The Power of Narrative in Hittite Literature

Ahmet Unal
1989 The Biblical Archaeologist  
T he connection may not seem obvious, but written sources are an integral part of the archaeological record. In addition to being the cornerstone of any hermeneutical process, they are an important tool in helping us understand the mute archaeological remains. Written sources are critical in the study of Hittite Anatolia not only because they provide straightforward historical accounts of the Hittites but also because they illustrate the literary values and abstract thought processes that
more » ... rocesses that pervaded every aspect of Hittite life. The study of Hittite literature illustrates that archaeology and philology are indeed complementary disciplines and that their relationship must be carefully cultivated if we are to unravel the puzzles of the past. In the following pages I will discuss the underlying elements of the Hittite literary tradition and present several passages from various texts to show both the development of that tradition and the power of its prose. The Hittite Archives The obvious place to begin any discussion of Hittite literature is the archives at the Hittite capital of Hattusa near the modern-day district town of Bogazkoy/ Bogazkale (see Akurgal 1978: 300-01). Although little has been written about the archives (Laroche 1949; Otten 1955 Otten , 1984 Otten , 1986, it is from these written sources that we get our initial impressions of the role literature played in the Hittite state. We must be cautious, however, when speaking of the Hittite archives. The word archive connotes a building or structure and implies the notion of a library or the like. This is certainly not the correct impression to give. The Hittites built no institution that approached the functioning of a library. We cannot even be sure that the structures in which tablets have been found were actually intended to be tablet houses, or archives, in the physical sense of the word. Thus, in this article, the word archive is used to denote the collections of tablets that have been found throughout the Hittite capital. Relatively few tablets have been found in the provinces (compare Ozguic 1978: 57-58). The tablets unearthed at Hattusa were scattered in buildings throughout the site. In the Lower City, tablets were found in several rooms of Temple 1, the great temple of the Weather-God ( Otten 1955: 72; Bittel 1970: 13-14; Naumann 1971: 430; Akurgal 1978: 302). On the acropolis, site of the great fortress of Biyiikkale, tablets were found in three structures-Buildings A, E, and K (Bittel 1970: 84-85, 163). Many tablets were also found in the so-called House on the Slope (Schirmer 1969: 20), perhaps the scribal school (Macqueen 1986: 116, note 71). More tablets are being unearthed in the Upper City (Otten 1984: 50, 1987: 21; Neve 1985: 334, 344, 1987a: 405, 1987b: 311), among them a sensational tablet made of bronze that was found underneath the paving stones alongside the inner city walls near Yerkapi (Neve 1987a: 405; Otten 1988, 1989). We can say very little about the physical structures in which the Hittites kept and stored their tablets. At Hattusa tablets were found collected in temples, houses, magazines, and perhaps special tablet houses. Others were discovered in widely scattered areas and dumps. There does not seem to have been a particular system of distribution. (An overview of find spots according to CTH numbers can be found in Cornil 1987.) We have determined how the tablets were organized from the structures in which they were housed as well as from the so-called shelf lists (Laroche 1971: 154). It is presumed that these shelf lists were placed as indices in front of the tablets for quick reference. Some of the 130 Biblical Archaeologist, June/September 1989
doi:10.2307/3210204 fatcat:yrbkgpgmcfalzicc76rwe2yapi