Digging Up the Past

Lost Empire Of The Hittites

Three Angels Broadcasting Network

Program transcript

Participants: David Down


Series Code: DUTP

Program Code: DUTP000003

00:25 I rather suspect that like me
00:27 most of you have never been to the moon
00:29 and we probably never shall, but the next best place
00:32 to visit is an area called Cappadocia in Turkey,
00:36 and that's where we're going next.
00:38 For it's the land of the lost Empire of the Hittites.
01:18 Well, how do you like these fairy chimneys
01:20 as they're called, with their hat set
01:24 all sorts of rakish angles?
01:27 You just really wonder how they creator
01:29 thought this one up wouldn't you?
01:31 Now, of course, you can tell me it's a natural phenomenon
01:34 and it really is. Actually this was some soft
01:38 stone that was laid all over this area.
01:43 And then on top of that came a layer of lava,
01:48 you know, a volcanic layer spread out all over here.
01:51 And as the harder lava cracked and got worn away,
01:58 then of course what was not covered
02:00 by lava was also worn away.
02:03 But where the lava still stood then of course it was protected.
02:07 And so, here we have these fairy chimneys.
02:27 During the Christian era, there was a lot of persecution
02:31 and so many Christians settled in this area
02:33 not, not that they escaped the persecution,
02:35 but to attracted less attention.
02:38 And so, they were less harassed here.
02:40 And they dug their houses out of the soft rock,
02:43 out of these pinnacles.
02:44 In fact, some people today still live in these houses
02:48 that they dug or build their own houses attached to them.
02:54 I would say this is one of the better class houses,
02:58 it is dug out of the cliff face soft rock,
03:02 easily cut into, you see the pick marks
03:05 where they have chiseled it out.
03:08 And there are recesses, where they could store food
03:12 and other domestic items needed in the house.
03:15 And there are niches where they could place
03:18 their lamps to illuminate the inside of the house
03:21 at night time.
03:23 I'd say they live rather comfortably here.
03:34 The Christians also carved their churches
03:36 and chapels out of this soft rock.
03:38 And adorned the walls of them with very colorful frescoes.
03:44 Many of the Christians went a step further
03:46 and burrowed into the ground, they dug into the cliff face
03:50 and then made just like a rabbit warren,
03:53 they lived right underground.
04:07 They burrowed down through this soft rock,
04:10 there are passages and staircases
04:12 and housing rooms.
04:14 Do you know they went down eight stories,
04:17 eight stories down below the ground surface.
04:25 And there were rooms and houses and places to live down here.
04:30 You're at least close to your neighbors.
04:38 No doubt this was great for the children,
04:40 but what about the adults?
04:42 They must have had a permanently bend back
04:44 to be able to walk along these passages and feel at home.
04:50 And I suppose they were used to it.
04:53 And of course they lived here during the night and evening,
04:57 day time they went out and looked after their fields.
05:12 And of course, they have-to-have some fresh
05:14 air, even the way down here.
05:15 So they dug this shaft from the surface
05:20 right down to the lowest stories,
05:23 so that the fresh air could come down here
05:25 and circulate through the passageways
05:27 and into the rooms in which they were living.
05:42 And I'm still not sure, sure that this
05:44 where I would really like to live.
05:58 This then is Hittite country.
06:02 They occupied all of Cappadocia and Anatolia.
06:06 In other words, what we'd call most of Turkey.
06:09 And there were a very great nation.
06:11 In fact, at one stage in ancient history
06:13 they were the greatest nation in the Middle East.
06:17 And yet the extraordinary part is they were lost, forgotten.
06:22 Scholars even denied their existence.
06:26 It's interesting to look at the Encyclopedia Britannica
06:29 for the year 1861.
06:32 And under the title Hittites,
06:34 do you know what, there's just eight and a half lines.
06:39 And if you examine those eight and half lines carefully,
06:43 you'll find that it's purely and simply
06:45 a summary of what the Bible says.
06:47 Just a brief summary of what the biblical record
06:49 has to say about them. Well, actually there is a lot
06:52 in the Bible about the Hittites.
06:54 As far as the Bible is concerned they were never lost.
06:56 Forty-seven references in the Bible to the Hittites.
07:00 Goes right back to the days of Abraham.
07:03 In Genesis chapter 23, when his wife Sarah died,
07:07 it says, "Then Abraham stood up from before his dead
07:10 and spoke to the sons of Heth,
07:12 they're the Hittites you see saying,
07:14 give me property for a burial place."
07:16 And he purchased a place to bury his wife Sarah.
07:20 And many references in respect of the Israelites
07:23 coming into the Promised Land.
07:26 For instance in Genesis 7 verse 1 it says,
07:28 "When the Lord your God brings you into the land
07:30 which you go to possess, and has cast out
07:32 many nations before you.
07:34 The Hittites and the Girgashites and the Amorites
07:38 and the Canaanites and the Perizzites
07:39 and the Hivites and the Jebusites."
07:41 Now, there are seven nations there,
07:42 and you'll notice the Hittites are at the top of the list
07:45 And yet the Amorites, the Canaanites,
07:47 we're very familiar with them and they were
07:50 very well-known and strong nation.
07:52 Yet they Hittites are put at the top of the list.
07:56 Now, there's another verse that should have
07:58 caused the scholars to do a little deep thinking on.
08:01 And that's in Second Kings chapter 7 and in verse 6,
08:05 where it says, I'm referring to the Syrians besieging Samaria
08:11 and all of a sudden the besieging army
08:13 packed up and fled.
08:15 And what was the reason?
08:16 Well, it tells us here, "For the Lord had caused
08:19 the army of the Syrians to hear the noise
08:21 of the chariots and the noise of the horses.
08:24 The noise of a great army.
08:25 So they said to one and another,
08:27 look the King of Israel has hired against us
08:31 the Kings of the Hittites and the Kings of the Egyptians
08:34 to attack us."
08:35 Now, everyone knew that the Egyptians
08:37 were very strong and powerful.
08:39 But here it puts the Hittites ahead of the Egyptian army.
08:44 Now, quite obviously the Bible knew
08:46 that they were a very powerful nation.
08:48 You've got these 47 references
08:51 and yet they were lost and forgotten.
08:53 For a long time, the story of their discovery
08:56 is a very exciting one,
08:58 it's one of the long drawn out dramas.
09:02 And I want to tell you all about that.
09:22 Our story really doesn't begin here in this village,
09:26 it began in the City of Hamath in the Northern Syria
09:30 in the year 1810, when Johann Burckhardt,
09:34 the man who discovered Petra later on,
09:38 was visiting there and he found built into a house,
09:43 some stones that had some strange writings on it.
09:46 And he wrote later in his book called, "Travels In Syria,"
09:49 of this stones, he said there were hieroglyphics.
09:53 But they weren't Egyptians hieroglyphics.
09:55 But of course he didn't know who was responsible
09:57 for these strange writings and he simply recorded it.
10:01 Now, the scholars should have picked it up,
10:02 but I suppose there were so many other exciting
10:04 things in his book they just didn't notice this.
10:08 So, the next thing was in the year 1834,
10:11 when Charles Texier was traveling through Turkey
10:15 and he was looking for a lost city.
10:17 The lost City of Tavium, a Roman city.
10:19 And he would go from village-to-village,
10:21 town-to-town and he would say, are there any ruins here?
10:25 And he'd go and look at them to try
10:27 and identify them as Tavium you see.
10:30 And when he came here, he asked his usual question,
10:32 are there any ruins around here?
10:34 And they said, yeah, sure there are ruins here.
10:38 There's plenty up on the hill. So, up on the hill he went.
10:43 What Texier saw here really made him gasp.
10:47 There was this King's Gate as it is called.
10:49 It was partially buried in his day of course,
10:51 but in the front of it here there is a figure that
10:57 I thought it was the King really looks like a priced fighter
11:00 you know, doesn't he, actually one of the Hittite Gods.
11:03 This is not the original, the original is in the museum.
11:06 This one is simply a plastic cast and it's rather badly worn.
11:10 When I first came here, it was in very good condition.
11:13 And then Texier went up on the look wall
11:16 and what he saw there made him even more amazed.
11:22 When Texier got up here, he could look along
11:26 the wall and trace it going right up the hill there,
11:30 you can see it at the top of the hill,
11:32 partially reconstructed up there.
11:34 And following it around, he found that altogether
11:38 it was about five kilometers in circumference.
11:41 Well, this certainly wasn't Tavium,
11:43 it was far too big for that.
11:46 But what was it?
11:47 The locals couldn't tell him and he didn't have a clue.
11:51 So, what was this place?
11:56 The following year 1835, a British explorer by the name
12:00 of William Hamilton came on the scene and he stumbled
12:03 across a place called Alacahuyak.
12:07 This is the entrance to Alacahuyak and these
12:11 sphinxes on the side here are very well carved
12:14 and these were obvious to William Hamilton
12:16 when he first came here, there's one each side
12:18 of this gateway.
12:20 He couldn't identify them, he didn't know
12:23 who was responsible for them and he simply recorded them.
12:26 Then in the year 1862,
12:29 George Perrow came across this place,
12:32 it's called the Nishan Tash, and here were some strange
12:35 hieroglyphic characters which again were the similar
12:39 to the ones on the Hamath stones.
12:42 And of course, he couldn't identify who is responsible
12:45 for these hieroglyphs, but he recorded them.
12:49 And then in the year 1870, two American explorers
12:54 by the name of Johnson and Jessup also visited
12:57 Hamath and recorded their visit and noted
13:02 the Hamath stones with the hieroglyphs on them.
13:06 But then in the year 1872, a man of a totally different character
13:12 came on the scene, and he was William Wright,
13:17 who was an Irish missionary in Hamath.
13:20 Now, he spoke the language,
13:23 he understood the Arabs and the Turks
13:25 and he saw these stones and recognized their value.
13:30 And what was more important, he was on friendly terms
13:34 with the Turkish governor Subhi Pasha.
13:37 And so he went to the governor and he said look,
13:41 it would be in the interest of the Turkish government
13:43 to have these stones removed and send off to the museum.
13:47 And so Subhi Pasha being an enlightened man,
13:51 agreed to that.
13:52 And so, next day he sent his soldiers
13:54 along statues, chiseling the stones out of the wall.
13:56 And that is where the trouble started
13:59 because the locals regarded these not only as
14:03 important stones and the building itself and,
14:06 they didn't want the building spoiled.
14:09 But they also had a superstition that these stones
14:12 had magical qualities, especially for eye diseases of
14:16 which it was no shortage at that time.
14:18 And so, they violently objected.
14:21 However, the army was on the governor's side and
14:24 they took the stones, took them back to the palace.
14:27 Well, that night, whirling dervishes raced
14:29 through the streets, stirring up the passions of the crowd.
14:32 And they tried to storm the gates of the governor's palace.
14:37 And William Wright, who was also there was a little
14:39 frightened inside, but the soldiers held out.
14:42 Next morning the governor received a delegation
14:46 and the delegation came in and stated their case.
14:49 Now, what it made matters worse was during the night
14:51 there had been a fall of meteorites.
14:55 And these falling stars that really aroused
14:58 the superstitions of the people.
15:00 And so the delegation came in
15:02 and the governor listened to them.
15:04 And finally after their protests he said,
15:08 now let me see, did these falling stars do any,
15:13 kill anyone?
15:14 And they said, no.
15:16 And he said, did they kill any cattle or sheep?
15:19 No. And he said, did they damage any buildings?
15:24 No. Ah! Said the governor.
15:27 Then what better evidence do we have of Allah's
15:31 good pleasure on what we have done.
15:34 And with that choice bit of eastern logic,
15:36 the whole delegation came to an end.
15:39 And the Hamath stones were removed
15:41 to the Constantinople museum, where there are today.
15:47 In 1876, excavations were conducted at Carchemish.
15:52 Now, that's a way down long way from here in Northern Syria.
15:55 And in these excavations these strange artifacts
15:59 belonging to this same people started turning up.
16:01 It was quite apparent that whoever it was had
16:04 an impact extending right down as far as Northern Syria.
16:07 And during the next few years, artifacts where turning up
16:11 all over Turkey and the scholars were embarrassed
16:13 because the public were asking them.
16:16 Listen you fellows, this was a great empire
16:19 and you don't know who it was?
16:22 Then in 1880, the archeological bombshell burst.
16:27 Archibald Henry Sayce announced to an august
16:31 gathering of scholars in London,
16:33 his conclusion that all these artifacts,
16:36 all these evidences should be attributed
16:39 to none other than the biblical Hittites.
16:43 Well, the scholars went off in appeals of laughter.
16:47 They said, Sayce, you're mad. They dubbed him
16:50 the inventor of the Hittites.
16:52 But the factor accumulating,
16:55 and in 1881, the Encyclopedia Britannica,
16:58 once more came out.
16:59 This time not eight and a half lines,
17:02 but two whole pages.
17:04 And down at the bottom of the article
17:06 there was this statement.
17:08 "We wait longingly for a confirmation of professor
17:11 Sayce's view, that the Hittites were the authors
17:14 of the Hamath art hieroglyphs.
17:17 If this be proved this wonderful nation steps into
17:21 a position hardly surpassed by that of any of the nations
17:25 of the distant east."
17:27 Well, it was a prophetic statement
17:29 that really came true.
17:30 statement that really came true.
17:31 And during the next few years more-and-more
17:34 information came in.
17:36 And in 1894, our friend William Wright
17:40 published a book called "The Empire of the Hittites,"
17:43 in which he produced so much information
17:45 and evidence that the scholars just had to back down
17:48 and admit that Sayce was right and that these people
17:52 were the biblical Hittites.
17:55 Then in 1897, there was a very interesting development.
18:00 In that year, what known as the Tell El-Amarna
18:03 letters were discovered, not here in Turkey,
18:05 but away over there in Egypt.
18:07 They were letters in the cuneiform script,
18:10 at first of course the scholars said that they were forgeries
18:13 because nobody expected
18:14 the cuneiform would be found in Egypt.
18:16 But when they were read and understood,
18:19 here were some letters that were found
18:22 in the Assyrian cuneiform script, but in the,
18:28 an unknown language which scholars rightly
18:31 concluded was the Hittite language.
18:35 They were known as the Assyrian letters,
18:38 and scholars went to work on trying to decipher
18:41 the Hittite language.
18:43 There was a scholar in 1902 by the name of Knudsen,
18:47 who concluded and announced
18:50 that the Hittite language was actually
18:52 an Indo-European language.
18:55 That also made the scholars laugh.
18:57 Indo-European, why it might be some other,
19:00 it might be Semitic language or it might be Hermetic,
19:04 but not Indo-European.
19:06 And they produced so many arguments that poor
19:09 Knudsen recanted and admitted that he had made a mistake.
19:14 Time was to prove that Knudsen was correct.
19:19 In the year 1906, a very eccentric German came here,
19:26 who was totally unsuited to the harsh
19:30 Middle East Turkish conditions.
19:32 And he was not really an archeologist,
19:36 he was an epigraphist, that means he was an expert
19:40 in inscriptions and he was looking for tablets.
19:45 And so, he came to this place, Bogazkoy,
19:48 known to the Hittites as Hattusas.
19:52 And his interest was to find tablets.
19:56 And so, he came to these Acropolis or high place,
19:59 the citadel and started searching.
20:03 Well, would you believe it? He started digging here
20:07 and he found no less than 10,000 tablets.
20:10 And most of them were in the cuneiform script,
20:13 which he could read like you read your daily newspaper
20:17 and in the Syrian language which of course,
20:20 was his language, he was very familiar with that.
20:23 And so, he was able to learn a lot about the Hittites.
20:26 Well he, night-by-night, he was very hard working man.
20:29 And night-by-night by the flickering light of his lamp
20:32 you know, he'd pick up a tablet and translate it,
20:34 pick up a tablet, and one night he picked up a tablet,
20:38 and you could hardly believe what he saw there?
20:41 He found himself reading the Hittite version of the peace
20:45 treaty between Ramses the Great, and Hattusilis.
20:48 The very one that was on the wall at Karnack
20:51 and other places. And so, here was the Hittite version of it.
20:56 And so, he was able to learn a lot about the Hittite
20:59 history by reading these translations.
21:03 In 1915, a scholar by the name of Hosni confirmed
21:07 that the Hittite language was indeed an Indo-European
21:12 language and from then on there was no turning back.
21:16 And in 1929, a manual of the Hittite language was published.
21:21 In other, words the scholars could now not only read
21:25 the Hittite history in Assyrian language,
21:29 but also in the Hittite language.
21:32 So, two problems had been solved.
21:35 First of all, the identification of the Hittites, secondly,
21:38 to be able to read their language.
21:40 But now there was a third problem,
21:42 and that was to be able to read
21:45 their strange hieroglyphic characters.
21:49 Actually our friend Archibald William Sayce
21:53 had made an attempt at this in 1890.
21:56 He'd come across what was known as the Tarritktimme seal
22:00 and it was a bilingual.
22:01 That is the same thing in two different languages or scripts.
22:05 And he thought by comparing them he'd get a clue
22:09 to reading the hieroglyphics, but it was not to be.
22:13 It was only a seal, didn't give you much information.
22:16 In 1934, Kurt Bittel found here, no less than 100 bilinguals
22:24 and the scholars thought now we've got it made.
22:27 All these bilinguals that is the same message in two
22:31 different scripts, one readable the other,
22:33 the hieroglyphs we'll be able to do it.
22:35 But they're only seals and they're all said more or less
22:39 the same thing, and so once more they had the problem.
22:43 And so the scholars had to work on this to try and find out
22:48 how to unlock the Hittite hieroglyphs.
22:53 The final breakthrough came from rather an unexpected quarter.
22:57 There was a scholar by the name of Helmet Bossiaea,
23:00 and he was attending a convention,
23:03 at the same convention there was a Turkish scholar.
23:06 And the Turkish scholar said to him,
23:08 say why don't you come and teach at the
23:10 Istanbul University for a while.
23:12 And so Bossiaea said, well, why not.
23:15 And so, he finished up at the Istanbul University.
23:20 Well, during the holiday period,
23:22 Bossiaea decided to do some excavating and he took a team
23:25 down to a place called Karatepe, and there they did a season
23:29 of excavations, found a lot of interesting things.
23:33 On the last day when everyone was packing up their tents,
23:36 and goods and chattels, Bossiaea just did a little
23:39 wandering around on his account.
23:41 And he saw a stone protruding from the ground,
23:44 he did a little scribing and he was very excited
23:47 to discover that it was a slab of stone
23:49 on which there was a Phoenician inscription.
23:52 And he thought wouldn't it be fantastic
23:55 if this was a bilingual.
23:57 That is the stone that tells us the same thing in two
24:00 different languages.
24:01 And so, he excavated another stone over here,
24:05 and sure enough there were some markings on it
24:08 which he thought were Hittite hieroglyphics,
24:11 he thought we've got it, and but you know,
24:13 what he did?
24:15 He just filled it all in, left it there,
24:18 didn't say a word to anybody.
24:20 Just went back packed up, next morning
24:22 they went back to the university.
24:24 Well, I think Bossiaea was one of these people
24:26 who had a sense of the dramatic.
24:29 In the next season of excavations they all came
24:32 to the site and they started out the next morning,
24:38 and Bossiaea said, well now
24:39 where shall we start excavating today?
24:43 Why don't we start over here?
24:45 And so, he put his men to work there and sure enough
24:49 few movements later there were squeals of delight,
24:51 they found this stone with the Phoenician inscriptions on it.
24:55 And Bossiaea said, hey wouldn't it be great
24:57 if this was a bilingual. Look, dig over here.
25:01 And so, they dug over there and sure enough here
25:03 was this stone with these markings on it.
25:07 But as it came to the light of day,
25:09 Bossiaea realized that what he thought had been
25:12 Hittite hieroglyphics were nothing more than the cracks
25:17 and weathering of time.
25:18 Bossiaea's heart just sank right down to his boots.
25:22 However they continued with the excavations
25:24 and sure enough they did find another stone
25:28 and it was a bilingual, it was in the Hittite hieroglyphics.
25:32 And so, as a result of comparing these two stones together
25:35 they were able to unlock the meaning of the hieroglyphics.
25:40 And so, in 1954, a manual of dictionary
25:45 of Hittite hieroglyphics was published,
25:48 and this opened a vast world of knowledge about
25:51 the Hittites to the scholars and about the Hittite history.
25:57 In their hay day, the Hittites were powerful,
26:01 well organized and cultured people.
26:03 And they had some very fine buildings.
26:06 Over there in the distance, you can see their temple area.
26:10 It had well paved roads, and those this huge area
26:14 that was for the temple purposes.
26:18 And then there is a very strange stone,
26:21 it's a green stone and it doesn't come from this area,
26:24 it came from a total, totally different area.
26:27 And that also was a rather puzzle,
26:31 because nobody knew just where it came from,
26:34 and nobody can figure out just what it was used for?
26:38 They had these huge storage jars,
26:41 and they had a very smart way of doing their buildings.
26:45 You'll notice these drilled holes here.
26:48 Well, this is an earthquake prone area and so naturally
26:53 stone buildings would tumble down.
26:55 So, what they had was stone foundations and then
26:58 they used a wooden superstructure with tenets
27:02 into these holes.
27:03 So that if was a bit of rumble the building would stay intact.
27:08 But the end finally came, it is usually considered to be
27:13 in about 1200 BC when they were annihilated
27:17 by the peoples of the sea.
27:18 Personally, my own opinion is that it was later than that,
27:22 in fact centuries later because.
27:24 For instance, we have the records
27:27 of Shalmaneser the third, in which he records his wars
27:30 against the Hittites.
27:32 We have even Sennacherib in the eighth century BC,
27:35 who talks about fighting against the Hittites.
27:37 So, I think that they finally and actually
27:39 came at the hands of the Assyrians.
27:42 However, it certainly came,
27:44 and then they were lost and forgotten.
27:48 And the critics even denied that they existed, they scoffed
27:52 at the Bible record and said just another Bible blunder.
27:55 But remember the Bible retained a record of them.
27:59 And today, of course everyone knows the Hittites,
28:02 you've got the Hittite hotel,
28:04 you've got the Hittite restaurant,
28:06 you've got the Hittite antique shop and the Hittite
28:09 taxi company, it's a very well known people today.
28:13 But it was only the Bible that preserved the knowledge of them.
28:16 Remember in 1861, just eight and a half lines
28:21 in the Encyclopedia Britannica,
28:24 but the Bible retained the record.
28:27 And let me tell you, the Bible is a fascinating book
28:32 and I can assure you, it is historically reliable.
28:39 Well, I agree the Bible is a great book,
28:41 but I do suggest that you get a translation in
28:44 Modern English. I find it much easier to read.
28:47 In our next program, we'll be taking you
28:49 to the cradle of civilization where history began.
28:53 And David will be telling the exciting story of Henry Layard,
28:57 unearthing the wind bulls of Assyria.
28:59 And Henry Rawlinson scaling that the heisted rock
29:02 to find the key to cuneiform writing.


Revised 2014-12-17