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ARCHAEOLOGY > Mysterious tablet’s secrets revealed

DIYARBAKIR - Anatolia News Agency

A tablet found at the Ziyarettepe excavation area has stirred excitement among scientists and archaeologists. The tablet, which belongs to eighth century BC has writings in unknown language.

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The translator of the tablet, Dr. John MacGinnis of Cambridge University, says the tablet was written in Assyrian cuneiform and was very significant for historians. AA photos

The translator of the tablet, Dr. John MacGinnis of Cambridge University, says the tablet was written in Assyrian cuneiform and was very significant for historians. AA photos

A tablet from the eighth century BC in an unknown language found at the Ziyarettepe excavation has stirred excitement among scientists.

“The tablet in Ziyarettepe is quite important. The first evaluations and translation of the tablet were done in England. However, the first announcements are being made at our museum in Turkey,” said Nevin Soyukaya, director of the Diyarbakır Museum, which is supervising the excavation.

Soyukaya said the Ziyarettepe excavation had revealed a lot of knowledge. “Human history repeats with every excavation, as scientists say. The region provides important knowledge, and these important findings are brought to the Diyarbakır Museum.”

Dr. Timothy Matney, a professor at Akron University in the United States, said the settlement at Ziyarettepe, consisting of 32 hectares near the Tigris River (Dicle River), dated from the third century BC to 700 BC, making it one of the oldest settlements. “It was an important center for the Assyrians. It was an accommodation and state center for the Assyrian military, so there was a big palace where the state governor resided on the mound. We uncovered it, and the tablet was found in the burnt ruins of the throne room of the palace in the Assyrian state center Tuşhan.”

Possibilities for newly encountered language

The translator of the tablet, Dr. John MacGinnis of Cambridge University, said the tablet was written in Assyrian cuneiform and was very significant for historians and archeologists. The translation of the tablet took a very long time, he said. “We finally realized that women’s names were listed in the text. It is highly probable that these are the names of women who once worked in Tuşhan.”

He said the most surprising thing was that the names on the tablet were not Assyrian. “To figure that out, we were in contact with many specialist colleagues and compared it with many languages in the Middle East. But they said this language did not match any of them. For example it is not Persian, Elam, Egyptian, Arabic, Hebrew or Aramaic.”

He said the most likely possibility was that the names belonged to Shubrians. “Shubria was one of the names of this region before the Assyrians came here.” Another possibility, MacGinnis said, was that the women had been relocated to the area from the Zagros Mountains on the Iraqi-Iranian border.
MacGinnis said the tablet was important because it showed a new language. He said the tablet listed the names Impane, Ninuaya, Sasimi, Bisunume, Malinayasi and Pinda. “Our work in the region will provide new data on this topic. All those findings indicate that it is the known state center called ‘Tuşhan’ in Ziyarettepe.”

History of the area

Over 3 million people were relocated by the Assyrians, according to Dr. Kemalettin Köroğlu of Marmara University. The Shubrian language is not well understood and was never written, he said, but a group of relocated women had worked in the Assyrian palace, and this was a standard practice of kings in the empire.The excavation is part of the “World Heritage Threatened by the Ilısu Dam Lake” project, a joint effort by the Culture Ministry, General Directorate of State Hydraulic Works.

August/27/2012

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