3,180-Year-Old Luwian Hieroglyphic Inscription Tells of Mysterious ‘Sea People’

A team of researchers from Switzerland and the Netherlands has rediscovered and deciphered a 95-foot (29 m) long Luwian inscription found in the late 19th century on a limestone frieze in western Turkey.

Luwian hieroglyphic inscription by Kupanta-Kurunta, the Great King of Mira, composed at about 1180 BC. Image credit: Luwian Studies.

Luwian hieroglyphic inscription by Kupanta-Kurunta, the Great King of Mira, composed at about 1180 BC. Image credit: Luwian Studies.

The 14-inch (35 cm) tall limestone frieze was originally found in 1878 in the village of Beyköy, about 21 miles (34 km) north of Afyonkarahisar in modern Turkey, and contained the longest known hieroglyphic inscription from the Bronze Age.

At the time, the French archaeologist Georges Perrot was able to carefully copy the inscription. Subsequently, peasants used this priceless stone to build the foundations of a mosque.

Copies of the inscription were recently found in the estate of the English historian James Mellaart.

In June 2017, Mellaart’s son Alan handed over this part of the legacy to Dr. Eberhard Zangger, President of the Luwian Studies, an independent, private, non-profit foundation based in Switzerland.

“The inscription was commissioned by Kupanta-Kurunta, the Great King of Mira, a Late Bronze Age state in western Asia Minor,” Dr. Zangger said.

“When Kupanta-Kurunta had reinforced his realm, just before 1190 BC, he ordered his armies to storm toward the east against the vassal states of the Hittites.”

“After successful conquests on land, the united forces of western Asia Minor also formed a fleet and invaded a number of coastal cities in the south and southeast of Asia Minor, as well as in Syria and Palestine.”

“Four great princes commanded the naval forces, among them Muksus from the Troad, the region of ancient Troy.”

“The Luwians from western Asia Minor advanced all the way to the borders of Egypt, and even built a fortress at Ashkelon in southern Palestine.”

“According to the inscription, the Luwians from western Asia Minor contributed decisively to the so-called Sea Peoples’ invasions — and thus to the end of the Bronze Age in the eastern Mediterranean,” he said.

The academic publication of the inscription will appear in the December 2017 issue of TALANTA, the Proceedings of the Dutch Archaeological and Historical Society.

The inscription and a summary of its contents also appear in a book titled Die Luwier und der Trojanische Krieg — Eine Forschungsgeschichte by Dr. Zangger.


Eberhard Zangger. 2017. Die Luwier und der Trojanische Krieg — eine Entdeckungsgeschichte. Orell Füssli Verlag, Zurich, Switzerland, 360 pages, 43 illustrations, ISBN 978-3-280-05647-9

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