Year of the Middle East
Public Lecture: "Hittites, Greeks, and Others: Interaction between Ancient Anatolia, Greece, and the Levant"
One of a group of Indo-European speaking peoples intrusive to Anatolia, the Hittites rose from a modest city state to establish first a kingdom on the central plateau and then an empire that fought with the kings of Babylon and Assyria, the Hurrians, and the pharaohs of Egypt for control of SE Anatolia, Syria and Palestine, and contended with one or more Mycenaean Greek kings over western Asia Minor. One of their many vassal states was Wilusa, certainly to be identified with Troy. The multiethnic Hittite kingdom absorbed heavy cultural influence from many peoples and played a role in transmitting Ancient Near Eastern culture to the Greeks. A combination of factors, including the assaults of the “Sea Peoples”, brought an end to the Hittite Empire shortly after 1200 BCE, but some former subordinate states inherited their name and culture and maintained a degree of independence for several centuries until conquered by the Assyrians. It is these “Neo-Hittite” states that are represented in the “Hittites” of the Old Testament.
Israel is a microcosm of the sign language world. Within a country about equal in area to New Jersey, Israel contains both a widely dispersed deaf community sign language used in schools, Israeli Sign Language, and a number of much smaller village sign languages, each confined to a single community and used only within its confines. Our research team was formed to study Israeli Sign Language, but we have also spent the last decade studying and documenting the sign language of the Bedouin village of Al-Sayyid, located near Be’er Sheva, the ancestral home of Abraham. I will compare the history and structure of these two languages and show how the study of their emergence has provided a variety of insights into language and human nature.