Ancient writing systems in the Mediterranean

A critical guide to electronic resources


- end 3rd millennium BC-end 2nd millennium BC

Examples of writing

The inscription of Tišatal of Urkeš

The inscription of Tišatal of Urkeš

1  Ti-iš-a-tal
2  en-da-an
3  ur-kèšKI
4  pu-ur-li
5  dNergal
6  ba-ᴐà-áš-tum
7  pu-ru-li
8  a-ti  ᴐà-al-li
10 ša-ak-ru-in

Tišatal, endan of Urkeš built a temple of Nergal. May Lubadag protect this temple!

The foundation inscription of Tišatal of Urkeš, of which the first words are given here, is at the moment the most ancient document in the Hurrian language known to us (21th-20th cent. BC). The text is preserved on a tablet of limestone that was put under the forelegs of a small lion of bronze with open jaws. Even though the object was bought in an antiques market, it is very probable that it came from the site of Tell Mozan, the ancient Urkeš. Today it is conserved in the Louvre Museum (AO 19937). The inscription was published for the first time by A. Parrot and J. Nougayrol (“Un document de fondation hurrite” RA 42, 1948, 1-20). The first full analysis of the text goes back to I. Diakonoff (Hurritisch und Urartäiach, Munich 1971, 110 ff.). The most recent edition is by G. Wilhelm (Die Inschrift des Tišatal von Urkeš, in: G. Buccellati – M. K. Buccellati, Urkesh and the Hurrians : A Volume in Honor of Lloyd Cotsen, Undena, 1998, 117-166).

The Mittani letter

The Mittani letter

74   i-n[u-ú-u]t-ta-a-ni-i-in  ḫé-en-ni še-e-ni  íw-wu-uš  ta-a-ti-a
75  [i-nu-ú-]me-e-ni-i-in  ḫé-en-ni  še-e-ni-iw-we  i-ša-aš  ta-a-ta-ú
76  a-nam-mi-til-la-a-an  [dT]e-e-eš-šu-pa-aš  dŠa-uš-gaš  dA-ma-nu-ú-ti-la-an
77 dŠi-mi-i-ge-ni-e-[t]i-la-an  dE-a-a-šar-ri-ni-e-ti-la-an  ma-an-šu-ti-la-a-an
78 DINGIRMEŠ  e-e-en-na[-š]u-uš  ti-ši-a-ša-an  tiš-ša-an  tiš-ša-an  ta-a-ta-aš-ti-te-en

“As my brother now loves me and as I now love my brother, may they, the gods Tešub, Šauška, Amanu, Šimige and Ea-šarri, love us very much in their hearts”.

Bibl.: Giorgieri, La lettera hurrita, in: M. Liverani, Le lettere di El Amarna, Brescia 1999, 378; I. Wegner, Hurritisch. Eine Einführung, Wiesbaden 2000, 132-133.

This document is at the moment the only Hurrian text very probably coming from the capital city of the kingdom of Mittani, Wašukanni. For this reason it is important not only for understanding the language but also for the analysis of the graphic customs of the scribes of this kingdom. The “Mittani Letter” was found in the Egyptian site of El Amarna and catalogued as EA 24. It is a letter accompanying the Hurrian princess Taduhepa sent to Egypt by the Mittanian king Tušratta to be married to the Pharaoh Amenhotep III. It is today conserved at the Vorderasiatisches Museum of Berlin where it is on display. It was first published in 1890 by Hugo Winckler (Der Tontafelfund von el Amarna, Berlin). New studies were done over the years, the first by J.A. Knudzon, Die El-Amarna-Tafeln. Transkribierter Text, mit Einleitung und Erläuterungen, in 1915. Later the German scholar J. Friedrich edited a study that is still an important reference for the accuracy of the analysis and the transcription. (J. Friedrich, Kleinasiatische Sprachdenkmäler, Berlin 1932, pp. 8-35). An important Italian edition has been published by Mauro Giorgieri in: M. Liverani, Le lettere el-Amarna, vol. 2, Brescia 1999, 374-391.

The most recent edition is: M. Dietrich - W. Mayer, Der hurritische Brief des DusÌŒratta von MiÌ„ttaÌ„nni an Amenḫotep III. : Text, Grammatik, Kopie, AOAT 382, Münster 2010 

The Song of Release

The Song of Release

KBo 32.11

Ro. I
1    ši-ra-ti-li  dIM-ub  URUKum-mi-ni-wii  t[a-la-a-wuu-ši]
2    e-eb-ri  ta-al-ma-aš-ti-i-li  ši-i[-tu-u-ri] 
3    ni-ik-ri  e-še-ne-e-bi  A-al-la-a[-ni]
4    ma-an-zu-u-ra-ma  ka-ti-il-li n i-š[a-aš]
5    ši-tu-u-ri  dIš-ḫa-ra  ti-wii ta-a-an[-
6    ma-a-ti  a-mu-tu-u-pa-ti  e-ne

"I want to tell the story of Tešub , the great Lord of Kumme. I want to celebrate Allani, the maid, the latch of the Earth. And together (with them) I want to tell the story of the maid Išḫara , the word [ ], unattainable wisdom, the goddess. ".

The Song of Release (SÌR para tarnummaš / kirenzi) was found in the excavations of Hattuša between 1983 and 1985 in the temples 15 and 16 of the High City. It is a bilingual text, in Hurrian with a translation in Hittite.

The first, exemplary, publication of the text is from E. Neu, Das hurritische Epos der Freilassung, StBoT 32, Wiesbaden 1996. In more recent times a translation was edited by G. Wilhelm and published in the series Texte aus der Umwelt des Alten Testamets, Gütersloh 2001 (pp. 82-91). The commentary by S. de Martino, “Il Canto della Liberazione: composizione letteraria bilingue hurrico-ittita sulla distruzione di Ebla” in: La civiltà dei Hurriti, PdP 50 (2000), 296-320.