G. Giorgadze, Institute Of History, Georgian Academy of Sciences

Hittite written sources from the 17th-13th cc. B.C. inform us that the Hattites were the most ancient non-Indo-European tribes that lived in Anatolia (Asia Minor) on the broad plain in the right-bank arch formed by the present-day river Kizil-Irmak (the Marassanta-Marassantia in the Hittite texts) and the Gallis in the classic epoch) and further up to the shores of the Black Sea also extending over the latest region of Pontus. The Hattites called their country "Hatti" and their language "Hattami". Their capital city Hattush was located near the present-day Turkish village of Boghazkőy. Their large religious centers were Arinna, Nerik, Tsiplanta, Lakhsan and elsewhere which later became main religious centers of the Indo-European Hittites. The chief deities of the Hattian pantheon were the Goddess of the Sun, the God of the Moon, the God of Vegetation, the Goddess of the subterranean (nether) world, God Tsilipuri, God Tashkhapuna and others. The Hattite society may be described as an early class organization (the Hattites had a king and his queen styled as "Tabarna" and "Tavannana" respectively. The texts also make mention of the "throne", "the Royal Prince", "warriors", etc. Judging by the archaeological data, the cultural level of the Hattites was rather high (they knew the technology of smelting iron from ore).

A number of researchers admit that the Hattites were an autochthonous tribe. However, the present stage of the development of Hittite studies gives some scholars grounds to conclude that the Hattites were not aboriginal tribes, but they, rather, may have moved over to the northern part of Central Anatolia either during or after Indo-European tribes had appeared in Asia Minor (around the middle of the 3rd millennium B.C.). Presumably, the Hattites came to Anatolia from the North-Western Caucasus - the abode of Abkhazian-Adyghe tribes. This surmise is corroborated by a number of linguistic, archaeological and anthropological data.

Comparison of grammar forms seems to support the opinion that "Hattami"- the language of the Hattites, belongs to the family of ancient Caucasian languages. Its lexicon retains features that are common with West Caucasian languages. This was concluded after etymological studies and analysis of a number of Hattami words, although some of these words are guesswork. The most reliable linguistic material, based on phonetic affinities, gives the scholars grounds to regard Hattami as one of the most ancient Caucasian languages, which totally disproves the hypothesis advanced by a number of researchers who maintain that North Caucasian tribes originated from Anatolia.

Having moved over to Central Anatolia, more precisely - to its north and north-western parts - the Hattites should, understandably, have established contacts with the aboriginal population of the area (of whom we know nothing so far) and also with their Indo-European neighbours who appeared in the south of Anatolia after the parent Anatolian language had branched out from the parent Indo-European language (in Europe or in Nearer Asia). Presumably, the Hattami language had definite contacts with the Hittite and the Palai languages and these links existed after (and not before) the differentiation of the parent Anatolian Indo-European language. The influence of the Hattami language on the third Anatolian Indo-European language - Luvian - cannot be proved. If Hattami had been in contact with that parent Anatolian Indo-European language, its impact, after the above differentiation, would have been reflected in the Luvian language too, but it is not the case here. Mutual contacts among the Hittites, the Palais and the Hattites resulted in eventual merging of the Indo-European and the Hattite tribes. By the 18th century B.C. this process had been accomplished: the Hittites and the Palais took the upper hand and the Hattites assimilated with them. The influence they exerted upon the Hittites found its expression in the religion, mythology and other social spheres. By about the middle of the 17th century B.C. the Hattites as an ethnic group had practically disappeared in Anatolia. Their language - Hattami - became dead and was resorted to by the Hittites when they needed to record religious texts, myths, etc.

During the existence of the Hittite state (17th-12th cc. B.C.) tribes of obviously non-Indo-European origin lived in the north and north-east parts of Central Anatolia, extending over the western portion of Pontus. These tribes are mentioned in Hittite and Assyrian texts as the Kaskeians (Kaškeans). It is just this territory which used to be home to the Hattites.

Ethnic origin of the Kasks still remains unclear. Some scholars proceed from Kask toponyms (some of which are indeed of Hattish origin) and conclude that the Kasks were none other but Hatts or, at any rate, tribes closely related to them. These scholars also admit the possibility of a connection of the Kasks with the tribes in the North-West Caucasus. This influence is based solely on a phonetic affinity between the name "Kaska" ("Kashka") found in the Hittite texts and the name of the Circassian (Adyghe) tribe that sounds as "Kashag". However, this supposition alone cannot serve as a solid confirmation of factual similarity between Kask and Circassian tribes, because researchers also observed the fact that the name "Kaskeans" as mentioned in the Hittite sources has phonetic affinities with the names of the tribes (or peoples) who lived in various other epochs and parts of the world - viz. in Africa ("Kaskeans"), in Europe ("Csca"), in Asia (Gasa) and elsewhere.

No other connections of the Kasks with the North-West Caucasus have so far been revealed and proved. Therefore, the supposition of the existence of their genetic links with the Abkhazo-Adyghe tribes seems hypothetical to us. More acceptable at this junction is the view that the Kaskeans could have been genetically connected with South-Colchian (in particular, with the West-Georgian, i.e. Megrelo-Chanian) tribes that in the period of antiquity lived on the territory that neighboured on the eastern provinces of Pontus. This is provable by comparing the toponyms, proper names and some separate words of Kaskean origin with words of West-Georgian (Megrelo-Chanian) origin. It emerges that Kaskean words contain many toponyms, proper names and separate words that possess the structure of the Megrelian language, which should be regarded as indicative of Colchian rather than Abkhazo-Adyghe origin of the Kaskeans (for greater detail see our article "On the Ethnic Origin of Kaskean (Kashkean) Tribes according to Hittite Cuneiform Texts", the "Artanudji" Journal, No. 10, Tbilisi, 1999 (text in Georgian). Widely current in special literature is the opinion that the terms "Kaskeans" in Hittite texts, "Kaskeans" in Assyrian sources and "Abeshla" in the Assyrian texts from the times of Tiglatpalasar I are variants. If this is true, our above opinion about the ethnic origin of the Kaskean tribes should then be taken into consideration.

If the Kaskeans, as mentioned in the Hittite texts, were tribes of South-Colchian origin, then the Kaskeans referred to in the Assyrian texts should also be regarded as being of this origin together with the Abeshlais, because the terms "Kaskean" and "Abeshla" that occur in the Assyrian sources are regarded as synonyms. It follows that in this case the "Kaskeans" from the Hittite and Assyrian texts and the "Abeshlas" from the Assyrian sources should be regarded as tribes of South-Colchian origin.

However, if the terms "Kaskean" and "Abeshla" and their synonym "Apsil" (as proposed by some scholars) are not variants of the same name (as presumed by us), then these terms should be considered as names of different, though closely related tribes of predominantly West-Georgian origin, seeing that the version of South-Colchian origin of the Kaskeans does not seem to cause particular objections.


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