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Ancient Calendars 5: Anatolia

In the Middle and Late Bronze Age the Anatolian peninsula was home to the Hittite Empire and several other states (Kizzuwatna, Lukka-land, Arzawa, etc.). The Assyrians also maintained strong commercial ties with the region early in their history. Although very little is known of Anatolian calendars, in this post I’ll attempt to summarize the little that can be said with some degree of confidence.

Anatolian calendars seem to have been generally in conformity with the Mesopotamian system. Debt-notes from the Old Assyrian period (Middle Bronze Age) indicate the calendar at that time did not have named months. Rather, terms of payment mentioned seasons of the year, religious festivals, or milestones in the agricultural cycle (Veenhof and Eidem, 234). Later Hittite calendar texts from Hattusa likewise counted months by number, not religious occasion (Fleming, 230 n. 107). Like the Assyrians, they observed a five-day “week” (Richmond, 34).

The early Anatolians used a year-name system similar to that of the early Babylonians. Rather than the regnal years of kings, they denoted years according to significant events that happened within them: “the year so-and-so became king of such-and-such city,” etc.

Before Murshili II (Late Bronze Age), the Hittite New Year came at the autumn equinox. Murshili II introduced the Babylonian calendar, and New Year’s Day was shifted to the spring equinox (Schnusenberg, 76).

Although we cannot provide month-names for Anatolian calendars, it is possible to reconstruct something of the region’s agricultural calendar based on Akkadian documents from the Old Assyrian period (see Veenhof and Eidem, 238–45).

Oct itti erāšim, erāšum “time of the plough,” “ploughing (and seeding)”
Nov gamar erāšim “termination of the ploughing”
Dec
Jan (winter)
Feb (winter)
Mar (winter)
Apr buqulum “green, sprouting plants”
May
Jun buqūnum, kubur uṭṭitim “plucking (of the wool),” “when the grain is ripe”
Jul ṣibit niggallim, eṣādum, ebūrum “seizing the sickle,” “harvesting,” “harvest, crop”
Aug adrum, erāb adrim “threshing floor,” “when [the barley] comes on the threshing floor
Sep qitip keranim “picking of the grapes”

In addition to Purulli, the New Year’s Festival, there were four main festivals at ancient Kanesh (Veenhof and Eidem, 241–45):

  1. Festival of Anna (1st month) (late autumn)
  2. Festival of Nipas (6th month) (beginning of spring)
  3. Festival of Parka (8th month) (summer and grain harvest)
  4. Festival of Tuhtuhanum (12th month) (harvest of fruits)

Resources

  • Daniel E. Fleming, Time at Emar (Eisenbrauns, 2000).
  • Broughton Richmond, Time Measurement and Calendar Construction, (Brill, 1956).
  • Christine C. Schnusenberg, The Mythological Traditions of Liturgical Drama (Paulist, 2010).
  • Klaas R. Veenhof and Jesper Eidem, Mesopotamia: The Old Assyrian Period (Fribourg, 2008).
  • Nick Wyatt, Space and Time in the Religious Life of the Near East (Sheffield, 2001).
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