the majority of the population around Lake Van and in the areas along the upper Zab valley.

First attested in the 9th century BC, Urartian ceased to be written after the fall of the Urartian state in 585 BCE, and presumably it became extinct due to the fall of Urartu. It must have been replaced by an early form of Armenian, perhaps during the period of Achaemenid Persian rule, although it is only in the fifth century CE that the first written examples of Armenian appear.

Urartian was an ergative, agglutinative language, which belongs to neither the Semitic nor the Indo-European families but to the Hurro-Urartian family (whose only other known member is Hurrian). Igor Diakonoff and others have suggested ties between the Hurro-Urartian languages and the Northeastern Caucasian languages.

Urartian is closely related to Hurrian, a somewhat better documented language attested for an earlier, non-overlapping period, approximately from 2000 BCE to 1200 BCE (written by native speakers until about 1350 BCE).

The two languages must have developed quite independently from approximately 2000 BCE onwards. Although Urartian is not a direct continuation of any of the attested dialects of Hurrian, many of its features are best explained as innovative developments with respect to Hurrian as we know it from the preceding millennium.

The closeness holds especially true of the so-called Old Hurrian dialect, known above all from Hurro-Hittite bilingual texts. By the Early Iron Age, the Hurrians had been assimilated with other peoples, except perhaps in the kingdom of Urartu. According to a hypothesis by I.M. Diakonoff and S. Starostin, the Hurrian and Urartian languages are related to the Northeast Caucasian languages.

It survives in many inscriptions found in the area of the Urartu kingdom, written in the Assyrian cuneiform script. There have been claims of a separate autochthonous script of “Urartian hieroglyphs” but these remain unsubstantiated.

The German scholar Friedrich Eduard Schulz, who discovered the Urartian inscriptions of the Lake Van region in 1826, made copies of several cuneiform inscriptions at Tushpa, but made no attempt at decipherment.

After the decipherment of Assyrian cuneiform in the 1850s, Schulz’s drawings became the basis of deciphering the Urartian language. It soon became clear that it was unrelated to any known language, and attempts at decipherment based on known languages of the region failed. The script was finally deciphered in 1882 by A. H. Sayce. The oldest of these inscriptions is from the time of Sarduri I of Urartu, whose title was ‘King of the Four Quarters’.

Decipherment only made progress after World War I, with the discovery of Urartian-Assyrian bilingual inscriptions at Kelišin and Topzawä.

In 1963, a grammar of Urartian was published by G. A. Melikishvili in Russian, appearing in German translation in 1971. In the 1970s, the genetic relation with Hurrian was established by I. M. Diakonoff.

The oldest delivered texts originate from the reign of Sarduri I, from the late 9th century BC. and were produced until the fall of the realm of Urartu approximately 200 years later.

Approximately two hundred inscriptions written in the Urartian language, which adopted and modified the cuneiform script, have been discovered to date.

Urartian cuneiform is a standardized simplification of Neo-Assyrian cuneiform. Unlike in Assyrian, each sign only expresses a single sound value. The sign gi has the special function of expressing a hiatus, e.g. u-gi-iš-ti for Uīšdi. A variant script with non-overlapping wedges was in use for rock inscriptions.

Urartian was also rarely written in the “Anatolian hieroglyphs” used for the Luwian language. Evidence for this is restricted to Altıntepe, an ancient Urartian site located in Üzümlü district of Erzincan Province in the Eastern Anatolia region of Turkey.

There are suggestions that besides the Luwian hieroglyphic inscriptions, Urartu also had a native hieroglyphic script. The inscription corpus is too sparse to substantiate the hypothesis. It remains unclear whether the symbols in question form a coherent writing system, or represent just a multiplicity of uncoordinated expressions of proto-writing or ad-hoc drawings.

Decipherment of the Vannic cuneiform characters

Even before the discovery of Sumerian, cuneiform inscriptions had been copied on the rocks and quarried stones of Armenia, which, when the characters composing them came to be read, proved to belong to a language as novel and as apparently unrelated to any other as Sumerian itself.

As far back as 1826 a young scholar of the name of Schulz had been sent by the French Government to Van in Armenia, where, according to Armenian writers, Semiramis, the fabled queen of Assyria, had once left her monuments. Here Schulz actually found that the cliff on which the ancient fortress of the city stood was covered with lines of cuneiform characters, and similar inscriptions soon came to light in other parts of the country.

Before Schulz, however, could return to Europe he was murdered (in 1829) by a Kurdish chief, whose guest he had been. But his papers were recovered, and the copies of the inscriptions he had made were published in 1840 in the Journal Asiatique (Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, 1848, ix. pp. 387 sqq.).

The first to attempt to read them was Dr. Hincks, whom no problem in decipherment ever seemed to baffle. The char­acters, he showed, were practically identical with those found in the Assyrian texts, the values of many of which had now been ascertained; but Hincks, with his usual acuteness, went on to use the Armenian or Vannic inscriptions for settling the values of other Assyrian characters which had not as yet been determined.

In 1848 he was already able to read the names of the Vannic kings and fix their succession, to make out the sense of several passages in the texts, and to indicate the nominative and accusative suffixes of the noun.

Here Vannic decipherment rested for many years. There was no difficulty in reading the inscriptions phonetically, for they were written in a very simplified form of the Assyrian syllabary; but the language which was thus revealed stood isolated and alone, without linguistic kindred either ancient or modern. The various attempts made to decipher it were all failures.

So things remained until 1882-3, when I published my Memoir on “The Decipherment of the Vannic Inscriptions ” in the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society. Here for the first time translations were given of the inscriptions, together with a commentary, grammar and vocabulary.

At the same time I settled the chronological place of the Vannic kings, which had hitherto been uncertain, as well as the geography of the country over which they ruled, and analyzed the ancient religion of the people as made known to us by the decipherment of the texts.

In revising and supplementing Schulz’s copies of the inscriptions I had obtained the help of squeezes taken by Layard and Rassam. The task of decipherment was, after all, not so hard a matter as the absence of a bilingual text might make it appear.

The want of a bilingual was compensated by the numerous ideographs and “ determinatives ” scattered through the inscriptions, which indicated their general meaning, pointed out to the decipherer the names of countries, cities, individuals and the like, and gave him the significa­tion of the phonetically-written words which in parallel passages often replaced them.

Moreover, the French Assyriologist, Stanislas Guyard, and myself had inde­pendently made the discovery that a clause which frequently comes at the end of a Vannic inscription corresponds with the imprecatory formula of the Assyrians, while the decipherment of the inscriptions led to the further discovery that not only had the characters employed in them been borrowed from the Assyrians in the time of the Assyrian conqueror, Assur-natsir-pal, but that many of the phrases used in Assur-natsir-pal’s texts had been borrowed at the same time.

Other scholars soon appeared to pursue and extend my work, more especially Drs. Belck and Lehmann, whose expedition to Armenia in 1898 has placed at our disposal a large store of fresh material. Amongst this fresh material are two long bilingual inscriptions, in Vannic and Assyrian, one of which had been dis­covered by de Morgan in 1890.

These have verified my system of decipherment, have increased our know­ledge of the Vannic vocabulary, have corrected a few errors, and, I am bound to add, have in one or two cases justified renderings of mine to which exception had been taken. A historical Vannic text can now be read with almost as much certainty as an Assyrian one.

With the discovery of the language spoken in Armenia before the arrival of the modern Armenians the list of lost languages and dialects brought to light by the decipherment of the cuneiform script is by no means exhausted.

Among the tablets found in 1887 at Tel el-Amarna in Upper Egypt was a long letter from the king of Mitanni or Northern Mesopotamia in the native language of his country, which has been partially deciphered by Messer- schmidt, Jensen and myself. (“ On the Language of Mitanni” in Proceedings of the Society of Biblical Archeology, 1900, pp. 171 sqqand Leopold Messerschmidt in the Mitteilungen der Vorderasiatischen Gesellschaft, 1899, part iv. pp. 175 sqq.).

The language turns out to be distantly related to the Vannic, but is of a much more complicated description. Two of the other letters in the same collection were in yet another previously unknown language, which the contents of one of them showed to be that of a kingdom in Asia Minor called Arzawa.

Since then tablets have been found at Boghaz Keui in Cappa­docia, on the site of the ancient capital of the Hittites, which are in the same dialect and form of cuneiform writing, and prove that in them we have discovered at last actual relics of the Hittite tongue.

Thanks to the light thrown upon them by a tablet from the same locality, which I obtained last year, it is now possible to raise the veil which has hitherto concealed the Hittite language, and in a Paper which will shortly be printed I have succeeded in partially translating the texts and sketching the outlines of their grammar. But any detailed account of these discoveries must be reserved for a future chapter; at present I can do no more than refer briefly to these latest problems in cuneiform decipherment.

That other problems still await us cannot be doubted. The number of different languages which the decipherment of the cuneiform script has thus far revealed to us is an assurance that, as excavation and research proceed, fresh languages will come to light which have employed the cuneiform syllabary as a means of expression.

Indeed, we already know that it was used by the Kossceans, wild mountaineers who skirted the eastern frontiers of Babylonia, and a list of whose words has been preserved in a cuneiform tablet,1 and also that there was a time, before the introduction of the Phoenician alphabet, when “the language of Canaan ”—better known as Hebrew—was written in cuneiform characters. Canaanite glosses are found in the Tel el-Amarna tablets, and two Sidonian seals exist in which the cuneiform syllabary is employed to represent the sounds of Canaanitish speech.2

And the key to all this varied literature, this medley of languages, the very names of which had perished, was a simple guess ! But it was a scientific guess, made in accordance with scientific method, and based upon sound scientific reasoning.

It is true that it needed the slow and patient work of genera­tions of scholars before the guess could ripen into maturity ; the discovery of the value of a single letter in the Old Persian alphabet was sometimes the labour of a lifetime; but, like the seed of the mustard tree, the guess contained within itself all the promise of its future growth.

On the day when Grotefend identified the names of Darius and Xerxes, the decipherment of the cuneiform inscriptions, and therewith of the history, the theology and the civiliz­ation of the ancient Oriental world, was potentially accomplished.

The Archaeology of the Cuneiform Inscriptions by the Rev. A. H. Sayce

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