The term Hurrian denotes a language of the ancient Near East and the people who spoke it. The core area inhabited by Hurrian-speaking people was the region of the upper Ñabur and Tigris Rivers, together with the piedmont beyond, extending into the eastern Taurus and northwestern Zagros Mountains. The Hurrian language belongs to neither the Semitic nor the Indo-European language family, nor is it related to Sumerian or Elamite, other important isolated languages of the ancient Near East. It is related to only one other known ancient language, that of Urartu, the kingdom that flourished in the montane regions surrounding Lakes Van, Urmia, and Sevan during the early first millennium b.c.e.; whether Hurrian and Urartian are related to any living languages remains uncertain (see further below). Hurrian and Hurrians are attested to in and around Mesopotamia beginning in the late third millennium b.c.e., whereafter evidence of their presence increases (along with the quantity and geographical range of textual records) until reaching a climax in the 15th–14th centuries, with the floruit of the predominantly Hurrian kingdom of Mittanni. After Mittanni was eclipsed by Ñatti and Assyria, Hurrian language and culture lived on in the Assyrian and especially the Hittite kingdoms, eventually dwindling to the vanishing point in the early first millennium b.c.e. The designation Hurrian appears in the Hebrew Bible as the gentilic ìôrï, "Horite," which denotes a people who dwelt in Canaan and Transjordan before the emergence of Israel.
Rediscovery and Research
The existence of a language and people called Hurrian first came to light with the discovery of the Amarna tablets, in the late 19th century c.e., and the Hittite royal archives at Boghazköy, in the early 20th century.
The Amarna tablets are the archive of Egypt's international correspondence in cuneiform, which was found at Tell el-Amarna, the site of Akhetaten, and dates to the mid-14th century b.c.e. This archive of about 400 cuneiform tablets included several letters from Tuåratta, king of Mittanni, to the king of Egypt (and one to the queen-mother). Most of Tuåratta's letters were written in Akkadian, then the common language of international relations in the Near East, but one very long letter was written in a language that was entirely unknown at the time of its discovery; only the standard address and salutation formulae were composed in Akkadian as usual. Within this letter (ea 24), which has come to be known as the Mittanni Letter, Tuåratta refers to himself as "the Hurrian king" and to his country as "the Hurrian land." These designations, however, could not immediately be read and understood accurately. In the meantime, it was observed that the names of Tuåratta and most of his relatives could be analyzed as Indo-Aryan. But the language of the Mittanni Letter was clearly not Indo-European, therefore presumably it could not be "Aryan," and for the time being it was simply called Mittannian.
Not long after the Amarna tablets were discovered, excavations commenced at Boghazköy, the site of Ñattusa, which was the capital of the Hittite kingdom during most of its existence from roughly 1600 to 1200 b.c.e. These excavations began to yield great numbers of cuneiform tablets, some written in Hittite (also an unknown language at the time of discovery), some in Akkadian, and some in the same language as that of the Mittanni Letter. In the Boghazköy tablets this language is referred to by the Hittite adverb ñurlili, "(in) Hurrian," from ñurla, Hittite for "(a) Hurrian." Other tablets from the Hittite royal archives make reference to the "land of Ñurri" and the "people of Ñurri(-land)," as well as to the kingdom of Mittanni.
Initially, the designation Ñurri was read "Ñarri," since the most common cuneiform spelling left the medial vowel indeterminate, and "Ñarri" was interpreted as "Aryan." This reading and interpretation were corrected soon enough based on cuneiform spellings that specified the vowel, and on the observation that the language denoted Hurrian was not Indo-European. But the association between Mittanni and (Indo-)Aryans was reinforced by other evidence. A treaty between Ñatti and Mittanni, redacted in Akkadian, was found in the Boghazköy archives, and among the divine witnesses overseeing this treaty on the Mittannian side, the names of a few Indian deities were quickly recognized: Mitra, Varuna, Indra, and the Nasatya twins, well known from the Vedas. Another Boghazköy tablet, written in Hittite, proved to be a sort of instruction manual for training horses for the chariotry, in which the technical terminology is of Indo-Aryan derivation and the author, Kikkuli, is identified as a "horse-trainer from Mittanni." Further, various additional terms and names that appeared in connection with Mittanni, in sources then newly coming to light, were identified as Indo-Aryan in origin; the most prominent of these is maryanni, a term denoting the nobility who used horse-drawn chariots in warfare (discussed further below). But the relationship between Mittanni(an) and Ñurri(an) remained unclear. Additional evidence added to the issue's complexity.
Egyptian texts of the New Kingdom period (1532–1070 b.c.e.), broadly contemporaneous with the Boghazköy archives, refer to the region of Syria by the designation Ñor, evidently identical with Ñurri(-land), while they usually call Mittanni by the name Nañarina, "River-land." In Akkadian-language sources there appears yet another name, Ñanigalbat (var. Ñaligalbat), referring to a land within that of Mittanni, or of Ñurri. Meanwhile, already before the Amarna Letters became known, Mesopotamian lexical texts had been discovered that listed words described as "Subarian," that is, pertaining to a land called Subir in Sumerian and Subartu in Akkadian. Some of these Subarian words were now found to belong to the same language as that in which the Mittanni Letter was written, the language called Hurrian by the Hittites.
This embarrassment of designations and entities fueled a debate concerning which term stood for what, and the nature of their referents. What were the relationships among the various designations for lands, polities, people(s), and their language(s)? Should the language be called Hurrian, Mittannian, or Subarian? How was Ñurri-land (Egyptian Ñor) related to Mittanni (Egyptian Nañarina), and what was the status of Ñanigalbat? Were the Hurrians the same as the people of Subir/Subartu? When did Hurrians or Subarians arrive in the Near East? When and how did Mittanni come into existence? And were the Bronze Age Hurrians to be identified with the Horites of the Bible? Some saw either the Subarians or the Hurrians, a.k.a. Horites, as the aboriginal population of the Near East or part thereof. Others pointed to the absence of onomastic or other linguistic evidence for Hurrian presence before the period of the Akkad Dynasty (ca. 23rd–22nd century b.c.e.), and concluded that Hurrians were relative latecomers to the area, probably having come from a more northerly "homeland." While some readily equated Hurrian with Subarian, Ignace Gelb (1944) argued forcefully in favor of a sharp distinction between Subarian(s) and Hurrian(s), observing, for instance, that only part of the linguistic material designated Subarian in Mesopotamian sources is Hurrian. The whole matter was further complicated by the issue of Indo-Aryan presence in Mittanni, or among the Hurrians. Some imagined – and even today, some still do – that only with the arrival of Aryans, sometime during the "dark age" that followed the fall of Babylon, was the Hurrian population infused with the capacity to form a coherent state (Mittanni) that possessed military potency and imperial ambition; according to this view, Mittanni would have been an Aryan-dominated kingdom with a predominantly Hurrian population, an admixture which soon diluted its dynasty's power.
By now the accumulation of evidence, together with the maturation of the concepts with which we interpret it, suffices to push the major pieces of this puzzle into place, though many questions cannot yet be answered and there remain great gaps in the evidence so far available. The most significant gap is that we still largely lack indigenous Hurrian, Subarian, or Mittannian textual sources; notably, no actual Mittannian archives have been found, and the site of Waååukanni, Mittanni's capital city (where such archives would be expected), has yet to be located. Most texts in the Hurrian language have been found at sites outside the "land of Ñurri" – at Amarna, Boghazköy, and elsewhere – while virtually all references to Mittanni, its rulers, and its affairs occur in sources found outside Mittanni itself. The case is similar for Subarian(s) and Subartu, except there is even less to go on. As regards material evidence, although abundant archaeological finds from the pertinent areas and periods are known, no specific element of material culture can be identified as Hurrian, Subarian, or Mittannian, because there is no means whereby any of these designations may be linked exclusively and definitively to a particular type of artifact or stylistic feature. The people to whom these designations pertained, regardless of whether they were indigenous to the lands they inhabited, participated in the broader culture of those lands, so that it is difficult to identify them by means of tangible cultural markers. Notwithstanding such gaps and uncertainties, the general picture sketched in what follows is probably reliable.
It should be noted, before proceeding, that scholarship on this and similar subjects has often been marred by a tendency to automatically equate language with ethnicity and both with cultures, political formations, or territories (including "homelands"), even ones whose existence is only a postulate. In the same way, the mere existence of a designation that may be applied to persons has often too readily been assumed to imply the existence of a "people" – an ethnic group or race – bearing that designation, and even to imply a state, with delimited territory, controlled by the hypothetical ethnic group. At the price of simplicity of expression, such automatic equations and assumptions are avoided here, to the extent this is possible without unduly burdening the discussion with roundabout phraseology; the content and application of each term must be the subject of inquiry.
Ñurri and Hurrian
In ancient Near Eastern sources, the designation Ñurri and its derivatives (e.g., Hittite ñurla-, ñurlili) are applied to a land, its people, and their language, principally during the 16th–12th centuries b.c.e. The "land(s) of Ñurri" and the "people of Ñurri" are first attested to in texts from the Hittite Old Kingdom (ca. 16th century b.c.e.); the latest attestations would be the biblical passages mentioning Horites, which were redacted in their present form centuries later but refer vaguely to the period before the transition from the Late Bronze to the Iron Age (ca. 12th century b.c.e.).
The self-designation of Tuåratta, king of Mittanni, as "the Hurrian king," in his Hurrian-language letter to Pharaoh (ea 24), warrants the inference that, at least during the period of Mittanni's existence, there was such a thing as Hurrian identity; further, as other sources also indicate, this identity could be borne by the people and land of Mittanni as well as the language. But how far to extend this inference is uncertain. In particular, since the kingdom of Mittanni acquired an empire whose size fluctuated, embracing more or fewer vassal kingdoms at any particular time, it would be absurd to suppose that the designation Hurrian would have applied to all lands and people coming under (temporary) Mittannian hegemony. Meanwhile, there were plenty of Hurrians, or speakers of Hurrian, dwelling outside Mittanni, as is evident from the heavy incidence of Hurrian or Hurrianized personal names, place names, and vocabulary throughout much of the Near East during this period. But many who spoke Hurrian would also have spoken a Semitic language, or Hittite, or something else, and many who bore Hurrian names had relatives who bore names in other languages – or else their names were, say, half Hurrian and half Semitic – so the Hurrian language cannot serve as a marker of "ethnic" identity. Therefore neither can the characterization Hurrian be linked exclusively to the Mittannian polity, nor does the evidence suggest that it denoted an ethnic group. Tuåratta was "the Hurrian king" because he ruled the land and people of Ñurri, as much as because he himself was "Hurrian." On present evidence it seems probable that Ñurri was originally the designation borne by a group of people, which was then applied to the land they inhabited and later to the language they spoke; but that land was not delimited by specific boundaries, and the people were not defined by putative genealogical or political affinity. Only the Hurrian language, which of course anyone could acquire, was a distinct as well as relatively constant feature.
Language is, naturally, the easiest cultural characteristic to trace in textual sources, and the language that came to be called Hurrian is attested much earlier than the designation itself is. Hurrian personal names and place names are attested in Syro-Mesopotamian sources beginning with the period of the Akkad Dynasty, in the last quarter of the third millennium b.c.e. The earliest ruler bearing a Hurrian name who is thus far attested is probably Tañiå-atili, whose capture in the city of Azuñinum (location uncertain) was commemorated by Naram-Sïn, king of Akkad (ca. 2200 b.c.e.), in connection with his campaign against the land of Subartu. The earliest known text written in the Hurrian language is the foundation inscription of Tiå-atal, lord of Urkeå, a city recently found at the site of Tell Mozan (on which see further below); Tiå-atal probably ruled during the Ur iii period, toward the end of the third millennium b.c.e. But Hurrian words appear in texts that predate Tiå-atal's inscription. Indeed, the earliest-attested Hurrian word may be one that entered the Sumerian language as a loanword: Sumerian tabira, "coppersmith," probably derives from Hurrian tabiri, "one who casts (copper)." The time for borrowing such a term into Sumerian would likely be the time when copper metallurgy was introduced into Mesopotamia, in the fourth millennium b.c.e. This would suggest that speakers of Hurrian were present in the Near East as early as any other linguistically identifiable inhabitants of the region, rather than arriving there from elsewhere. In that case, the fact that textual records do not otherwise attest their presence until the Akkad period should be attributed to the limited purview of earlier records, rather than to the absence of Hurrian(s). The geographical origin of the Hurrian language and those who spoke it should not be sought beyond the Near East, but in the principal areas known to have been inhabited in historical times by speakers of Hurrian and its sibling tongue Urartian: the regions of the upper Ñabur and Tigris, and the mountainous lands between there and the Caucasus.
If we use the term "Hurrian" as a linguistic designation, it may be applied to people and places bearing Hurrian names, as well as to Hurrian vocabulary and texts, throughout the periods when these are attested to. In what follows, people may be spoken of as Hurrians on the understanding that they are so designated according to the criterion of language, not necessarily ethnicity or any other kind of identity; in a similar sense, cities, polities, deities, and elements of culture may likewise be characterized as Hurrian.
Subartu, Subarian, and Hurrian
The geographical designation Subartu and the corresponding gentilic Subarian overlap somewhat with Ñurri and Hurrian, but they do so primarily from the perspective of Sumer and Akkad. The term Subartu (or Subir) may originally have been the name of a specific place, but fairly early in the history of Mesopotamia, whence our sources for it largely derive, Subartu came to be used broadly to signify "north," "upland," that is, upriver and up in the mountains, north and northwest of Sumer and Akkad. The people who dwelt in those northerly, mountainous regions spoke complicated languages, according to the Sumero-Akkadian view (Gelb 1944, 41–42), and one of those complicated "Subarian" languages was Hurrian. So, for example, when Naram-Sïn campaigned against Subartu, he encountered and defeated a ruler bearing a Hurrian name, Tañiå-atili (mentioned above), at a locality somewhere north of Akkad. Hurrian and Hurrians are consequently labeled Subarian in Mesopotamian texts (or in texts using Mesopotamian scribal conventions), but Subarians, or inhabitants of Subartu, were not necessarily Hurrian, just "northern." Later texts sometimes use the name Subartu to refer to Assyria, because it lay northwest of Akkad, rather than because it grew to encompass Hurrian or "Subarian" territories; either way this illustrates the mutability of the name's usage. Given their inherently broad and flexible application, the terms Subarian and Subartu are unlikely to have denoted any specific language, ethnic group, or polity during any period of their usage in Mesopotamian texts (see, e.g., Michalowski 1986).
Tañiå-atili's near-contemporaries and neighbors in third-millennium Subartu included other Hurrian-named rulers. Recent excavations at Tell Brak and Tell Mozan, located on tributaries of the Ñabur River, have revealed that they are the sites of, respectively, Nagar and Urkeå, two important Hurrian towns. At each site, evidence has been found of individuals who ruled there during the late third-millennium, in the form of impressions of their seals. The seals were inscribed with their names, which are Hurrian: Talpuå-atili, "sun of the land of Nagar," and Tupkish, lord (vel sim.; Hurrian endan) of Urkeå; also attested at Urkeå is the wife of Tupkiå, who bore the Semitic name Uqnîtum (based on uqnu, the Akkadian word for lapis lazuli). These individuals are dated roughly to the late Akkadian period (ca. 22nd century b.c.e.; see Buccellati 1998, especially the contributions of Steinkeller and Salvini). Not long thereafter appears another Hurrian-named ruler, Atal-åen, king of both Urkeå and Nawar (perhaps identical to Nagar), who is known from a bronze tablet that unfortunately lacks archaeological provenience. This tablet records, in Akkadian, Atal-åen's dedication of a temple to the Mesopotamian god Nergal; most unusually, it was "signed" by the scribe, whose name, Åaum-åen, is Hurrian like that of his patron. A generation or two later, the foundation inscription of Tiå-atal, lord of Urkeå (mentioned above), also records the building of a temple for Nergal – but this time the text was written in Hurrian rather than in Akkadian.
Hurrians, Mittanni, Ñanigalbat
During the first half of the second millennium b.c.e., Hurrian principalities appear to multiply in upper Mesopotamia, northern Syria, and eastern Anatolia, as the sources pertaining to these regions become richer. Meanwhile, the use of the Hurrian language spread westward and southward along with the geographic spread of Hurrian-speaking people. At some places, for example, Mari on the middle Euphrates and Alalañ on the Orontes, significant proportions of the population bore Hurrian names, and the texts also include occasional Hurrian words; the archives of Mari even contained a few Hurrian-language incantations. Toward the middle of the millennium, the establishment of the Hittite Old Kingdom was accompanied by continual conflict with Hurrian states to the east of Ñatti. Ñattusili i repeatedly waged war against "the Hurrian enemy," and his campaigns were reprised by his successor Mursili I (a convenient survey is provided by Hoffner, in Buccellati 1998). Though Mursili's efforts met with only ephemeral success, they had important effects. After having destroyed Aleppo, theretofore the seat of a "great kingdom" encompassing much of Syria, Mursili marched southward to Babylon, which he also destroyed, bringing an end to the rule of Hammurabi's dynasty; during this process he did battle against the Hurrians, too, and the sources claim that he soundly defeated them. But his achievements were nullified by his assassination, at home in Ñattusa, leaving the field clear for others to inherit the spoils of his wars. While the Kassites achieved dominion over Sumer and Akkad, the Hurrians recovered and consolidated their territories in upper Mesopotamia and vicinity. By about 1500 b.c.e. they had established the kingdom of Mittanni.
How exactly this happened is not known, because after the Hittite raid on Babylon our textual sources dry up almost completely for a while, producing a "dark age." On the short chronology followed here, this dark age does not last more than a couple of generations, but that is enough to obscure the origins of Mittanni. When written records again illuminate the scene, in the mid-15th century, it has totally changed. A new "military-industrial complex" is developing around the manufacture and deployment of horse-drawn chariots, which had not previously been widely used. The kings of Mittanni, among whom Sauåtatar is the best known in this period, have acquired an empire that stretches from Arrapñe in the east (in the region of modern Kirkuk) to Kizzuwatna in the west (classical Cilicia), and extends southward until it abuts Egypt's newly won empire in Canaan. In fact, by Sauåtatar's time Mittanni and New Kingdom Egypt have emerged as competing "superpowers" in the Near East; Thutmose iii campaigns almost annually against "that vile enemy of Nañarina" and his protegés in the Levant. Hurrian names and vocabulary have become commensurately prevalent throughout the Levant, as well as in other areas touched by Mittannian dominance or influence. Some places, notably the kingdoms of Alalañ and Arrapñe, have become so thoroughly Hurrianized that not only the vocabulary but the grammar of the Hurrian language have penetrated the texts, albeit they are composed using the Akkadian language, to the point that the writing may be described as Hurro-Akkadian (Wilhelm 1970; Márquez Rowe 1998); clearly Hurrian was the mother tongue of many scribes in these places. Moreover, amid the Hurrian or Hurrianized linguistic material there appears a new element, names and words of Indo-Aryan derivation. Most significantly, the rulers of Mittanni bear Indo-Aryan names, e.g., Sauåtatar, Tuåratta, Artatama, and Åattiwaza.
As adumbrated above, scholars readily seized upon this Indo-Aryan element as the key to explaining the dramatic developments in warfare and political organization that transformed the Near East between the fall of Babylon and the rise of Mittanni. The postulate of an Aryan invasion was an easy way to account for the emergence of new kingdoms – not only Mittanni but the Kassite state of Karduniash and even (looping backwards in time) the Hyksos dynasties of Egypt – as well as the introduction of the horse-drawn chariot as a vehicle of war. Clear evidence seemed to support this explanation: the Indo-Aryan names of Mittannian kings; the four deities with Indo-Aryan names, known from the Vedas, who appear in the treaty between Mittanni and Ñatti; the Indo-Aryan terminology in the horse-training manual; and the Indo-Aryan word for the new ruling class, maryanni, which appears everywhere from Babylon to Egypt over the course of the Late Bronze Age (1550–1200 b.c.e.).
But that is practically all the evidence there is for the presence of Indo-Aryans in Mittanni or elsewhere in the Near East, and it proves not to bear the weight of the historical hypothesis it has been made to support. The four Vedic Indian deities appear only in that one single treaty, which dates from a point late in Mittanni's history – in fact, it sealed Mittanni's demise as an independent state – and there they are mentioned in the middle of two dozen Hurrian and Mesopotamian deities; apparently these Indo-Aryan gods held neither a high nor an enduring position in Mittannian religion. The Indo-Aryan names of Mittanni's kings were throne names, in at least some cases: Tuåratta's son Åattiwaza, the partner to that same treaty with Ñatti, bore the Hurrian personal name Keli-Teååup prior to his accession. The light two-wheeled chariot had been developed within the Near East during the first half of the second millennium b.c.e., centuries before the earliest evidence for the presence of Indo-Aryan(s) there, and horses had been introduced into Mesopotamia in the late third millennium. Horse-drawn chariots were employed already in the wars between the Hittites and Hurrians that preceded the formation of Mittanni. Obviously, neither was chariotry introduced by Indo-Aryans, nor was it an innovation at the time of Mittanni's foundation, though the techniques and technology of chariot warfare were still developing then. As for the maryanni class, the term maryanni is a Hurrianized derivation from an Indo-Aryan word marya, "male," but the people designated by this term were not therefore "Indo-Aryan" in any sense. The term maryanni was widely adopted within and beyond the Mittanni Empire to denote a newly-developing noble class, whose most prominent characteristic was the privilege and duty of serving in the chariotry. In at least one part of the Mittanni Empire, the heavily Hurrianized kingdom of Arrapñe, the Semitic designation râkib narkabti, "chariot rider," was used, instead of maryanni, to denote this class. Members of the maryanni class who are attested by name mostly bore Semitic and Hurrian names, rarely Indo-Aryan ones, while Indo-Aryan names are also found occasionally among the peasantry. The idea, still perpetuated in some modern works, that the use of the term maryanni attests an Indo-Aryan ruling class of chariot warriors, who spread throughout the Near East and into Egypt, is as poorly premised as would be the proposition that all entrepreneurs must be French because the word for them is.
In sum, the data used to construct the hypothesis of an Aryan invasion that transformed the Hurrians "from a group of 'perioikoi'… into a sophisticated political force" (Redford 1992, 135), changed the nature of warfare, and redrew the political map of the Near East amount to a handful of terms and names, which were restricted for the most part to very narrow domains of usage, but which have carefully been plucked from the mass of source material by 20th-century scholars and curated like treasures. The evidence does not support filling the gaps in our sources for the origins of Mittanni by invoking an irruption of Indo-Aryan-speaking chariot warriors, and the idea that the Hurrians required an Aryan blood transfusion in order to become politically capable has nothing to recommend it. The evidence does indicate that speakers of Indo-Aryan participated both in the formation of Mittanni and in the ongoing development of techniques relating to horsedrawn chariotry in the Near East, but it does not suffice to clarify the nature of their participation, other than to suggest that it was somewhat evanescent.
The name Mittanni, a Hurrian formation probably based on the personal name Maitta (conjecturally the name of its founder), denotes the realm of Mittanni, primarily in a political rather than a geographical sense; it does not refer to a people, ethnicity, or language (Wilhelm, r1a 8, s.v. Mittan(n)i, esp. 288–90). After Mittanni's foundation, the older and broader geographical designation "land(s) of Ñurri" (discussed above) was used in part synonymously with the name of the new realm. Ñanigalbat, a name whose origins have yet to be clarified, was an alternative designation for the realm of Mittanni; it likewise carried political significance, as is evident from the use of a term ñanigalbatûtu (so far known only from two documents, one from Alalañ and one from Umm al-Marra) to denote something like "citizenship" (or "subject-hood") of Ñanigalbat. Both names, Mittanni and Ñanigalbat, are attested beginning in the 15th century, though one or the other tends to predominate in different corpora. The realm designated Mittanni or Ñanigalbat was geographically centered on the upper Ñabur River, and encompassed the great bend of the Euphrates during its heyday; hence the synonymous designation Nañarina, "River-land," which was preferred by Egypt and its Canaanite dependencies. When Mittanni had been reduced from an independent kingdom to a puppet of Ñatti in the 14th century, and subsequently became a state within the Middle Assyrian empire during the 13th century, the name Ñanigalbat replaced Mittanni. The territory of Ñanigalbat gradually shrank to a small province in the upper Ñabur, which continued to exist until the Neo-Assyrian period.
The history of these realms cannot be detailed here; good presentations in English are provided by Gernot Wilhelm in his 1989 book The Hurrians and in his chapter on Mittanni in Civilizations of the Ancient Near East (Sasson 1995, vol. ii). But this discussion cannot close without mentioning that the Hittite conquest of Mittanni, which was accomplished by Suppiluliuma in the mid-14th century, was accompanied by the Hurrianization of Ñatti. This process of acculturation had begun already in the 15th century, at the time Ñatti acquired Kizzuwatna, erstwhile a vassal of Mittanni, as a subject kingdom. The dynasty to which Suppiluliuma himself belonged was substantially Hurrian, on the evidence of the Hurrian names borne by members of the royal family; in the 13th century, the kings tended to take Hittite names upon accession to the throne. As the Hurrian population of Ñatti increased during the Hittite New Kingdom, through acculturation as well as through Hittite conquests and Hurrian immigration, the Hittite royal archives acquired numerous Hurrian religious and literary compositions. In effect, the archives kept at Boghazköy became the repository of Hurrian cultural traditions, for that is where the majority of Hurrian texts have so far been found.
The Hurrian Language
As mentioned above, Hurrian and Urartian are the only known members of their language family. The hypothesis relating Hurrian and Urartian to the Nakho-Daghestanian family of languages spoken in the area of the Eastern Caucasus, which was developed by Diakonoff and Starostin (1986), has yet to be fully substantiated (Wegner 2000, 29–30). Being linguistically isolated, Hurrian is not yet fully understood, although its lexicon and structure have been progressively elucidated over the past century. In terms of typology, it is an agglutinating language, that is, one in which lexical roots are morphologically unalterable (unlike inflected languages such as those of the Semitic and Indo-European families) and words are formed by the accretion of morphemes affixed in sequence to lexical roots (unlike isolating languages such as Chinese). Like many agglutinating languages, Hurrian is ergative, meaning that its sentence structure is based on a grammatical distinction between transitive and intransitive verbs: the subject of an intransitive verb appears in the same unmarked "absolutive" case as the object of a transitive verb, while the subject of a transitive verb appears in the "ergative" (or "agentive") case; intransitive and transitive verbs also have different conjugations. Distinct dialects of Hurrian are discernible among the extant texts written in the language, the dates of which span almost a millennium from roughly the 21st to the 13th century b.c.e.
The inscription of Tiå-atal and the Mittanni Letter are among the few Hurrian texts thus far known that derive from the core areas originally inhabited by Hurrians. Over the course of its history, however, the Hurrian language spread well beyond those core areas. The Hurrian texts found at Mari and at Boghazköy have been mentioned above, and a few other sites have also yielded Hurrian texts. Notably, at the coastal Syrian city of Ugarit, Hurrian texts were written both in Mesopotamian cuneiform and in the Ugaritic cuneiform alphabet; the scribes of Ugarit even produced multilingual vocabularies that included Hurrian alongside Sumerian, Akkadian, and Ugaritic. Hurrian became the native language of parts of the population in many areas of the Near East, especially during the time of Mittanni's expansion and its eventual absorption into the realms of Ñatti and Assyria. At certain places, the use of Hurrian as a native language is evident from its interpenetration in the languages of writing, as noted in the preceding section, while onomastics and toponymy also indicate how widely it spread. Even in Canaan, though it was never under Mittannian rule, some Hurrian or partly Hurrian names are attested. For example, one of the local rulers bore the Hurrian name Tagi; Rib-Hadda, the ruler of Byblos, employed an envoy with the Hurrian name Puñiya; and the name of Abdi-Ñeba, ruler of Jerusalem during the Amarna period, is composed of the Semitic element ʿabd-, "servant," and the name of the Hurrian goddess Ñeba(t).
On the evidence of personal names, Hurrian continued to be spoken in the Neo-Hittite states into which the Hittite Empire fragmented, at the transition from the Late Bronze to the Iron Age just after 1200 b.c.e., as well as in Ñanigalbat under Assyrian rule, even though no more texts are known to have been written in Hurrian. There are also relics of Hurrian onomastics in the land of Canaan during the time Israel and Judah were established there. The book of Judges mentions one Shamgar, son of Anath (Judg. 3:31), whose personal name may be analyzed as Hurrian, with the name of the Hurrian sun god, Åimigi, as a theophoric element. The name of the Jebusite landowner from whom David purchased a threshing floor – the real estate that became the site on which the temple of Yahweh was built – bore a name that is rendered Araunah (consonantal ¥wrnh) in ii Samuel 24 and Ornan in i Chronicles 21 (¥rnn); this was probably a Hurrian name containing the element ewri-, "lord," the pronunciation of which was no longer precisely recalled at the time the books of Samuel and Chronicles were redacted (hence the diverse spellings). Even the name of Bathsheba's first husband, Uriah "the Hittite" (ii Sam. 11:3ff.; consonantal ¥wryh), could well be the common Hurrian name Ewriya, the consonantal spelling of which would be exactly the same as Hebrew Uriah.
Culture, Religion, and Mythology
In the arts and crafts, various styles and technological advances have been attributed to the Hurrians, or to the culture of Mittanni, sometimes largely on the grounds of geographical association. For example, the highly decorative styles of painted pottery known as Ḥabur Ware and Nuzi Ware have been associated with Hurrian culture, since these ceramic styles are typical of Hurrian-occupied areas. Hurrian artisans have also been credited with a role in developing the technology of making glass and glazes, in which significant advances were made toward the middle of the second millennium in the area of upper Mesopotamia and Syria. Certain styles of seal-carving are considered typically Mittannian, in particular an "Elaborate Style" characterized by compositions crowded with cultically significant figures, often centered on the motif of the "sacred tree," which is exemplified by the seals of some of Mittanni's rulers (surveyed by Diana Stein in r1a 8, s.v. Mittan(n)i B. Bildkunst und Architektur). And one of the earliest known methods of musical notation appears to have been invented by Hurrian musicians, according to the evidence of a collection of Hurrian hymnic texts found at Ugarit, which not only record the words of the hymns but also indicate what notes to play when singing them to the accompaniment of a lyre (these texts and their system of musical notation are succinctly discussed by Anne Kilmer in r1a 8, s.v. Musik A.I, §5). But the most distinctively Hurrian cultural attributes, and those with the most enduring significance, pertain to the domains of religion and religious literature.
The Hurrian pantheon itself is similar in many respects to the pantheons of Mesopotamia and the Levant; long symbiosis among Hurrian and other ancient Near Eastern cultures resulted in generating shared religious concepts and practices. Thus, several Mesopotamian deities, such as Nergal, Anu, Ea, and Ishtar, were adopted into the Hurrian pantheon or syncretized with Hurrian deities. Meanwhile, the structure of the Hurrian pantheon came to resemble, in part, that of the Syro-Canaanite pantheon as represented at Ugarit. The Hurrian storm-god, Teššup, was king of the gods, and he attained his kingship through strife with other contenders, as did the storm-god Baʿal at Ugarit. Like Baʿal, Teššup rode among the clouds in his chariot, wielding the weapons of frightful weather, and he had a sister named ŠawuŠka, who was a wargoddess like Baʿal's sister ʿAnat. Teššup acquired a Syrian consort, the goddess Ḥebat, originally of the realm of Aleppo in northern Syria. A war-god named Aštabi who was worshiped at *Ebla, in the period predating Hurrian expansion into Syria, also entered the Hurrian pantheon. Other important Hurrian deities include Allani, goddess of the netherworld, the sun god Šimige, and the moon god Kušuḥ.
In myth, Teššup's principal rival for supremacy was clever Kumarbi, a Hurrian god who was assimilated with the West Semitic grain god Dagan; Kumarbi's main cult center was the city of Urkeš. The two rivals represent competing divine lineages, that of the chthonic gods, represented by Kumarbi, and that of the celestial gods, represented by Teššup. The story of their conflict is told in a mythic cycle comprising five poems, preserved in the archives at Boghazköy, in Hittite editions that have survived in a fragmentary state. The cycle began with the Song of Kumarbi and ended with the Song of Ullikummi (Hoffner 1998: 40–65), and the story, in outline, goes like this. First Alalu was king in heaven, but the sky-god Anu drove him from his throne and ruled in his stead. Then Kumarbi, offspring of Alalu, tired of waiting on Anu, did battle against him. Kumarbi, triumphant, bit off and swallowed Anu's genitals, but in doing so he impregnated himself with Anu's offspring, to whom Kumarbi then had to give birth with the help of Ea (the Mesopotamian god of wisdom). The most powerful of Anu's offspring was Teššup, whom Kumarbi tried to eat, but he apparently got a rock to eat instead, which hurt his mouth. The ensuing struggle between Teššup and Kumarbi involves a series of episodes in which Kumarbi, conniving to achieve victory, begets one after another powerful, albeit brutish, creature to be an antagonist of Teååup. But Teååup eventually defeats each one, sometimes with the help of his sister Šawuška (just as Baʿal is aided by his sister ʿAnat). In the last of these episodes Kumarbi copulates with a huge rock and thus engenders the basalt monster Ullikummi, whom he plants on the shoulder of an entity named Ubelluri, a sort of Hurrian "Atlas"; there Ullikummi grows until he touches the sky. But Ea and the "Primeval Gods" fetch the copper tool with which heaven and earth were cut apart, and they use it to sever Ullikummi from Ubelluri, making it possible for Teššup to defeat this adversary, too.
This strange Hurrian myth, mediated through Hittite translation, apparently reached the western shores of Anatolia and was carried thence across the Aegean, having undergone some transformations along the way. For, though the storm god is now Zeus, the clever chthonic god is Kronos, and the plot has been altered so that it revolves around the struggle between successive generations instead of rival lineages, the story Hesiod tells in the Theogony contains many elements that clearly originate from the myth of Teššup and Kumarbi.
Echoes of Hurrian religious literature can be discerned not only in Greek mythology but in the Bible. A Hurrian composition discovered fairly recently at Boghazköy develops themes that foreshadow the concerns for social justice expounded centuries later by the prophets of Israel and Judah. This is the "Song of Release," as it is titled in the colophons of the ancient manuscripts themselves; it was recorded in a bilingual edition, Hurrian with a Hittite translation, in several copies that survive in fragments (an English translation is provided in Hoffner 1998, 65–80). The composition contains several sections, including parables and a mythological scene as well as a story with a historical setting, and it is that story that offers the most striking parallels to Israelite religious concepts. The tale is set long ago at Ebla, in the time of a king named Megi. The gods demand that debts be remitted, and persons enslaved for debt released, in the city of Ebla. But Megi cannot persuade the city assembly, apparently a wealthy and powerful oligarchy to which the creditors belong, to remit debts and thereby release their indentured servants; an eloquent orator leads the opposition to Megi's plan. In the narrative, the assembly is then presented with a scenario in which the great god Teššup himself is oppressed by debt, hungry, and naked. To this they answer that they would surely rescue Teššup, should he ever be in need, but they will still not release their slaves, on whose labor they depend. Megi therefore prostrates himself before Teššup in lamentation and prayer, then institutes remission of debts on his own, in order to save his city. In a partly-preserved scene, a speaker conveys the word of Teššup to Megi and Ebla, like the prophet Jeremiah conveying the word of Yahweh to Judah and her kings, enjoining them to institute debt remission (Jer. 34:17, quoted in this connection by Hoffner in Buccellati 1998, 181–82), thus: If they do according to the gods' will and institute a remission of debts, Ebla will prosper and be victorious. But if they do not, Teššup will destroy Ebla, removing its prosperity and smashing the city like a cup. Apparently the wealthy citizens of Ebla, like those of Jerusalem a thousand years later, failed to heed the prophet's warning and obey the divine command, for the city was indeed violently destroyed around 1600 b.c.e.
G. Beckman, Hittite Diplomatic Texts, (19992); G. Buccellati, (ed.), Urkesh and the Hurrians: Studies …Lloyd Cotsen (1998); I. Diakonoff and S.A. Starostin, Hurro-Urartian as an Eastern Caucasian Language (1986); I. Gelb, Hurrians and Subarians (1944); V. Haas (ed.), Hurriter und Hurritisch (1988); H. Hoffner, Hittite Myths (19982); I. Márquez Rowe, in: S. Izre'el et al. (eds.), Past Links: Studies in the Languages and Cultures of the Ancient Near East (Israel Oriental Studies xviii, 1998), 63–78; P. Michalowski, in: H. Weiss (ed.), The Origins of Cities in Dry-farming Syria and Mesopotamia in the Third Millennium B.C. (1986), 129–56; W. Moran, The Amarna Letters (1992); P. Raulwing, in: S. Burmeister and F. Mamoun (eds.), Rad und Wagen. Der Ursprung einer Innovation: Wagen im Vorderen Orient und Europa (2004), 515–31; D. Redford, Egypt, Canaan, and Israel in Ancient Times (1992); I. Wagner, Hurritisch: Eine Einführung (2000); G. Wilhelm, Untersuchungen zum Hurro-Akkadischen von Nuzi (1970); idem, The Hurrians, tr. J. Barnes, with chapter by D. Stein (1989).
[Eva M. von Dassow (2nd ed.)]