Textile Terminology of Hittite Anatolia

By Matteo Vigo

This research project provides an accurate and updated analysis of the Hittite textile terminology. This is achieved through a precise examination of the preserved epigraphic sources, most of which have been collected in general works, or spread throughout scholarly journals and minor publications, but have yet to be analysed in the way now being proposed.
In order to pursue this analysis, the research project needs as a necessary first step the creation of a complete corpus of all epigraphic sources of the “Hittite textiles”, the first of its kind.

The methodological approach is based on a meticulous lexical and etymological investigation on verbal – noun paradigms referring to textiles in the Hittite world and professional titles. The primary objective is to create a comprehensive and useful dictionary of textile terminology of Hittite Anatolia. In so doing, I integrate my own academic background skills in Hittite language and philology with my host institution’s expertise in the field of experimental archaeology of ancient textile remains and tools.

Thus, I combine the information provided by specialists of the Centre for Textile Research with the data which I collect by analysing the Hittite textual documentation; not only administrative and economic texts, but also all those Hittite written sources that potentially describe the palace management of textile production, the accounts of weaving workshops (including terms for crafting and tools), the luxury goods as finished products (not only cloth, but also clothes and furnishings) and the textile items used in symbolic contexts (during rituals or cult activities).

The comparative methodological approach is justified by the fact that ancient textiles rarely survive, not only in Anatolia, but also all over the ancient Near East and Mediterranean area, with the notable exception of Egypt. Fortunately the Scandinavian area provides many Bronze Age finds that have been already accurately analysed by Danish and Swedish specialists in recent years. Their technological competence is very useful to me in order to better define textile terms attested in the written documentation (in particular for what concerns specific aspects of the “Hittite” textile production).

Because of the wide chronological gap between archaeological remains of Anatolia under investigation (mostly belonging to the fourth-third millennia BC) and textual documentation related to textiles (second millennium BC), the proposed methodology explores connections using experimental archaeology as a method (with a conscious awareness of its potential risks). The scientific expertise of CTR staff in the field of experimental analysis on selected raw materials found in different Hittite excavations enables me to create typological classifications of textiles according to the information provided by the Hittite texts. In a mutual and interdisciplinary way the work process described in detail, e.g. in the Hittite ritual texts, can be tested by CTR specialists and managed by a qualified group of supervisors, always bearing in mind the risks connected with the selected material.