Luwian Hieroglyphic Texts in Late Bronze Age Scribal Tradition

Fred C. Woudhuizen, Luwian Hieroglyphic Texts in Late Bronze Age Scribal Tradition, (Wiesbaden: Harrowitz Verlag, 2021). 9783447115315.

Reviewed by Josh Cannon, University of Pittsburgh,

This volume is unique and of great value in that it presents the full known corpus of Late Bronze Age (LBA) hieroglyphic Luwian texts (minus those texts that contain less than a full phrase). The book examines thirty-one of these texts, an impressive number given that the closest competitor (also by Woudhuizen1) examines ten. The merit of this volume, though, lies not only in its comprehensiveness, but also in the quality of attention that is paid to each text under study. The fruit of this attentiveness, the many details, names, and historical corroborations, is exciting and fascinating for the study of LBA Anatolia.

The discussion of texts begins with the earliest, a seal-ring cataloged as Borowski No. 26, dating to circa 1500 BCE. This seal, as with some additional texts, has already been published by Woudhuizen2 and starts the book off by presenting the format that is to follow. First is a discussion of the text itself, its context, its history, and other scholarship on it. This section occasionally presents two or more arguments related to the text in some way, which Woudhuizen presents briefly and respectfully, before challenging them with his own arguments. The text itself in transliteration and translation follows. After this come the author’s philological comments. Finally, the dating of the text and significance of its content are discussed.

This pattern continues (with some slight exceptions) for the rest of the section on texts, ending with texts dating to just after the fall of the Hittites. Woudhuizen’s final text appears as an appendix to Chapter 25, which focuses on inscriptions from Kızıldağ and Karadağ. Excitingly, the appendix details the inscription just discovered3 at Türkmen-Karahöyük in 2019. Both the Kızıldağ and Karadağ texts and the Türkmen-Karahöyük text discuss the deeds of one Hartapu, king of Tarhuntassa, hence the latter being an appendix to the former.

As he does for several texts, Woudhuizen disagrees with previous scholarship on the Türkmen-Karahöyük inscription, arguing that it dates to the 12th century, and not the 8th century as previously argued.4 Similarly, in perhaps this volume’s most significant contribution, Woudhuizen presents his arguments for the validity of the Beyköy 2 text, long and infamously held to be a forgery created by James Mellaart. Woudhuizen tackles this issue in the Introduction, but also dedicates 20% of this volume (Chapter 20) to his arguments, analysis, and interpretation of this massive inscription. Written on thirty contiguous blocks stretching 29 m in length and standing 35 cm high, this inscription, the largest from the LBA, details events in Western Anatolia following the Hittite collapse. It presents approximately one hundred new toponyms, including “Apassawa” which the author connects with the Homeric Trojan ally “Apaisos”.

The final text that I will discuss here is the Nişantaş inscription (Chapter 13). Anyone who has visited Hattusa knows the frustration of seeing this large stone inscription so badly weathered it is barely legible. Woudhuizen presents the most thorough translation yet, arguing for a date towards the beginning of Suppiluliumas II’s reign.

For scholars interested in the Luwian hieroglyphic script and its changes over time, this book has numerous examples. Many orthographic features in texts are discussed in relation to other Luwian hieroglyphic texts, allowing for a strong understanding of cross-regional Luwian hieroglyphic writing traditions and exceptions to those traditions. This is complemented by an excellent list of figures at the end of the volume comprising hand drawings of many of the texts. Also included at the end are examples of (pro)nominal declensions and verbal conjugations, grammatical paradigms, a vocabulary index, and a concordance of Luwian signs with their established Latin values. Finally, throughout the volume Woudhuizen delivers brief but thorough engagements with scholars such as Ilya Yakubovic and J. David Hawkins regarding the origin and development of the script from a more simple writing system of limited communicative means to a fully developed logo-syllabic system capable of complex messaging.

For the historian, historical geographer, and historical linguist, this volume has much to offer. Woudhuizen uses a phrase from the Beyköy 2 text to suggest that the language of Arzawa was different from Luwian, perhaps supporting the arguments made by Yakubovich that it was, in fact, proto-Carian. As mentioned earlier, approximately 100 new place-names have been added to the geography of Anatolia, while many already known locations have further context. Chapters 8, 10, 11, 14, 20, and 21 provide many details relevant to the historical geographer. For the historian, much is revealed here about the period immediately following the collapse of the Hittite empire in both the west and the east. The emergence of regional kingdoms, conflicts with the Phrygians, and the exploration of a fallen Hattusa by a curious king from the plain of Elbistan (Chapter 24) are all present.

What is missing from this volume, through no fault of the author, is more information on provenience and, in some instances, the current location of the inscriptions. Several, of course, still exist in place or were found in situ and have since been moved to a museum. Others are in a museum because they were donated by someone who found them in a field. Some, unfortunately, are gone altogether. For example, the largest text, Beyköy 2, has vanished (all 29 meters of it)! Woudhuizen relates a story of how these blocks were built into a mosque, but then searched for and never re-discovered. Because of some of these missing or difficult-to-access examples, and also—no doubt—due to the convenience of a digital age, the author has worked only on pictures and drawings of the texts for his analyses and translations.

Table of Contents

Introduction (7–11)

Part I: The Texts (17–240)

1. The legend of seal Borowski no. 26 (17–21)
2. The Ankara silver bowl (Ankara 2) (22–40)
3. The Ankara bronze bowl (Ankara 3) (41–43)
4. Dedication of temples by Talmisarrumas of Aleppo (44–48)
5. The victory stele of tuhkanti Urkhitesup (49–50)
6. The rock relief of Taşçı (51–54)
7. A bowl and altar dedicated by the scribe Tapramis (55–58)
8. The Lycian campaign of Tudkhaliyas IV (59–76)
9. Offering regulations on the Emirgazi stone altars (77–93)
10. The stone inscription from Karakuyu (94–97)
11. Sauskaruntias’ capture of Attarima (98–107)
12. Pudukhepa’s memorial at Fraktin (108–13)
13. Suppiluliumas II’s pietas towards his father (114–17)
14. The deeds of Suppiluliumas II for one year (118–40)
15. The stele from Afyon (141–43)
16. The orthostat from Torbalı (144–45)
17. The rock inscription of Latmos (Suratkaya) (146–46)
18. The stele of Anazitis from Çalapverdi (147–48)
19. The spring precinct at Boğazköy erected by a king of Isuwa (149–51)
20. Great king Kupantakuruntas III of Mira, Muksus, and the Sea Peoples event (152–205)
21. Muksas’ realm in the Troad (206–9)
22. Walwamuwas’ realm of Sekha (210–11)
23. Sekha’s Sekundogenitur (212–13)
24. The recovery program of great king Aritesup of Khatti (214–26)
25. Great king Khartapus of Tarkhuntassa’s victory over the Phrygians and other deeds (227–37)

Part II: Grammar & Vocabulary (239–66)

1. System of (pro)nominal declension & verbal conjugation (241–47)
2. Index (248–66)


[1] Fred C. Woudhuizen, Luwian Hieroglyphic Monumental Rock and Stone Inscriptions from the Hittite Empire Period (Innsbruck: Innsbrucker Beiträge zur Kulturwissenschaft, 2004).

[2] Fred C. Woudhuizen, “Three Luwian Hieroglyphic Late Bronze Age Inscriptions,” Ancient West and East12 (2013): 1–15.

[3] J. F. Osborne, M. Massa, F. Şahin, H. Erpehlivan, and C. Bachhuber, “The City of Hartapu: Results of the Türkmen-Karahöyük Intensive Survey Project,” Anatolian Studies 70 (2020): 1–27.

[4] Petra Goedegebuure, Theo van den Hout, James Osborne, Michele Massa, Christoph Bachhuber, and Fatma Şahin, “TÜRKMEN-KARAHÖYÜK 1: A New Hieroglyphic Luwian Inscription from Great King Hartapu, Son of Mursili, Conqueror of Phrygia,” Anatolian Studies 70 (2020): 29–43.

[5] Ilya Yakubovich, Sociolinguistics of the Luvian Language (Leiden: Brill, 2010); see p. 78.


Unfortunately, a dialogue between the reviewer and author was not possible given the author’s passing in September 2021.

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