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Hieroglyphic Luwian

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Title: Hieroglyphic Luwian  
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Subject: Anatolian hieroglyphs, Luwian language, Karatepe, Winged sun, Boustrophedon
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Hieroglyphic Luwian

Region Anatolia
Extinct around 600 BC
Language codes
ISO 639-3 hlu
Linguist list
Glottolog hier1240[1]

Hieroglyphic Luwian is a variant of the Luwian language, recorded in official and royal seals and a small number of monumental inscriptions.[2] It is written in a hieroglyphic script known as Anatolian hieroglyphs.[3]

A decipherment was presented by Emmanuel Laroche in 1960, building on partial decipherments proposed since the 1930s. Corrections to the readings of certain signs as well as other clarifications were given by David Hawkins, Anna Morpurgo Davies and Günther Neumann in 1973, generally referred to as "the new readings".


The earliest hieroglyphs appear on official and royal seals, dating from the early 2nd millennium BC, but they begin to function as a full-fledged writing system only from the 14th century BC. The first monumental inscriptions confirmed as Luwian date to the Late Bronze Age, c. 14th to 13th centuries BC. And after some two centuries of sparse material the hieroglyphs resume in the Early Iron Age, c. 10th to 8th centuries BC. In the early 7th century BC, the Luwian hieroglyphic script, by then aged more than 700 years, falls into oblivion.


A more elaborate monumental style is distinguished from more abstract linear or cursive forms of the script. In general, relief inscriptions prefer monumental forms, and incised ones prefer the linear form, but the styles are in principle interchangeable. Texts of several lines are usually written in boustrophedon style. Within a line, signs are usually written in vertical columns, but as in Egyptian hieroglyphs, aesthetic considerations take precedence over correct reading order.

The script consists of the order of 500 unique signs,[4] some with multiple values; a given sign may function as a logogram, a determinative or a syllabogram, or a combination thereof. The signs are numbered according to Laroche's sign list, with a prefix of 'L.' or '*'. Logograms are transcribed in Latin in capital letters. For example, *90, an image of a foot, is transcribed as PES when used logographically, and with its phonemic value ti when used as a syllabogram. In the rare cases where the logogram cannot be transliterated into Latin, it is rendered through its approximate Hittite equivalent, recorded in Italic capitals, e.g. *216 ARHA. The most up-to-date sign list is that of Marazzi (1998).

Hawkins, Morpurgo-Davies and Neumann corrected some previous errors about sign values, in particular emending the reading of symbols *376 and *377 from i, ī to zi, za.

Roster of CV syllabograms:
-a -i -u
- *450, *19 *209 *105
h- *215, *196 *413 *307
k- *434 *446 *423
l- *176 *278 *445
m- *110 *391 *107
n- *35 *411, *214 *153, *395
p- *334 *66 *328
r- *383 *412
s- *415 *433, *104, *402, *327 - -
t- *100, *29, *41, *319, *172 *90 *89, *325
w- *439 -
y- *210 - -
z- *377 *376 *432(?)

Some signs are used as reading aid, marking the beginning of a word, the end of a word, or identifying a sign as a logogram. These are not mandatory and are used inconsistently.


The script represents three vowels a, i, u and twelve consonants, h, k, l, m, n, p, r, s, t, w, y, z. Syllabograms have the structure V or CV, and more rarely CVCV. *383 ra/i, *439 wa/i and *445 la/i/u show multiple vocalization. Some syllabograms are homophonic, disambiguated with numbers in transliteration (as in cuneiform transliteration), notably, there are many (more than six) syllabograms each for phonemic /sa/ and /ta/.

There is a tendency of rhotacism, replacing intervocalic d with r. Word-final stops and in some cases word-initial a- are elided. Suffixes -iya- and -uwa- may be syncopated to -i-, -u-.


Case endings:
singular plural
Nom. c. -s -inzi
Acc. c. -(a)n
Nom./Acc. n. -n, - -a(ya)
Gen. -as(i)
Dat. -i(ya), -a(n) -anza
Abl. -ati -ati
Personal pronouns:
1. sg. 2. sg. 1. pl. 2. pl.
Nom. amu, EGO ti anunz(a) unzunz(a), unzuns(a)
Dat. amu tu
Acc. amu tu
Abl. tuwati(?) unzati(?)
Verbal endings:
present indicative preterite indicative
active med.-pass. active med.-pass.
1. sg. wi -ha
2. -si -ta
3. -ti/-ri -ati/-ari -ta
1. pl. -han(?)
2. -tani -tan
3. -nti -nta


  1. ^
  2. ^ Ilya Yakubovich (2010: 69-70) argues that the term Hieroglyphic Luwian can be applied only to a corpus of texts, since it does not define a particular dialect.
  3. ^ the script has also been called Luwian (or Luvian) hieroglyphs, and (in older publications) Hittite hieroglyphs. A number of Italian scholars use Geroglifico Anatolico, a term that is gaining popularity in English also, with Craig Melchert favouring Anatolian hieroglyphs in recent publications.
  4. ^ Laroche (1960) lists 524, but several signs separated by Laroche are now considered identical (e.g. *63 and *64 with *69, itself possibly a variant of *59 MANUS; *94 with *91 PES.SCALA.ROTAE (the "rollerskate" glyph); *136 with *43 CAPERE, etc.)


  • Hawkins, J. D. 2000. Corpus of Hieroglyphic Luwian.
  • Laroche, Emil. 1960. Les hiéroglyphes hittites, Première partie, L'écriture. Paris.
  • Marazzi, M. 1998. Il Geroglifico Anatolico, Sviluppi della ricerca a venti anni dalla "ridecifrazione". Naples.
  • Melchert, H. Craig. 1996. "Anatolian Hieroglyphs", in The World's Writing Systems, ed. Peter T. Daniels and William Bright. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-507993-0
  • Melchert, H. Craig. 2004. "Luvian", in The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the World's Ancient Languages, ed. Roger D. Woodard. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-56256-2
  • Payne, A. 2004. Hieroglyphic Luwian, Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz.
  • Plöchl, R. 2003. Einführung ins Hieroglyphen-Luwische. Dresden.
  • Woudhuizen, F. C. 2004. Luwian Hieroglyphic Monumental Rock and Stone Inscriptions from the Hittite Empire Period. Innsbruck. ISBN 3-85124-209-2.
  • Woudhuizen, F. C. 2004. Selected Hieroglyphic Texts. Innsbruck. ISBN 3-85124-213-0.
  • Yakubovich, Ilya. 2010. Sociolinguistics of the Luvian Language. Leiden
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