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Hurrian - 2400 BC - 1200 BC

Hurrian is an early Anatolian language, traceable back to 2400 BC. There was at the dawn of urban life an already strong and independent urban culture, identifiable as Hurrian. The Hurrians appear in Anatolia early in the second millennium BC and move from modern Kurdistan, in the mountains around Lake Van, westwards across northern Mesopotamia as far as the Euphrates. Igdir is a province in eastern Turkey. Archaeological research has uncovered Hurrian settlements in the Igdir region going back to 4000 BC. The area was part of the Urartu kingdom circa 800 BC.

The Hurrian urban culture was not represented by a large number of cities. Only a small number can be so considered, and they seem to have been found only along the narrow strip along the piedmont of the Taurus range. Urkesh is the only city that can demonstrably be shown to have been Hurrian in the third millennium. Nawar was (arguably) the name of the territory of the kingdom of Urkesh, that included the mountainous hinterland to the north. There is no evidence that Urkesh ever developed into anything larger than a city-state, however extensive its hinterland and powerful its culture.

Hurri forms the connecting link between Asia Minor and Mesopotamia, since Hurrian is practically identical with Mitannian. The civilization of the Hurrians, like their religion, was almost wholly Mesopotamian. Hurri was the tongue of Northern Syria, Northern Mesopotamia, part, at least of Armenia, and some of the contiguous sections of Asia Minor. It may safely be identified with the biblical "Horite," which has been gradually replaced in the Hebrew Bible by "Hivite".

Since the proper names of the Guti are Mitannian in character, it would seem that the Hurrians replaced the Sumerians in northern Mesopotamia at a very early date. The Hittite theogony of 1400-1200 BC, from the royal archives at Hattusas was translated or adapted from Hurrian myths of the fifteenth century BC, whose roots lie in earlier Babylonian-Sumerian traditions. Animals were branded for the gods in Babylonian temples, and lions, seen twice on the bowl, were favorite mounts of Hurrian and Neo-Hittite goddesses. Late Bronze Age vessels are mostly undecorated wares.

Mitanni - 1600 BC–1300 BC

Mitanni KingdomThe Mitanni Kingdom flourished in the 15th and 14th centuries BC; it was located in modern-day Turkey, Syria and Iraq. Shortly after the fall of Urartu to the Assyrians, the Indo-European-speaking proto-Armenians migrated, probably from the west, onto the Armenian Plateau and mingled with the local people of the Hurrian civilization, which at that time extended into Anatolia (presentday Asian Turkey) from its center in Mesopotamia. Turks, Kurds, Armenians, Iranians, Jews, Lebanese and other (Eastern and Western) Mediterranean groups seem to share a common ancestry: the older "Mediterranean" substratum.

From cuneiform sources one could surmise that Aryan bands first came into Mesopotamia with the general movement of peoples after the death of Hammurabi in the seventeenth century BC. This is also the time of the expansion of the Hurrians, a people whose linguistic and ethnic affiliations are puzzling. The Mitanni language (Indo-Hittite), also called Hurrian, was written in a cunieform script beginning in 1400 BC. The Mitanni introduced some linguistic terms of Indo-Aryan origin, dealing for example with horse training, and gods from the Vedic (Indian) pantheon, but the language remained Hurrian. For many years it was thought that no other language was related to Mitanni, but recent scholarship has shown that it is one of the Anatolian languages belonging to the Indo-Hittite family of languages.

Mitanni (also Mittani) or Hanigalbat (Assyrian Hanigalbat) was a loosely organized Hurrian-speaking state in south-east Anatolia and northern Syria and Iraq from ca. 1500 BC–1300 BC [or 1600 to 1375 BC]. Founded by an Indo-Aryan ruling class governing a predominately Hurrian population, Mitanni came to be a regional power after the Hittite destruction of Kassite Babylon.

It is principally among the Mitanni that Aryan names and words occur. In a famous treaty between the Hittite ruler Suppiluliuma and the Mitanni king, Mattiwaza, about 1370 BC, the Aryan gods Mithra, Varuna, Indra and the twin Nasatyas are mentioned. Thus in the Mitanni kingdom Aryan gods were worshipped as well as Mesopotamian deities, which would indicate an Aryan element, but probably only among the rulers. No sign of the postulated Indo-European (Aryan) invasion (1200 BC) is detected by genetic analysis. It is concluded that this invasion, if occurred, had a relatively few invaders in comparison to the already settled populations, i.e. Anatolian Hittite and Hurrian groups (older than 2000 BC). These may have given rise to present-day Kurdish, Armenian and Turkish populations.

The kingdom of Mitanni was artificial and short lived. For a few centuries, certain areas of northern Syria, centering around the Habur valley, which neither before or after enjoyed an independent political union, were melded into a single unit by a small ruling group, a dynasty of kings with Indo-European names, supported bya knightly class.

Amenhotep II's two military campaigns in Syria in Years 7 and 9 (ca. 1446 and 1444 BC) sought to retain the territory from the coast to the Euphrates River, which was conquered by his father, Thutmose III. The Kindom of Mitanni sought to reclam lands by invasion and by co-opting Egyptian vassals. Amenhotep records subduing rebellious vassals and defeating the Mitanni and their allies. The Mitanni evidently fought the Egyptians to a standstill, and both sides ultimately signed a treaty splitting Syria between them.

Hurrian power declined rapidly. After a remarkable phase of power and prominence during the reign of Saushtatar (c. 1430), a devastating invasion by the Hittite king Suppiluliuma (c. 1370-1330) destabilized the Mitanni royal family. The state underwent further fragmentation with the secession of the eastern region under one Artatama II.

Political unity does not necessarily entail a corresponding cultural or artistic unity.Particularly in the case of such a state as Mitanni with its highly diverse ethniccomponents, there arises the problem of whether craftsmen working within its borderswere able to develop stylistic tendencies sufficiently independent to bear the name of thepolitical entity in which they arose. Mitannian ware (also called Nuzi, Alalakh, or Hurrian ware) are tall goblets with small, button bases, painted light floral and geometric designs on a dark (red or brown) background, approximately 10-20 cm high.

Hani-Rabbat, a Semitic name for Mitanni, is a West-Semitic (Amorite) compound meaning ‘Great Hani’, in contrast with the Middle-Euphratean country of Hana. Hence, Rabbat marks the opposition between two Hanaean lands set off by the Euphrates. Hani / Hana ought also to be linked with Akkadian hanû and Hurrianizing haniahhe, all being designations of probable West-Semitic origin used for certain human groups that followed a (semi-)nomadic lifestyle in both sides of the river. The scenario is one of linguistic contact between Amorite, Akkadian and Hurrian.

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Page last modified: 03-04-2012 19:44:43 ZULU