New ancient language discovered in the Near East

Cambridge University’s Research News brings a press release that ought to excite readers here. A cuneiform inscription has been discovered in Western Turkey, dating to the end of the 8th century BC, written in a previously unknown language.

One notion is that it may be Shubrian – the indigenous language spoken in the Tušhan area before the Assyrians arrived. As far as historians know, Shubrian was never written down. In addition, it is believed to have been a dialect of Hurrian, which is known and does not appear to bear any resemblance to most of the names on the tablet.

Another theory is that it was the language spoken by the Mushki – a people who were migrating to Eastern Anatolia at around the time the tablet was made. This idea seems less plausible, however, as to appear on the list of the Assyrian administration, these people would either have infiltrated the Empire or been captured, and historians have evidence for neither.

More convincing is the theory that the language in question may have been spoken by a people from somewhere else in the Assyrian Empire who were forcibly moved by the administration.

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