Mitanni, controlling northern Syria and southeastern Anatolia, was a major player in the Bronze Age Near East from 1500 BC-1300 BC.  They contended and negotiated with the Hittites and the Egyptian New Kingdom.

Most of the population seems to have spoken Hurrian, but there are traces of something very different in their ruling class.  We have preserved diplomatic correspondence (cuneiform tablets last!)  showing that the rulers of Mitanni swore by Mitra, Varuna, Indra, and Nasatya.  There are other hints: names of the ruling class often make sense in Sanskrit.  Kikkuli of Mitanni’s horse conditioning manual has some Indo-Aryan words (aika, tera, panza, satta). Etc.  The semi-educated guess is that Indo-Aryans, as early charioteers, were hired by Mitanni as mercenaries and eventually grabbed the reins of power.   After, of course, making a wrong turn at Albuquerque: North Syria is quite a ways from the known stomping grounds of the Indo-Aryans.

There’s likely an interesting story here, but we are missing almost all of it, because we have never found Washukanni, the Mitanni capital. If we did, we’d probably find lots of cuneiform tablets – as we have other capital cities of that era, such as Boğazköy.

Washukanni was probably somewhere in the Khabur triangle.  Which brings me to the present, and possible near future: if we end up occupying that area, it’d be nice if we could manage a little digging on the side.  We just need to start embedding archaeologists into the infantry.



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32 Responses to Washukanni

  1. Anonymous says:

    Now if only we could persuade the citizens of Athens and Rome to leave and dig both places up.

  2. The fourth doorman of the apocalypse says:

    It seems that there has already been some archaeological work in the Khabur area.

    Maybe some ground-penetrating radar scans would be useful. Or, some satellite photography …

    • Gordo says:

      Hell yes, there is lots of military and intel technology that could be of use.

      If they just dedicated 2 or 3 % of time or positions to interesting stuff like this.

      • Sandgroper says:

        GPR is close to useless. For small metal objects, magnetometer surveys are more likely to be useful. Or just good old metal detector surveys.

      • Sandgroper says:

        And satellite photography is of limited usefulness. Lidar is very useful, especially high resolution Lidar.

        Trust me, 4th, I know what I’m talking about.

  3. dearieme says:

    “We just need to start embedding archaeologists into the infantry.” Trench-diggers.

  4. Hermy says:

    The site has been abandoned since the war began, and its doubtful that it will reopen to archeologists anytime soon. http://www.dw.de/archeological-treasures-face-destruction-in-syria/a-16191710

  5. B&B says:

    Another interpretation is the ‘para-Indians’ went west through Iran. Preceding them (I’m getting this from Witzel, citing others) people from the BMAC were scattered westwards and are intuitively associated with languages and ethnicities such as the Gutians. If true then there was an Indic invasion of West Asia.

    Supposedly the ‘Manda hordes’ of the Mitannians were associated with the Manneans, or Hurrians of what is now Azerbaijan. Angel hinted a still further expansion into the extreme southeast of Europe, corresponding perhaps to the Minyans defeated in Greek tradition by Heracles.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Off Topic – Greg, do you have any thoughts on this report claiming that Iron Dome is much less effective than claimed? http://blogs.reuters.com/great-debate/2014/07/25/israels-iron-dome-is-more-like-an-iron-sieve/

  7. j3morecharacters says:

    Only yesterday I had the opportunity to watch a missile intercepted over my city. I heard the explosion in the sky. The thing works. If you had continued Reagan’s Star War program, you could have an antiballistic missile defense by now.

    • dave chamberlin says:

      Wrong. Reagan’s Star War program was a total waste of time and money. The USA has way too much border to defend. Offensive weapons systems have been and will always remain far ahead of the defensive systems designed to combat them. Reagan was a gullible fool to think it could work. Think of shooting down their spray of bullets with your spray of bullets and you begin to appreciate the difficulty of the task. Just be grateful j3more that there are no cruise missiles in the hands of the Hamas. They are virtually unstoppable and can be delivered with pin point accuracy.

      • B&B says:

        Thats why Hamas should have them.

      • dearieme says:

        “The USA has way too much border to defend.” Come now; they would presumably have been used only to defend DC and NYC.

        Anyway, what of the story that it was all just a ruse? Was that post-hoc rationalisation?

      • Reagan’s Star Wars was one of the most successful weapons systems in human history: it met and exceeded all strategic objectives before deployment even began.

        (Perhaps they should have stopped working on it when the USSR ceased to exist… or perhaps not. That’s a complex argument.)

      • Bob says:

        The Soviets thought it would work. Why else would they have tried so hard through diplomacy, propaganda, and their American proxies to stop it?

  8. Kate says:

    Professor Cochran, I’ve left a comment about Talking to Economists should you be interested.

    Also, I noticed this, http://nhmu.utah.edu/horse – I don’t know if you’re in Utah or if you’ll be going, but if you do, I’d welcome reading your thoughts about it.

  9. AG says:

    Just visited War Memorial of Korea in Seoul around 4th of July. It is very interesting to find out that letters, orders, documents among officers and president Syngman Rhee (李承晩) were all written in 100% Chinese characters (hanzi, 汉字) during korean war. Yet the orders toward the foot soldiers were all in Korean writing (Hangul). The real reason is that highly educated people want to show off their writing in Chinese characters which need more learning. Hangul 한글korean writing system) is so easy to learn that almost 100% literacy achieved since its invention. Thus upper class choose to write in 100% Chinese characters in order to distinguish themselves from under class who had hard time reading upper class writing (all in Chinese characters).

    However, some Korean noble class do claim their origin from China.

    It is mind blowing that ancient korean documents in Chinese characters can be 100% comprehended by me. Actually I find it more understandable than Cantonese. If Cantonese invented their own writing, Cantonese would have been even more alien than Korean.

  10. I’ve reading about the Mitanni for some time, their capital name means ‘wealth mine’ in Kurdish and other Iranic languages.

    You also can find rulers with Indo-Aryan names in the Amarna Letters over the Levant.

  11. j mct says:

    The Rosetta stone was found by a more or less equivalent for the time archaeologist, embedded in French army commanded by Napoleon that invaded Egypt.

  12. Patrick L. Boyle says:

    I wonder if the infantry as we have known it will be around much longer. YouTube returns 16,700 hits for ‘robot infantry’. Wikipedia has dozens of articles on various machines now deployed in infantry roles or soon to be deployed.

    There seem to be two major types: the tracked and the walkers. The tracked infantry robots have developed from rescue or reconnaissance vehicles. Typically these are remote controlled, about a foot high and are armed with a standard light machine gun. The walking robots are mostly cargo carriers that can traverse any terrain that a soldier can. They look like headless cattle.

    The weapons carrying tracked vehicles are descendants form the Nazi WWII ‘Goliath’. They are cheap to build and deploy. They will probably be first used as mobile land mines. Just drop a few as you leave an area and that area is denied to the enemy. No soldier has to control it. It would be programed to just shoot anything it sees.

    So an anthropologist or archeologist being humans, would stick out in the new robot infantry. I think we will have to wait for a fully robotic archeologist.

    All you would need would be good camera eyes, a pattern recognition CPU, and GPS. Send out a few dozen everyday and examine their hoppers every night. If you found some pottery or other artifact you would look up the coordinates as to where it was found. With a few teams so equipped we should be able to locate every artifact or fossil on the face to the earth in just a few years.

  13. Jim says:

    Cuneiform tablets last. Unfortunately they break easily so often we have fragments. Just when it begins to get interesting the text breaks off. Different museums around the world may have different fragments of the same tablet. Putting these together by hand is very time-consuning. I wonder if someone could develope some super-duper computer technology to help match up fragments scattered throughout the museums of the world.

  14. Greying Wanderer says:

    I wonder if one day a virus will come out of tropical west Africa that will kill everyone.

    Nuke the rainforest.

  15. whatever says:

    15th century BC Mesopotamia was a strange place. North-east of Mitanni kingdom was Hattusa, south east was Babylonia. The ruling class of Babylonia (Kassites) at this time carried names like Burna- Buriash and swore their oats in the names of deities like Alban, Burna, Bugas and Indas, The Kassites, who ruled Babylonia for 5 centuries, called it Dunnias in their native language.What that language might have been? Jerusalem at this time was ruled by a Jebusite, named Araunah. Wander what the etymology of the name is.

  16. epoch says:

    And considering the fate of antiquities in the Middle-East lately – Warka Vase, Assyrian status, Buddha’s in Afghanistan – make absolutely sure to ship all finds home.

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