Cradle of Civilization

A Blog about the Birth of Our Civilisation and Development

Is “Urartian” Language Armenian or North Caucasian?

Posted by Fredsvenn on August 27, 2015

Kura Araxes culture

The Kura–Araxes culture or the early trans-Caucasian culture was a civilization that existed from 3400 BC until about 2000 BC, which has traditionally been regarded as the date of its end, but it may have disappeared as early as 2600 or 2700 BC.

The earliest evidence for this culture is found on the Ararat plain; thence it spread northward in Caucasus by 3000 BC (but never reaching Colchis), and during the next millennium it proceeded westward to the Erzurum plain, southwest to Cilicia, and to the southeast into an area below the Urmia basin and Lake Van, and finally down to the borders of present-day Syria.

Altogether, the early Trans-Caucasian culture, at its greatest spread, enveloped a vast area approximately 1,000 km by 500 km, and mostly encompassed, on modern-day territories, the Southern Caucasus (except western Georgia), Northwestern Iran, the Northeastern Caucasus, and Eastern Turkey.

The name of the culture is derived from the Kura and Araxes river valleys. Its territory corresponds to parts of modern Armenia, Azerbaijan, Chechnya, Dagestan, Georgia, Ingushetia, Iran, North Ossetia, and Turkey. It may have given rise to the later Khirbet Kerak ware culture found in Syria and Canaan after the fall of the Akkadian Empire.

Their pottery was distinctive; in fact, the spread of their pottery along trade routes into surrounding cultures was much more impressive than any of their achievements domestically. It was painted black and red, using geometric designs for ornamentation. Examples have been found as far south as Syria and Israel, and as far north as Dagestan and Chechnya.

The spread of this pottery, along with archaeological evidence of invasions, suggests that the Kura-Araxes people may have spread outward from their original homes, and most certainly, had extensive trade contacts. Jaimoukha believes that its southern expanse is attributable primarily to Mitanni and the Hurrians.

Trialeti culture

The Trialeti culture, named after Trialeti region of Georgia, is attributed to the first part of the 2nd millennium BC. In the late 3rd millennium BC, settlements of the Kura-Araxes culture began to be replaced by early Trialeti culture sites.

The Trialeti culture was the second culture to appear in Georgia, after the Shulaveri-Shomu culture, a Late Neolithic/Eneolithic culture that existed on the territory of present-day Georgia, Azerbaijan and the Armenian Highlands dated to mid-6th or early-5th millennia BC.

The Trialeti culture shows close ties with the highly developed cultures of the ancient world, particularly with the Aegean, but also with cultures to the south, such as probably the Sumerians and their Akkadian conquerors.

The site at Trialeti was originally excavated in 1936–1940 in advance of a hydroelectric scheme, when forty-six barrows were uncovered. A further six barrows were uncovered in 1959–1962.

The Trialeti culture was known for its particular form of burial. The elite were interred in large, very rich burials under earth and stone mounds, which sometimes contained four-wheeled carts. Also there were many gold objects found in the graves. These gold objects were similar to those found in Iran and Iraq. They also worked tin and arsenic.

This form of burial in a tumulus or “kurgan”, along with wheeled vehicles, is the same as that of the Kurgan culture which has been associated with the speakers of Proto-Indo-European. In fact, the black burnished pottery of especially early Trialeti kurgans is similar to Kura-Araxes pottery.

In a historical context, their impressive accumulation of wealth in burial kurgans, like that of other associated and nearby cultures with similar burial practices, is particularly noteworthy. This practice was probably a result of influence from the older civilizations to the south in the Fertile Crescent.


Graeco-(Armeno)-Aryan is a hypothetical clade within the Indo-European family, ancestral to the Greek language, the Armenian language, and the Indo-Iranian languages. Graeco-Aryan unity would have become divided into Proto-Greek and Proto-Indo-Iranian by the mid 3rd millennium BC.

Conceivably, Proto-Armenian would have been located between Proto-Greek and Proto-Indo-Iranian, consistent with the fact that Armenian shares certain features only with Indo-Iranian (the satem change) but others only with Greek (s > h).

Graeco-Aryan has comparatively wide support among Indo-Europeanists for the Indo-European Homeland to be located in the Armenian Highland. Early and strong evidence was given by Euler’s 1979 examination on shared features in Greek and Sanskrit nominal flection.

Used in tandem with the Graeco-Armenian hypothesis, the Armenian language would also be included under the label Aryano-Greco-Armenic, splitting into proto-Greek/Phrygian and “Armeno-Aryan” (ancestor of Armenian and Indo-Iranian).


The loans from Iranian languages initially led linguists to erroneously classify Armenian as an Iranian language. The distinctness of Armenian was only recognized when Hübschmann (1875) used the comparative method to distinguish two layers of Iranian loans from the older Armenian vocabulary.

I. M. Austin (1942) concluded that there was an early contact between Armenian and Anatolian languages, based on what he considered common archaisms, such as the lack of a feminine and the absence of inherited long vowels. However, unlike shared innovations (or synapomorphies), the common retention of archaisms (or symplesiomorphy) is not necessarily considered evidence of a period of common isolated development.

Soviet linguist Igor Diakonov (1985) noted the presence in Old Armenian of what he calls a Caucasian substratum, identified by earlier scholars, consisting of loans from the Kartvelian and Northeast Caucasian languages.

Noting that the Hurro-Urartian peoples inhabited the Armenian homeland in the second millennium b.c., Diakonov identifies in Armenian a Hurro-Urartian substratum of social, cultural, and animal and plant terms such as ałaxin “slave girl” ( ← Hurr. al(l)a(e)ḫḫenne), cov “sea” ( ← Urart. ṣûǝ “(inland) sea”), ułt “camel” ( ← Hurr. uḷtu), and xnjor “apple(tree)” ( ← Hurr. ḫinzuri).

Some of the terms he gives admittedly have an Akkadian or Sumerian provenance, but he suggests they were borrowed through Hurrian or Urartian. Given that these borrowings don’t undergo sound changes characteristic of the development of Armenian from Proto-Indo-European, he dates their borrowing to a time before the written record but after the Proto-Armenian language stage.

Decem and Taihun

The Glottalic Theory holds that Proto-Indo-European had ejective stops, *pʼ *tʼ *kʼ, instead of plain voiced ones, *b *d *ɡ, of traditional Proto-Indo-European phonological reconstructions. In 1981 Hopper proposed to divide all Indo-European languages into Decem and Taihun groups, according to the pronunciation of the numeral ’10’, by analogy with the Centum-Satem isogloss, which is based on the pronunciation of the numeral ‘100’.

The Armenian, Germanic, Anatolian, and Tocharian subfamilies belong to the Taihun group because the numeral ’10’ begins with a voiceless t there. All other Indo-European languages belong to the Decem group because the numeral 10 begins with a voiced d in them. The question then can be framed as which, if either, of these groups reflects the original state of things, and which is an innovation.

The Armenian hypothesis

The Armenian hypothesis of the Proto-Indo-European Urheimat, based on the Glottalic theory, suggests that the Proto-Indo-European language was spoken during the 4th millennium BC in the Armenian Highland.

It is an Indo-Hittite model and does not include the Anatolian languages in its scenario. The phonological peculiarities proposed in the Glottalic theory would be best preserved in the Armenian language and the Germanic languages, the former assuming the role of the dialect which remained in situ, implied to be particularly archaic in spite of its late attestation.

The Proto-Greek language would be practically equivalent to Mycenaean Greek and date to the 17th century BC, closely associating Greek migration to Greece with the Indo-Aryan migration to India at about the same time (viz., Indo-European expansion at the transition to the Late Bronze Age, including the possibility of Indo-European Kassites).

The Armenian hypothesis was proposed by Russian linguists T. V. Gamkrelidze and V. V. Ivanov in 1985, presenting it first in two articles in Vestnik drevnej istorii and then in a much larger work.

Gamkrelidze and Ivanov argue that IE spread out from Armenia into the Pontic steppe, from which it expanded – as per the Kurgan hypothesis – into Western Europe. The Hittite, Indo-Iranian, Greek and Armenian branches split from the Armenian homeland.

The Armenian hypothesis argues for the latest possible date of Proto-Indo-European (sans Anatolian), roughly a millennium later than the mainstream Kurgan hypothesis. In this, it figures as an opposite to the Anatolian hypothesis, in spite of the geographical proximity of the respective suggested Urheimaten, diverging from the timeframe suggested there by as much as three millennia.

Robert Drews, commenting on the hypothesis, says that “most of the chronological and historical arguments seem fragile at best, and of those that I am able to judge, some are evidently wrong”. However, he argues that it is far more powerful as a linguistic model, providing insights into the relationship between Indo-European and the Semitic and Kartvelian languages.

He continues to say “It is certain that the inhabitants of the forested areas of Armenia very early became accomplished woodworkers, and it now appears that in the second millennium they produced spoked-wheel vehicles that served as models as far away as China. And we have long known that from the second millennium onward, Armenia was important for the breeding of horses. It is thus not surprising to find that what clues we have suggest that chariot warfare was pioneered in eastern Anatolia. Finally, our picture of what the PIE speakers did, and when, owes much to the recently proposed hypothesis that the homeland of the PIE speakers was Armenia.”

I. Grepin, reviewing Gamkrelidze and Ivanov’s book, wrote that their model of linguistic relationships is “the most complex, far reaching and fully supported of this century.”


Aratta 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. The name is connected to the Indo-European root Ar- meaning “assemble/create” which is vastly used in names of or regarding the Sun, light, or fire, found in Ararat, Aryan, Arta etc.

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.


There are certain Bronze Age records identified with the toponym in both Mesopotamian and Egyptian sources. The earliest is from an inscription which mentions Armânum together with Ibla (Ebla) as territories conquered by Naram-Sin of Akkad in ca. 2250 BC. It has been suggested by early 20th century Armenologists that Old Persian Armina and the Greek Armenoi are continuations of an Assyrian toponym Armânum or Armanî.

Shupria (Shubria) or Arme-Shupria (Armenian: Շուպրիա; Akkadian: Armani-Subartu from the 3rd millennium BC) was a Proto-Armenian Hurrian-speaking kingdom, known from Assyrian sources beginning in the 13th century BC, located in the Armenian Highland, to the southwest of Lake Van, bordering on Ararat proper. Scholars have linked the district in the area called Arme or Armani, to the name Armenia. It was part of the Urartu confederation.

Together with Armani-Subartu (Hurri-Mitanni), Hayasa-Azzi and other populations of the region such as the Nairi fell under Urartian (Kingdom of Ararat) rule in the 9th century BC, and their descendants, according to most scholars, later contributed to the ethnogenesis of the Armenians.


Asha is the Avestan language term (corresponding to Vedic language ṛta) for a concept of cardinal importance to Zoroastrian theology and doctrine. In the moral sphere, aša/arta represents what has been called “the decisive confessional concept of Zoroastrianism.” Its Old Persian equivalent is arta-. In Middle Iranian languages the term appears as ard-.

The significance of the term is complex, with a highly nuanced range of meaning. It is commonly summarized in accord with its contextual implications of ‘truth’ and ‘right(eousness)’, ‘order’ and ‘right working’.

The word is also the proper name of the divinity Asha, the Amesha Spenta that is the hypostasis or “genius” of “Truth” or “Righteousness”. In the Younger Avesta, this figure is more commonly referred to as Asha Vahishta (Aša Vahišta, Arta Vahišta), “Best Truth”.

Avestan aša and its Vedic equivalent rta both derive from Proto-Indo-Iranian *ṛtá- “truth”, which in turn continues Proto-Indo-European *h2r-to- “properly joined, right, true”, from the root *h2ar. The word is attested in Old Persian as arta.

It is unclear whether the Avestan variation between aša and arta is merely orthographical. Benveniste suggested š was only a convenient way of writing rt and should not be considered phonetically relevant.

According to Gray, š is a misreading, representing – not /ʃ/ – but /rr/, of uncertain phonetic value but “probably” representing a voiceless r. Miller suggested that rt was restored when a scribe was aware of the morpheme boundary between the /r/ and /t/ (that is, whether the writer maintained the –ta suffix).


The opposite of Avestan aša is druj, an Avestan feminine noun defining lie. In Avestan druj- also has a secondary derivation, the adjective drəguuaṇt- (Younger Av. druuaṇt-) “partisan of deception, deceiver,” of which the superlative draojišta- and perhaps also the comparative draoj(ii)ah- are attested.

Avestan druj, like its Vedic Sanskrit cousin druh, appears to derive from the PIE root *dhreugh, also continued in Persian دروغ / d[o]rūġ “lie”, German Trug “fraud, deception”. Old Norse draugr and Middle Irish airddrach mean “spectre, spook”. The Sanskrit cognate druh means “affliction, afflicting demon”.


Inanna (Old Babylonian or Neo-Assyrian MUŠ; Sumerian: Inanna; Akkadian: Ištar) was the Sumerian goddess of love, fertility, and warfare, and goddess of the E-Anna temple at the city of Uruk, her main centre. She was the most prominent female deity in ancient Mesopotamia. As early as the Uruk period (ca. 4000–3100 BC), Inanna was associated with the city of Uruk.

Inanna’s name derives from Lady of Heaven (Sumerian: nin-an-ak). The cuneiform sign of Inanna; however, is not a ligature of the signs lady (Sumerian: nin; Cuneiform: SAL.TUG) and sky (Sumerian: an; Cuneiform: AN).

These difficulties have led some early Assyriologists to suggest that originally Inanna may have been a Proto-Euphratean goddess, possibly related to the Hurrian mother goddess Hannahannah, accepted only latterly into the Sumerian pantheon, an idea supported by her youthfulness, and that, unlike the other Sumerian divinities, at first she had no sphere of responsibilities.

The view that there was a Proto-Euphratean substrate language in Southern Iraq before Sumerian is not widely accepted by modern Assyriologists.


Inara, in Hittite–Hurrian mythology, was the goddess of the wild animals of the steppe and daughter of the Storm-god Teshub/Tarhunt. She corresponds to the “potnia theron” of Greek mythology, better known as Artemis. Inara’s mother is probably Hebat and her brother is Sarruma.

The mother goddess Hannahannah promises Inara land and a man during a consultation by Inara. Inara then disappears. Her father looks for her, joined by Hannahannah with a bee. The story resembles that of Demeter and her daughter Persephone, in Greek myth.


Ishara (išḫara) is an ancient deity of unknown origin from northern modern Syria. She first appeared in Ebla and was incorporated to the Hurrian pantheon from which she found her way to the Hittite pantheon.

Ishara is the Hittite word for “treaty, binding promise”, also personified as a goddess of the oath. In Hurrian and Semitic traditions, Išḫara is a love goddess, often identified with Ishtar.

Ishara is a pre-Hurrian and perhaps pre-Semitic deities, later incorporated into the Hurrian pantheon. From the Hurrian Pantheon, Ishara entered the Hittite pantheon and had her main shrine in Kizzuwatna, the name of an ancient Anatolian kingdom in the 2nd millennium BC.


Kizzuwatna, is the name of an ancient Anatolian kingdom in the 2nd millennium BC. It was situated in the highlands of southeastern Anatolia, near the Gulf of İskenderun in modern-day Turkey. It encircled the Taurus Mountains and the Ceyhan river. The center of the kingdom was the city of Kummanni, situated in the highlands. In a later era, the same region was known as Cilicia.

The country possessed valuable resources, such as silver mines in the Taurus Mountains. The slopes of the mountain range are still partly covered by woods. Annual winter rains made agriculture possible in the area at a very early date. The plains at the lower course of the Ceyhan river provided rich cultivated fields.

Several ethnic groups coexisted in the Kingdom of Kizzuwatna. The Hurrians inhabited this area at least since the beginning of the 2nd millennium BC. The Hittite expansion in the early Old Kingdom period (under Hattusili I and Mursili I) was likely to bring the Hittites and the Luwians to southeastern Anatolia.

The Luwian language was part of the Indo-European language group, with close ties to the Hittite language. Both the local Hittites and the Luwians were likely to contribute to the formation of independent Kizzuwatna after the weakening of the Hittite Old Kingdom.

The toponym Kizzuwatna is possibly a Luwian adaptation of Hittite *kez-udne ‘country on this side (of the mountains)’, while the name Isputahsu is definitely Hittite and not Luwian (Yakubovich 2010, pp. 273–4). Hurrian culture became more prominent in Kizzuwatna once it entered the sphere of influence of the Hurrian kingdom of Mitanni.


Kummanni was the name of the main center the Anatolian kingdom of Kizzuwatna. Its location is uncertain, but is believed to be near the classical settlement of Comana in Cappadocia. It was the major cult center of the Hurrian chief deity, Tešup. Its Hurrian name Kummeni simply translates as “The Shrine.”

The city persisted into the Early Iron Age, and appears as Kumme in Assyrian records. It was located on the edge of Assyrian influence in the far northeastern corner of Mesopotamia, separating Assyria from Urartu and the highlands of southeastern Anatolia.

Kumme was still considered a holy city in Assyrian times, both in Assyria and in Urartu. Adad-nirari II, after re-conquering the city, made sacrifices to “Adad of Kumme.” The three chief deities in the Urartian pantheon were “the god of Ardini, the god of Kumenu, and the god of Tushpa.”


Isuwa (transcribed Išuwa and sometimes rendered Ishuwa, meaning “horse-land”) was the ancient Hittite name for one of its neighboring Anatolian kingdoms to the east, in an area which later became the Luwian Neo-Hittite state of Kammanu. The Khabur Valley had a central position in the metal trade, and copper, silver and even tin were accessible from the Hurrian-dominated countries Kizzuwatna and Ishuwa situated in the Anatolian highland.

The land of Isuwa was situated in the upper Euphrates river region. The river valley was here surrounded by the Anti-Taurus Mountains. To the northeast of the river lay a vast plain stretching up to the Black Sea mountain range. The name Isuwa is not known until the literate Hittite period of the second millennium BC. Few literate sources from within Isuwa have been discovered and the primary source material comes from Hittite texts.

The plain had favourable climatic conditions due to the abundance of water from springs and rainfall. Irrigation of fields was possible without the need to build complex canals. The river valley was well suited for intensive agriculture, while livestock could be kept at the higher altitudes. The mountains possessed rich deposits of copper which were mined in antiquity.

The Isuwans left no written record of their own, and it is not clear which of the Anatolian peoples inhabited the land of Isuwa prior to the Luwians. They could have been Indo-Europeans like the Luwians, related to the Hittites to the west, Hattians, Hurrians from the south, or Urartians who lived east of Isuwa in the first millennium BC.

The area was one of the places where agriculture developed very early in the Neolithic period. Urban centres emerged in the upper Euphrates river valley around 3000 BC. The first states may have followed in the third millennium BC.


Ishvara is a concept in Hinduism, with a wide range of meanings that depend on the era and the school of Hinduism. In ancient texts of Indian philosophy, Ishvara means supreme soul, Brahman (Highest Reality), ruler, king or husband depending on the context. In medieval era texts, Ishvara means God, Supreme Being, personal god, or special Self depending on the school of Hinduism.

In Shaivism, Ishvara is synonymous with “Shiva”, as the “Supreme lord over other Gods” in the pluralistic sense, or as an Ishta-deva in pluralistic thought. In Vaishnavism, it is synonymous with Vishnu. In traditional Bhakti movements, Ishvara is one or more deities of an individual’s preference from Hinduism’s polytheistic canon of deities. In modern sectarian movements such as Arya Samaj and Brahmoism, Ishvara takes the form of a monotheistic God.

In Yoga school of Hinduism, it is any “personal deity” or “spiritual inspiration”. In Advaita Vedanta school, Ishvara is a monistic Universal Absolute that connects and is the Oneness in everyone and everything.


Mitanni (Hittite cuneiform Mi-ta-an-ni; Mittani Mi-it-ta-ni), also called Hanigalbat (Hanigalbat, Khanigalbat cuneiform Ḫa-ni-gal-bat) in Assyrian or Naharin in Egyptian texts was a Hurrian-speaking state in northern Syria and southeast Anatolia from ca. 1500 BC–1300 BC. Pharaoh Thutmose III of Egypt mention in the 33rd year of his reign (1446 BC) the people of Ermenen, and says in their land “heaven rests upon its four pillars”.

The Mitanni kingdom was referred to as the Maryannu, Nahrin or Mitanni by the Egyptians, the Hurri by the Hittites, and the Hanigalbat by the Assyrians. The different names seem to have referred to the same kingdom and were used interchangeably, according to Michael C. Astour.

Hittite annals mention a people called Hurri (Ḫu-ur-ri), located in northeastern Syria. A Hittite fragment, probably from the time of Mursili I, mentions a “King of the Hurri”. The Assyro-Akkadian version of the text renders “Hurri” as Hanigalbat. Tushratta, who styles himself “king of Mitanni” in his Akkadian Amarna letters, refers to his kingdom as Hanigalbat.

Egyptian sources call Mitanni “nhrn”, which is usually pronounced as Naharin/Naharina from the Assyro-Akkadian word for “river”, cf. Aram-Naharaim. The name Mitanni is first found in the “memoirs” of the Syrian wars (ca. 1480 BC) of the official astronomer and clockmaker Amememhet, who returned from the “foreign country called Me-ta-ni” at the time of Thutmose I.

The expedition to the Naharina announced by Thutmosis I at the beginning of his reign may have actually taken place during the long previous reign of Amenhotep I. Helck believes that this was the expedition mentioned by Amenhotep II.

As early as Akkadian times, Hurrians are known to have lived east of the river Tigris on the northern rim of Mesopotamia, and in the Khabur Valley. The group which became Mitanni gradually moved south into Mesopotamia before the 17th century BC.

Hurrians are mentioned in the private Nuzi texts, in Ugarit, and the Hittite archives in Hattushsha (Boğazköy). Cuneiform texts from Mari mention rulers of city-states in upper Mesopotamia with both Amurru (Amorite) and Hurrian names. Rulers with Hurrian names are also attested for Urshum and Hashshum, and tablets from Alalakh (layer VII, from the later part of the old-Babylonian period) mention people with Hurrian names at the mouth of the Orontes. There is no evidence for any invasion from the North-east. Generally, these onomastic sources have been taken as evidence for a Hurrian expansion to the South and the West.

A Hittite fragment, probably from the time of Mursili I, mentions a “King of the Hurrians” (LUGAL ERÍN.MEŠ Hurri). This terminology was last used for King Tushratta of Mitanni, in a letter in the Amarna archives. The normal title of the king was ‘King of the Hurri-men’ (without the determinative KUR indicating a country).

It is believed that the warring Hurrian tribes and city states became united under one dynasty after the collapse of Babylon due to the Hittite sack by Mursili I and the Kassite invasion. The Hittite conquest of Aleppo (Yamkhad), the weak middle Assyrian kings, and the internal strifes of the Hittites had created a power vacuum in upper Mesopotamia. This led to the formation of the kingdom of Mitanni. The legendary founder of the Mitannian dynasty was a king called Kirta, who was followed by a king Shuttarna. Nothing is known about these early kings.

The ethnicity of the people of Mitanni is difficult to ascertain. A treatise on the training of chariot horses by Kikkuli contains a number of Indo-Aryan glosses. Kammenhuber (1968) suggested that this vocabulary was derived from the still undivided Indo-Iranian language, but Mayrhofer (1974) has shown that specifically Indo-Aryan features are present.

The names of the Mitanni aristocracy frequently are of Indo-Aryan origin, but it is specifically their deities which show Indo-Aryan roots (Mitra, Varuna, Indra, Nasatya), though some think that they are more immediately related to the Kassites, an ancient Near Eastern people who controlled Babylonia after the fall of the Old Babylonian Empire ca. 1531 BC and until ca. 1155 BC (short chronology).

The Kassite language has not been classified. What is known is that their language was not related to either the Indo-European language group, nor to Semitic or other Afro-Asiatic languages, and is most likely to have been a language isolate (a stand-alone language unrelated to any other), although some linguists have proposed a link to the Hurro-Urartian languages of Asia Minor. However, several Kassite leaders bore Indo-European names, and they might have had an Indo-European elite similar to the Mitanni, who ruled over the Hurro-Urartian-speaking Hurrians of Asia Minor.

Maryannu is an ancient word for the caste of chariot-mounted hereditary warrior nobility which existed in many of the societies of the Middle East during the Bronze Age.The term is attested in the Amarna letters written by Haapi.

Robert Drews writes that the name ‘maryannu’ although plural takes the singular ‘marya’, which in Sanskrit means young warrior, and attaches a Hurrian suffix. He suggests that at the beginning of the Late Bronze Age most would have spoken either Hurrian or Aryan but by the end of the 14th century most of the Levant maryannu had Semitic names.

The common people’s language, the Hurrian language, is neither Indo-European nor Semitic. Hurrian is related to Urartian, the language of Urartu, both belonging to the Hurro-Urartian language family. It had been held that nothing more can be deduced from current evidence. A Hurrian passage in the Amarna letters – usually composed in Akkadian, the lingua franca of the day – indicates that the royal family of Mitanni was by then speaking Hurrian as well.


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 that was 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. It was probably spoken by the majority of the population around Lake Van and in the areas along the upper Zab valley.

The name Urartu comes from Assyrian sources: the Assyrian King Shalmaneser I (1263–1234 BC) recorded a campaign in which he subdued the entire territory of “Uruatri.” The name used by the local population as a toponym was Biainili (or Biaineli), which forms the root of the Armenian Վան (“Van”), hence the names “Kingdom of Van (Bianili)” or “Vannic Kingdom.”

The Shalmaneser text uses the name Urartu to refer to a geographical region, not a kingdom, and names eight “lands” contained within Urartu ( which at the time of the campaign were still disunited ) . “Urartu” is cognate with the Biblical “Ararat,” Akkadian “Urashtu,” and Armenian “Ayrarat.”

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 Urartian-speaking Iron Age state that arose in that region. This language appears in inscriptions.

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, the Iranian Plateau, 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. Though there is no written evidence of any other language being spoken in this kingdom, it is argued on linguistic evidence that Proto-Armenian came in contact with Urartian at an early date.

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.


Scholars such as Carl Ferdinand Friedrich Lehmann-Haupt (1910) believed that the people of Urartu called themselves Khaldini after their god Khaldi, also known as Ḫaldi, Hayk or Hayg, also known as Haik Nahapet (Hayk the Tribal Chief), the legendary patriarch and founder of the Armenian nation.

Khaldi was one of the three chief deities of Ararat (Urartu). The other two chief deities were Theispas of Kumenu, and Shivini of Tushpa. Of all the gods of Ararat (Urartu) pantheon, the most inscriptions are dedicated to him. His wife was the goddess Arubani. He is portrayed as a man with or without a beard, standing on a lion.

His shrine was at the ancient Urartian city of Ardini attested in Assyrian sources of the 9th and 8th centuries BC. The present form of the name is Artin, meaning “sun rising” or to “awake”, and it persists in Armenian names to this day. It was known as Muṣaṣir (Mu-ṣa-ṣir and variants, including Mutsatsir), meaning Exit of the Serpent/Snake in Akkadian. It was acquired by the Urartian King Ishpuini ca. 800 BC.

The mušḫuššu (formerly also read as sirrušu, sirrush) is a creature depicted on the reconstructed Ishtar Gate of the city of Babylon, dating to the 6th century BC. As depicted, it is a mythological hybrid: a scaly dragon with hind legs resembling the talons of an eagle, feline forelegs, a long neck and tail, a horned head, a snake-like tongue, and a crest.

The form mušḫuššu is the Akkadian nominative of the Sumerian MUŠ.ḪUS, lit. “reddish snake” sometimes also translated as “fierce snake”. One author, possibly following others, translates it as “splendor serpent” (MUŠ is the Sumerian term for “serpent”. The reading sir-ruššu is due to a mistransliteration in early Assyriology).

The mušḫuššu is the sacred animal of Marduk and his son Nabu during the Neo-Babylonian Empire. It was taken over by Marduk from the Akkadian god Tishpak, the tutelary deity of the city of Esnumma (Eshnunna), likely identical with the Hurrian god “Teshup”.

The constellation Hydra was known in Babylonian astronomical texts as Bashmu, “the Serpent” (MUŠ). It was depicted as a snake drawn out long with the forepaws of a lion, no hind-legs, with wings, and with a head comparable to the mušḫuššu dragon. This monstrous serpent may have inspired the Greek Hydra.


Hittite inscriptions deciphered in the 1920s by the Swiss scholar Emil Forrer testify to the existence of a mountain country, the Hayasa and/or the Azzi, lying around Lake Van. Hayasa-Azzi or Azzi-Hayasa was 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.

Several prominent authorities agree in placing Azzi to the north of Ishuwa, the ancient Hittite name for one of its neighboring Anatolian kingdoms to the east, in an area which later became the Luwian Neo-Hittite state of Kammanu, a Luwian – Proto-Armenian speaking Neo-Hittite state in Armenian Highlands in the late 2nd millennium BC, formed from part of Kizzuwatna after the collapse of the Hittite Empire. Others see Hayasa and Azzi as identical.

The similarity of the name Hayasa to the endonym of the Armenians, Hayk or Hay and the Armenian name for Armenia, Hayastan has prompted the suggestion that the Hayasa-Azzi confereration was involved in the Armenian ethnogenesis.

The term Hayastan bears resemblance to the ancient Mesopotamian god Haya (ha-ià) and another western deity called Ebla Hayya, related to the god Ea (Enki or Enkil in Sumerian, Ea in Akkadian and Babylonian). Thus, the Great Soviet Encyclopedia of 1962 posited that the Armenians derive from a migration of Hayasa into Shupria in the 12th century BC.

The name Armenia enters English via Latin, from Ancient Greek Ἀρμενία. The Armenian endonym for the Armenian people and country is hayer and hayk’, respectively. The exact etymology of the name is unknown, and there are various speculative attempts to connect it to older toponyms or ethnonyms.


Haya is known both as a “door-keeper” and associated with the scribal arts. Haya’s 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.

There is 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 Haia.

Attempts have also been made to connect the remote origins of Haia 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 characterised, beyond being the spouse of the grain-goddess Nidaba/Nissaba, who is also the patroness of the scribal art, 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”.


In some cases Haia was identified as father of the Sumerian goddess Ninlil (NIN.LÍL”lady of the open field” or “Lady of the Wind”), also called Sud, in Assyrian called Mulliltu, the consort goddess of Enlil.

In Sumerian religion, Ninlil is called the daughter of Haia (god of stores) and Nunbarsegunu (or Ninshebargunnu [a goddess of barley] or Nisaba). Another Akkadian source says she is the daughter of Anu (aka An) and Antu (Sumerian Ki). Other sources call her a daughter of Anu and Nammu.

She lived in Dilmun with her family. Raped and ravaged by her husband Enlil, who impregnated her with water, she conceived a boy, Nanna/Suen, the future moon god. As punishment Enlil was dispatched to the underworld kingdom of Ereshkigal, where Ninlil joined him.

Enlil impregnated her disguised as the gatekeeper, where upon she gave birth to their son Nergal, god of death. In a similar manner she conceived the underworld god Ninazu when Enlil impregnated her disguised as the man of the river of the nether world, a man-devouring river.

Later Enlil disguised himself as the man of the boat, impregnating her with a fourth deity Enbilulu, god of rivers and canals. All of these act as substitutes for Nanna/Suen to ascend. In some texts Ninlil is also the mother of Ninurta, the heroic god who slew Asag the demon with his mace, Sharur.

After her death, she became the goddess of the wind, like Enlil. She may be the Goddess of the South Wind referred to in the story of Adapa, as her husband Enlil was associated with northerly winter storms. As “Lady Wind” she may be associated with the figure of the Akkadian demon “Lil-itu”, thought to have been the origin of the Hebrew Lilith legend.


First attested in the 9th century BCE, 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). 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.

Urartian was also rarely written in the “Anatolian hieroglyphs” used for the Luwian language. Evidence for this is restricted to Altıntepe.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. What can be identified with a certain confidence are two symbols or “hieroglyphs” found on vessels, representing certain units of measurement. This is known because some vessels were labelled both in cuneiform and with these symbols.

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.

The oldest delivered texts originate from the reign of Sarduri I, from the late 9th century BCE, 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 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. The poorly attested Kassite language may have been related to Hurrian.

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.

Hurrian was the language of the Hurrians (occasionally called “Hurrites”), and was spoken in the northern parts of Mesopotamia and Syria and the southeastern parts of Anatolia between at least last quarter of the third millennium BC and its extinction towards the end of the second millennium BC.

There have been various Hurrian-speaking states, of which the most prominent one was the kingdom of Mitanni (1450–1270 BC). Furthermore, the Kassite language was possibly related to Hurro-Urartian. There was also a strong Hurrian influence on Hittite culture in ancient times, so many Hurrian texts are preserved from Hittite political centres.

The Mitanni variety is chiefly known from the so-called “Mitanni letter” from Hurrian Tushratta to pharaoh Amenhotep III surviving in the Amarna archives. The “Old Hurrian” variety is known from some early royal inscriptions and from religious and literary texts, especially from Hittite centres.

Urartian is closer to the so-called Old Hurrian variety (mostly attested in Hittite documents) than to the Hurrian of the Mitanni letter. For example, both use -o-/-u- (rather than -i-) as the marker of transitive valency and both display the plural suffix -it-, expressing the number of the ergative subject and occupying a position before the valency marker.

Proponents of linguistic macrofamilies have suggested that Hurro-Urartian and Northeast Caucasian form an “Alarodian” family, but this is without support in mainstream linguistics. Cambridge University encyclopedia of ancient languages describes: “A genetic relation between (reconstructed) Proto-Urarto-Hurrian and (reconstructed) Northeast Caucasian has been argued for, but it is not generally accepted. If the connection could be demonstrated, it would be a rather distant one.”

Igor Diakonoff and others have suggested ties between the Hurro-Urartian languages and the Northeastern Caucasian languages. The theory of so called “Urartian” language having affinity with North Caucasian was put forward by Diakonof who in his turn based his theory on Starostin’s propositions.

Soviet propaganda deliberately hid from wide public that Sergei Anatolyevich Starostin (March 24, 1953 – September 30, 2005), a Russian historical linguist, perhaps best known for his reconstructions of hypothetical proto-languages, including his work on the controversial Altaic theory, the formulation of the Dené–Caucasian hypothesis, and the proposal of a Borean language of still earlier date, connects everything to North Caucasian languages. From Yeniseian, Altaic, Sino-Tibetan, Japanese, Na-Dene to Austric languages and claimed they altogether form a single, higher-order language family.

The Dené–Caucasian hypothesis proposes that Northwest Caucasian, Northeast Caucasian, Yeniseian, Sino-Tibetan, and Na-Dené form a single, higher-order language family. According to Starostin, the Dené–Caucasian and Austric macrofamilies, together with the Nostratic macrofamily (as envisaged by Vladislav Illich-Svitych, with some modifications), can further be linked at an earlier stage, which Starostin called the Borean (i.e. ‘Northern’) languages.

The Yeniseian languages are a language family whose languages are and were spoken in the Yenisei River region of central Siberia. The Sino-Tibetan languages are a family of more than 400 languages spoken in East Asia, Southeast Asia and parts of South Asia, including the Chinese and Tibeto-Burman languages. Na-Dene is a Native American language family. All these languages were connected to North Caucasian according to Starostin, thus to “Urartian”. His theories never enjoyed serious attention in scientific world due to the blatant absurdness.

Very few know that Starostin developed the theory, originated by Abu al-Ghazi Bahadur Khan (August 24, 1603 – 1663), a khan of the Khanate of Khiva from 1643 to 1663, in the 17th century, that Japanese is an Altaic language. Abu al-Ghazi Bahadur was of Uzbek origin of Turkic race whose historical work is “Genealogy of the Turkmen” Shajare-i Tarakime finished in 1661 and “Genealogy of the Türks” Shajare-i Türk finished in 1665.

Starostin’s theory of so called “Urartian”- North Caucasian affinity was singled out and propagated by Diakonof because he due to small salary he accepted offer accepted an offer by Azerbaijan to falsify history and to make Azerbaijanis descendants of Medians which although is not specifically mentioned in memoirs implied also falsifying Armenian history and separating Armenians from their heritage.

Diakonof’s memoirs also will be of a great interest to Persians where he tells how Azerbaijanis tried to usurp the 12th-century Persian poet Nizami Ganjavi (1141 to 1209), considered the greatest romantic epic poet in Persian literature, who brought a colloquial and realistic style to the Persian epic. His heritage is widely appreciated and shared by Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Iran, Kurdistan region and Tajikistan. His formal name was Jamal ad-Dīn Abū Muḥammad Ilyās ibn-Yūsuf ibn-Zakkī.

Nezami was orphaned early and was raised by his maternal uncle Khwaja Umar who took responsibility for him and afforded him an excellent education. His mother, named Ra’isa, was of Kurdish background. His father, whose name was Yusuf is mentioned once by Nezami in his poetry.

In the same verse, Nezami mentions his grandfather’s name as Zakki. In part of the same verse, some have taken the word Mu’ayyad as a title for Zakki while others have interpreted it as the name of his great grandfather. Some sources have stated that his father might be possibly from Qom. Nezami is variously mentioned as a Persian and/or Iranian.

In Diakonof’s words he failed to make Azerbaijanis descendants of Medians because it was just so not true. But together with Starostin they falsified both Armenian and thus world heritage. Neither Diakonof, nor Starostin knew Armenian.

Works of Starostin-Diakonov’s criminal tandem was criticized by many scholars but they were never published for wider public and never made known in Soviet Union due to Diakonof being main Orientalist from Moscow. Diakonov got his PhD due to nepotism via Bobojan Gafurov (18 December 1908 – 12 July 1977), a prominent party leader and the former first secretary of the Tajik SSR.

Gafurov was a Tajik historian, academician, and the author of several books published in Russian and Tajik, including History of Tajikistan and The Tajiks. He received his PhD from the Institute of History of the USSR Academy of Sciences in Moscow in 1941 with a dissertation on “History of the Isma’ili Sect”.

Many Soviet Assyriologists headed by Anatoly Kifishin accused Dyakonof in translating Epic of Gilgamesh not from Akkadian but from German. Later Kifishin gave interview saying Diakonov harassed him trying to “kill his career.”

In this controversial work, Kifishin compared the petroglyphs of Kamenna Mohyla (literally: “stone tomb”), an archaeological site in the Molochna River (literally “Milk river”) valley, about a mile from the village of Terpinnya, Zaporizhia Oblast, Ukraine, to those of Çatalhöyük and concluded that both were related to the Sumerian cuneiform script. Shortly before his death, Igor Diakonov lashed out against Kifishin’s hypothesis (the two openly feuded since the 1960s).

In his book Diakonov is said to use works of Vladimir Kazimirovich Shileiko (February 14, 1891 — October 5, 1930), a Russian orientalist (assyriologist, hebraist) poet (acmeist) and translator, without mentioning it. Diakonov himself confessed working with Shileiko. Shileiko’s relatives insisted that only with the help of police they managed to take back Shileiko’s writings from Diakonof.

Vasily Vasilievich Struve (February 2 [O.S. January 21] 1889 in Petersburg – September 15, 1965 in Leningrad), a Soviet orientalist from the Struve family, the founder of the Soviet scientific school of researchers on Ancient Near East history, who in 1950s was the main Soviet Orientalist, also accused Diakonof of using others’ works without credits. Wikipedia says “In the late 1950s controversy between Struve and Diakonov became more personal. It should be noted that Diakonov displayed a glaring violations of scientific etiquette”.

Meanwhile Soviet propaganda never allowed wider public to know that according to the German Orientalist Andreas David Mordtmann (11. Februar 1811 in Hamburg; † 30. Dezember 1879), Vannic language was not only Aryan but specifically Armenian, and that it was only necessary to turn to an Armenian dictionary to discover the meaning of every word in the inscriptions.

Dr. Mordtmann deciphered Vannic (Araratian, Urartian) cuneiform inscriptions which in his words were written in one of early Armenian dialects. He also deciphered some Mesopotamian inscriptions using Armenian.

The Anglo-Irish clergyman Edward Hincks (19 August 1792 – 3 December 1866) M.A., D.D., best remembered as an Assyriologist and one of the decipherers of Mesopotamian cuneiform, perceived that the language of Vannic cuneiform inscriptions was inflectional and that it was Indo-European, or Aryan, as he called it. He read the names of the kings as Niriduris, Skuina, Kinuas, and Arrasnis, but very shortly corrected them into Milidduris, Ishpuinish, Minuas, and Argistis.

According to the Orientalist Rawlinson, sometimes described as the Father of Assyriology, well known, a series of inscriptions found at Van and in the vicinity. He called these inscriptions Armenian. They are written in the same alphabet that was used in Assyria, but are composed in a different language – a language, indeed, which, although it has adopted numerous words from the Assyrian, belong radically to another family. There are six kings of the Armenian line following in a line of direct descent. He named these as: 1. Alti-bari; 2. Ari-mena; 3. Isbuin; 4. Manua; 5. Artsen; 6. Ariduri.”

Edward Hincks called attention to the fact that, though Assyrian was a Semitic tongue, yet was its script totally unlike that used by any of the related languages. He suggested that the script was related to the Egyptian, and put forth the hypothesis that it was invented by an Indo-European people, who had been in contact with Egyptians and had borrowed something from their method of writing.

Of the 230-250 Urartian words identified to date, 156 have their parallels in Armenian, thus comprising 62-68 percent of the established Urartian lexicon. Of the 156 parallel words, 95, almost 61 percent, are native and, therefore, cannot have been borrowed from Urartian (if, indeed, such a separate language ever existed). A large percentage of the parallel words are such that rarely infiltrate from one language to another (for instance, pronouns, basic (ad)verbs, subsidiary words, etc.)

Now days the only book which gives thorough explanation on Vanic language is the book by Sargis Ayvazyan. The book is devoted to the issue of the language of the Van cuneiform inscriptions: Urartian, and its interrelationship with Armenian. The common word roots are thoroughly discussed and the Urartian grammatical and phonetic systems are compared to those of Armenian. An attempt is made to present the historical-comparative grammar of these languages proceeding from the assumption that Urartian has, as its base, the Armenian language.

The typical Armenian of to-day is, on the physical side, what his ancestors were in the age of the Vannic kingdom. Broad-skulled, with black hair and eyes, large and protrusive nose and somewhat retreating chin, he represents that ‘Armenoid ‘ type which extends throughout Asia Minor, embraces a section of the Jews, and is characteristic of the Hittite monuments. It is evident that the invaders who introduced the Armenian language of to-day could have been but a small caste of conquerors who have long since been absorbed by the older population of the country. Languages change readily; racial types are extraordinarily permanent.

The decipherment of Sumerian and of Vannic

One Response to “Is “Urartian” Language Armenian or North Caucasian?”

  1. Perfectly laid out. The only thing that I don’t understand, is what some of those malicious characters, who try to depreciate and degrade the Armenian culture and its ancient existence with all sorts of malicious and ridiculous deviations, in attempt to shatter and scatter the Armenian unity. The Armenians have always stood out of their neighboring countries, by its unique culture, language and creativity. There are more Armenian scientists and inventors in the world, than the scientists of all the world put together. Because Armenians do not market themselves, therefore they remain unpopular.

    Here are some links where you can see where we’ve come from:

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