Sunday, July 5, 2015

Kurdish Origins & the Saka Claim. Pt. 2 - Inscriptions at Saqqez, Kurdistan (Iran)

Suggested prior reading:
» Kurdish Origins & the Saka. Pt. 1 - Credibility of Sources
» Herodotus' References to the Saka
» Saka (& Scythians)

Harmatta's Claim: 'Scythian' Connection
Dish found at Sakkez/Saqqez, Iranian Kurdistan.
J. Harmatta in his article 'Herodotus, historian of the Cimmerians and the Scythians' at Hérodote et les peuples non grecs (Genève, 1990, pp. 123–126) provides his translation and analysis of an inscription in Hieroglyphic Luwian (33 characters)/Hittite (15 characters) incised on a silver dish fragment found at a "rich" burial site uncovered at Sakkez (Ziwiye) in Iranian Kurdistan south of Lake Urmia.

The inscription and Harmatta's translation are as follows:
Transliteration: "patinasana tapa wasnam XL waswaski XXX arstim shkarkar (HA) harsta lugal. partita tawa kisaa kurupati quwaa. ipasam"
Transcription: "patinasana tapa vasnam 40 vasaka 30 arzatam shikar. uta harsta khshayal. partitava khshaya dahyuupati khva ipashyam"
Translation: "Delivered dish. Value: 40 calves 30 silver shiqlu. And it was presented to the king. King Partitavas, the masters of the land property."

c. 1400 BCE Hittite Seal of Tarkummuwa King of Mera with
Hittite hieroglyphs text in the inner circle and in cuneiform
around the rim. Image credit: Wikipedia
Harmatta deduces that the name 'Partita' translates as 'Partitavas'. Earlier in his article, he informed us that the Scythian name 'Protothyes' ("who liberated Ninua from the siege of the Medes" according to Herodotus) is the same as the personage named 'Partatua' on Assyrian texts. From this Harmatta concludes, "Obviously, this inscription represents an administrative record prepared in the court or in the chancellery of the Scythian king Partatua of the Assyrian texts, the Protothyes of the Greek sources, the master of the land of Mannai* in the 7th century BCE." This is quite a dramatic conclusion and a leap considering it is the only such inscription found in the region and one limited to 48 characters. We find the equating of homonyms and then planting the label 'Scythian' based on Herodotus' vague notion of Scythians as problematic. [*Mannai/Manna = approx. S. Azerbaijan/S. Lake Urmia today. See our map at Ranghaya, Upper Tigris-Euphrates Basin.]

The stitching together of similar sounding words would be similar to us stating that 3=8=6 (by slightly manipulating, adding or subtracting minor lines). Even if the names equate, we don't have any evidence they refer to the same person. We will have to await far more evidence for us to accept Harmatta's conclusions. However, if the transliteration of the text is correct, then the word endings 'ita', 'pati' and 'asam' are identifiable Old Irano-N. Indian word endings and there is no need at this stage to further extrapolate, speculate and build a fantastic and implausible construct on such meagre evidence.

Harmatta goes on to state, "The Iranian character of the language used in the inscription cannot be mistaken: it is Old Iranian." Harmatta seems to imply that the language of the 'Scythians' was Old Iranian. If so, Harmatta is likely referring to the Eastern Aryan (Iranian) Saka and not the language of European Scythians.

Harmatta concludes by stating, "Thus the inscription of Sakkez fully verifies the narrative of Herodotus on the Scythian king Partatua-Protothyes...." At the end of it all, Harmatta's contention is that the Sakas (who he calls 'Scythian' in the fashion of other European writers) of the Ranghaya-Mitanni-Media-Kurdistan region adapted the Luwian and Hittite scripts of Asia Minor in order "to write their own Old (Saka) Iranian language." [Regrettably, Harmatta does not provide a dating for the plate though he indirectly refers to the 7th century BCE when King Partitavas was "master of the land Mannai".]

Are the Kurds Descendants of the Saka ('Scythians' sic)?
It would also be hasty to surmize from this single inscription that the Kurds have Saka origins as some participants in online discussion groups on the net have done. Given that we find that modern Kurdistan stands where Ranghaya, the sixteenth Aryan nation of the Zoroastrian scriptures', the Avesta's, book of Vendidad stood, as also where the later kingdoms of Mitanni and Media stood, the Kurds are likely descendants of a branch of the mainstream Aryan family: the Mitanni anciently and later the Medes. This does not exclude the possibility of a mixing of the original Aryan migrants with Saka-Aryan elements who could have migrated to the same or adjacent lands. Also see our page on the Aryans.]

What the inscription does demonstrate is yet another added clue to the close cultural connection between Asia Minor, the Iranian Plateau and Central Asia (via Old Iranian).

Luwian-Hittite Inscription Script
Luwian-Hittite hieroglyphic script characters of the type used on the Sakkez/Saqqez, Iranian Kurdistan plate.
Harmatta remarks that while there are some similarities in the script with Luwian/Hittite, the two alphabets are not identical. Harmatta also notes that the plate was found together with "some pieces decorated in Scythian animal style." We also note that the use of the Luwian/Hittite script for writing an Old Iranian dialect does not in itself indicate a connection between the Luwian or Hittite languages and Old Iranian. [Also see Ancient Westernmost Asia Minor.]

Luwian-Hittite Languages
The Luwian language was spoken across western Asia Minor including Arzawa,Troy, the Seha River Lands and lands now in northern Syria (cf. western Kurdish lands). The name 'Arzawa' gave way to 'Luwiya', the forerunner of the name 'Lydia'. From the 14th century BCE, Luwian became the majority language in Hattusa, the Hittite capital. The Luwian language, while still linked to the Central Asia based quasi-Aryan languages, does not appear to be as close to Old Iranian as the language of the Sakkez/Saqqez plate inscription. It does seem that the further from the Central Asian center the Aryans migrated, the less connected was their language with Old Iranian. Local languages and possibly even Greek may have mingled to produce what became the Hittite language. We again caution the reader that the use of the same script, or parts, in different artifacts does not imply that the same language is being used.

The Lydian, Carian and Lycian languages belonged to the Hittite-Luwian subfamily of languages.

The Mitanni & Hittites of Asia Minor - an Introduction
The lands of Mitanni and Hatti (Hittite). Assuwa/Arzawa was part of the greater Hittite lands. Image credit: Wikipedia
The Mitanni dynasty ruled over the northern Euphrates-Tigris region between c.1475 and c.1275 BCE. The Mitanni were an Irano-N. Indian Aryan dynasty that ruled in the land of the Hurrians located in the upper Euphrates-Tigris basin - land that is now part of northern Iraq, Syria and south-eastern Turkey and, which coincides quite well with the Kurdish lands of today. While the Mitanni kings were Aryans, they used the local language Hurrian, leaving us to question to what extent the population they governed were Mitanni. Very little evidence exists of the Mitanni after 1275 BCE when their lands appear to have been divided and absorbed into Hittite Hatti and Assyria (reminiscent of the manner in which the Kurds have been dispersed today).

The Hittites were the people who ruled Hatti, a central Anatolian (Turkey today) kingdom, from c. 1900 to c. 700 BCE. The Hittites formed the earliest known Anatolian civilization and employed an advanced system of government based on a legal doctrine.

A c.1380 BCE treaty between the royal houses of the Hittites and the Mitanni acknowledge various deities together with the Aryan (Indo-Iranian) deities Mitra, Varuna and Indra together with names such as Artatama that have Aryan roots. Name beginnings with 'Arta' are rooted in Aryan-Zoroastrian tradition. The Mitanni and Hittites appear on the historical stage in the Upper Euphrates basin, the Hittites to the north of the Euphrates and the Mitanni to the south. At different periods, they were allies or rivals and in any event, their royal houses behaved as kin.

The land of the Hittites was called Katpatuka (Cappadocia) during Persian Achaemenid times (c. 675 to 330 BCE). Strabo in the first century CE noted that the Magi (Zoroastrian priests) of Cappadocia “...have Pyraetheia (fire-houses), noteworthy enclosures...” the first record of priestly Zoroastrian fire temples (the general population, even royalty, worshipped in the open and on hilltops). The Hittite lands of Hatti could have formed the western extent of Ranghaya, the sixteenth and last Aryan land in the Vendidad – the last land mentioned before the Avestan canon was closed.

Also see:
» Mitanni
» Hittites
» Mitanni-Hittite Treaty
» Ancient Westernmost Asia Minor
Asia Minor with classical Greco-Roman names.

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