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Peoples of Ancient Syria

Nature volume 141, page 1131 (25 June 1938) | Download Citation



EVER since the recognition of Sumerian influence in the Indus valley through discoveries in the excavation of Mohenjodaro and Harappa, archæological investigation has added continuously to the evidence of the remarkable, and it may be said, unexpected degree and geographical extent of the contacts and movements of cultures and peoples even in the early stages of the development of civilized society. Now Mr. Sidney Smith, in a communication to The Times of June 16, indicates how a preliminary examination of the tablets from the Palace excavated by Sir Leonard Woolley at Atchana affords evidence of the extremely mixed character of the population of Syria in the fifteenth century B.C. In ancient times, it would appear, the site of Atchana was known as Alalakh. It was the capital of the country, Mukish-khe, mentioned in Hittite and Egyptian records. It was a vassal State of the kingdom of Mitanni, as appears from a tablet recording an attempt to establish citizenship of a Mitannian province, brought before the king of that people about 1450 B.C. by a subject of Niqmepa, ruler of Mukish-khe. The documents which have been found at Atchana, Mr. Smith states, concern the status of certain citizens, and are in the Akkadian language. From the names recorded it is possible to deduce that the population contained a considerable proportion of Babylonians and of Khurrians, an indigenous people in Mitanni, but spread over a considerable area extending from Kirkuk, east of the Tigris, to northern Palestine, and of whose existence no knowledge survived prior to modern excavation. Niqmepa may be a Khurrian name, but his son's name is Babylonian. This, Mr. Smith points out, is merely another phenomenon of a mixed civilization, in which the predominant elements were Babylonian, apart from local law and administration. He goes on to say that the inscribed seal, to which Sir Leonard Woolley referred in his report, is no proof of Hittite conquest. The language of the Hittite hieroglyphs is not Hittite, though it may be Indo-European. The seal is, therefore, merely further proof of the mixed character of the population.

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