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The Hattians were an ancient people who inhabited the land of Hatti in present-day central and southeastern parts of Anatolia, Turkey, beginning from at least ca. 2500, until they were gradually displaced and absorbed by Indo-European Hittites (who adopted their name) ca. 2000-1700 BC.

As the Hattians did not have a written language (in other words, they were proto-historic), one has to rely on indirect sources or statements by other peoples. Hattian leaders probably used scribes writing in Assyrian [1] to conduct business with Mesopotamia. Scholars have long assumed that the predominant population of the region of Anatolia "in the third millennium [BCE] was an indigenous pre-Indo-European group called the Hattians."[2]

The oldest name for Anatolia, "Land of the Hatti" was found for the first time on Mesopotamian cuneiform tablets from the period of the Akkadian dynasty (ca. 2350-2150 BC). On those tablets Assyrian traders implored the help of the Akkadian king Sargon. This appellation continued to exist for about 1500 years until 630 BC, as stated in Assyrian chronicles.

They spoke a non-Indo-European language of uncertain affiliation called Hattic, now believed by some scholars to be related to the Northwest Caucasian language group.[3] Trevor Bryce writes:

"Evidence of a 'Hattic' civilisation is provided by the remnants of one of the non-Indo-European languages found in the later Hittite archives. The language is identified in several of the texts in which it appears by the term hattili-i.e. '(written) in the language of Hatti.' The few texts that survive are predominantly religious or cultic in character. They provide us with the names of a number of Hattic deities, as well as Hattic personal and place-names."[4]

The use of the word "Proto-Hittite" instead of Hattians is inaccurate. This would imply that the Hittites evolved from the Hattians, which is completely false. The Hittites were an Indo-European people, ethnically and linguistically distinct from the Hattians. However, the term "Land of Hatti" was so ingrained that the Hittites continued to use it when referring to their own country. The Hattians eventually merged with, or were replaced by, the Hittites, who spoke the Indo-European Hittite language.

The vast Hittite empire (red) replaced Hatti, and ca. 1290 BC bordered the Egyptian empire (green)

The Hattians were organised in feudal city-states and small kingdoms or principalities. These cities were well organized and ruled as theocratic principalities. Even as they were taken over one by one by the conquering Hittites after ca. 2200 BC, the Hattians probably continued to form the major portion of the population. They may have been the people "who built and inhabited the early Bronze Age kingdoms of central Anatolia."[5]

The influence of their culture was such that the Hittites took over much of their religion and mythology. The principal deities of the Hittites were likely adopted from the Hattian religion, such as the Sun goddess, her husband the Storm god and their children Nerik and Zippalanda, their daughter Nezullaš and their grandchild Zentiš, and also Telipinu, his wife Hatepinuš, and the goddesses Zithariyaš, Karziš and Hapantalliyaš, and possibly Inaraš, although the last may have an Indo-European origin if it reflects a derivation of the root *h2ner-/*aner-, "strong, virile"). The Hattian civilization may also have given rise to the Hittite legend of Teshub and Illuyankas, although similar legends are found in many Indo-European cultures (Indra and Vrtra, Zeus and Typhon, Thor and Jörmungandr, Sigurd and Fafnir, and even the medieval Saint George and the Dragon).


The Hattians and the Hittites apparently had different personal characteristics. Egyptian depictions of the Battle of Kadesh reportedly show long-nosed Hattian soldiers, while their Hittite leaders looked different according to Turkish archaeologist Ekrem Akurgal.[6]

Akurgal claims that "The Hattians were still the great majority of the population in the Hittite period."[7] If true, the Hittite Indo-Europeans constituted a ruling elite within the Hittite Empire whereas the assimiliated Hattians were lower ranking members of Hittite society. A gold and silver statuette of a long-nosed Hattian woman can be seen in the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations in Ankara, Turkey. It was found in Hasanoğlan and dates from about 2000 BC. Akurgal writes concerning the statuette:

"This is a masterpiece of Hattian art. The large "Roman nose" of the Hasanoğlan statuette reveals the ethnic type of Anatolian people of that time."[8]


  1. ^ Ekrem Akurgal, The Hattian and Hittite Civilizations, Publications of the Republic of Turkey: Ministry of Culture, 2001, p.5 Akurgal writes here: The Hattian princes used scribes knowing Assyrian for commerce with Mesopotomia as at Kanesh (Kültepe).
  2. ^ Trevor Bryce, The Kingdom of the Hittites: New Edition, Oxford University Press, 2005. p.12
  3. ^ Historical dictionary of the Hittites by Charles Burney, Scarecrow Press, 2004. p.106
  4. ^ Bryce, 2005, op. cit., p.12
  5. ^ Bryce, 2005, op. cit., p.12
  6. ^ Ekrem Akurgal, The Hattian and Hittite Civilizations, Publications of the Republic of Turkey: Ministry of Culture, 2001, p.8 Akurgal writes here: "The large-nosed soldiers identified as "Hitti" in the Egyptian temple depictions of the Battle of Kadesh show a completely different ethnic type from their [Hittite Indo-European] kings in the same scenes."
  7. ^ Akurgal, op. cit., p.6
  8. ^ Akurgal, op. cit., p.29 and p.30 (detail)
  • Akurgal, Ekrem - The Hattian and Hittite Civilizations; Publications of the Republic of Turkey; Ministry of Culture; 2001; 300 pages; ISBN 975-17-2756-1

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