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Ancient Near Eastern Studies

The Hittite Corpus of Divinatory Texts: Digital Edition and Cultural Historical Analysis (HDivT)

The objective of HDivT is to make the Hittite divinatory texts accessible in a fully annotated digital edition on the Hethitologie-Portal Mainz (HPM). In addition, the historical and cultural significance of the text group will be analysed. The project is based at the LMU Munich and the University of Würzburg and is led by Birgit Christiansen (LMU; PI with DFG-funded eigene Stelle), Enrique Jiménez (LMU) and Daniel Schwemer. The German Research Foundation (DFG) has been funding HdivT as a long-term project since 2022. The project staff includes one postdoctoral and one doctoral researcher, with the postdoctoral researcher, Andrea Trameri, being based in Würzburg.

Divination played an important role in the Late Bronze Age kingdom of the Hittites. With more than 1750 mostly fragmentarily preserved cuneiform tablets, the corpus of divinatory texts is the third largest group among the Hittite written sources. The texts document a variety of divinatory practices and religious ideas, some of which are of Anatolian origin, while others were adopted from neighbouring regions.

Particularly the oracle reports are unparalleled in any other ancient civilization and extant in large number. Since they often deal with misconduct and conflicts that are otherwise obscured or presented in a biased manner, they are an essential source both for historical research and the understanding of Hittite religious ideas and moral concepts. The same is true for oracle letters and dream reports.

Of great significance is also the Hittite collection of omen texts of Mesopotamian origin, which represents the largest collection of omen texts dating  to the second millennium, a period from which only few omen texts have survived from Mesopotamia proper. The texts, which are written in the Akkadian, Hittite or Hurrian language, reflect the  concern of the Hittites for the Mesopotamian omen tradition and provide  insight into the transfer of knowledge between different regions of the ancient Near East. Along with omen texts discovered in Syria and northern Mesopotamia, the corpus handed down from Hattusa is a key component in the reconstruction of the long history of Mesopotamian omen traditions, which crystallized in the canonical series known to us only from manuscripts of the first millennium BCE.

Despite their great importance not only to Ancient Near Eastern Studies, but also to cross-cultural research, the Hittite divinatory texts have so far only been partially edited and examined. HDivT, whose research programme is scheduled to be completed within nine years, will fill this research gap and make the corpus easily accessible to specialists and a broader, interdisciplinary academic audience. This will be achieved by the following steps:

  • An open-access, fully annotated digital edition of the entire corpus on the platform Hethitologie-Portal Mainz (HPM);
  • the creation of portal pages as part of the digital corpus that contain basic information on the topic and the various texts;
  • a series of detailed studies on various graphical, linguistic and content-related issues; a monograph written by Birgit Christiansen, intended to offer both experts and a wider audience a comprehensive insight into Hittite divinatory texts and practices;
  • in addition, through the organization of three interdisciplinary workshops we intend to stimulate exchange between different disciplines and open up new paths for cross-cultural research.