Fruit from a Poisonous Pseudoarchaeological Tree

The much-hyped inscription revealed! (Late Bronze Age Collapse, Part 3 Addendum)

The Sea Peoples were various groups of Middle and Late Bronze Age cultures, with which western Asia Minor teemed. They were allied with the Trojans in their war against the Greeks and fought as mercenaries with the Hittites at the battle of Kadesh, only to be defeated by Agamemnon and Ramesses II, respectively. But they rose again, attacking many cities along the eastern Mediterranean coast, and helping to bring about the Late Bronze Age Collapse (LBAC).

Or maybe that’s a collection of magical thinking and leaps of logic propped up with just enough fact to seem plausible.

Following the Institute for Luwian Studies’ campaign of sensationalism back in 2016 and 2017, at the end of the latter year, they did deliver the inscription they claimed to have solved the LBAC. I was recently doing an editing pass on my post on the topic—since, as Jorge Luis Borges notes, “The concept of the ‘definitive text’ corresponds only to religion or exhaustion”¹—when I noticed it was past due for a followup.

The inscription Eberhard Zangger and Fred Woudhuizen teased was indeed revealed in their article, “Rediscovered Luwian Hieroglyphic Inscriptions from Western Asia Minor”. They term it “Beyköy 2” and give it the following significance: It was composed in western Asia Minor, an area that has produced little documentary evidence so far. Beyköy 2 dates to a time at the end of the Bronze Age after Hittite rule had collapsed, which is also not well documented. It was ordered by a great king named Kupantakurantas at the beginning of the 12th century BCE, revealing the existence of his kingdom in western Asia Minor. The inscription records his achievements at home and abroad.²

But there’s still the small matter of Beyköy 2’s provenance. As the paper itself notes:³

The announcement, earlier this year, of the publication of a monumental Luwian hieroglyphical inscription […] immediately triggered a lively debate among luwologists and many others. The debate soon mainly focused on the surmised falsification of the drawings […].

This “surmised falsification” is based on the reputation of the man in whose possession the inscription had supposedly been languishing for decades, James Mellaart. It’s worth noting while the original hype had it the inscription was “newly deciphered,” Zangger and Woudhuizen’s article indicates this was actually done in 1980 by Professor U. Bahadır Alkım. However:⁴

J. David Hawkins had known about the document since 1989, and Mark Weeden since 2012. Both scholars, we learnt, were convinced that Beyköy 2 was a forgery produced by Mellaart.

The former is a scholar of Hittite and Luwian language and history credited with much of our current understanding of these fields, and the latter is an expert in Anatolian hieroglyphs and cuneiform. As for Mellaart, in a more recent article, Zangger describes his initial contact with the pseudoarchaeologist, and their common desire for more BA archaeology in western Asia Minor. They shared a belief in the region’s importance and a feeling it couldn’t have been populated only by “[…] uncivilized nomads roaming across the country in yurts [sic] and possessing no knowledge of writing”:⁵

[W]e shared a common conviction. Independently of each other, we had both arrived at the conclusion that western Turkey must contain numerous, still-hidden Middle and Late Bronze Age sites. We both also believed that a large part of the Sea Peoples had their home in this region. Their attacks on the shores of the eastern Mediterranean shortly after 1200 BC contributed to the downfall of the Bronze Age cultures of the heroic era. Some of the mercenaries who supported the Hittite king Muwatalli (c. 1295–1272 BC) in 1274 at the Battle of Kadesh came from western Anatolia. The same names then appear in the Sea People inscriptions known from Upper Egypt, and are also found again in Homer’s Iliad among the allies of the Trojans during the Trojan War. The western part of modern Turkey must therefore have been densely populated around 1200 BC.

It’s hugely convenient Beyköy 2 speaks directly to some of these points. Giving Zangger the benefit of the doubt, his convictions led to his confirmation bias for the evidence Mellaart provided. It also led him to link Troy directly to Atlantis, declaring Plato’s description “a distorted recollection of the Trojan War”.⁶ One irony-impaired Atlantis conspiracy theorist defended Zangger’s book The Flood from Heaven, thus:⁷

The reactions of established academia on Zangger’s Atlantis hypothesis were characterised by a wholesale and dogmatic rejection. The counter arguments put forward were almost all superficial, outdated, or wrong. Above all, they were reckless and mocking, and aimed at undermining Eberhard Zangger’s reputation.

In Mellaart’s case, he perpetrated hoaxes to verify his version of history. In a more recent article, even Zangger brands Mellaart a packrat, forger, and possibly a prankster. He declares the original Beyköy Text (a different one from Beyköy 2) one such forgery, even putting it in scare quotes:⁸

[W]e came across an extensive collection of handwritten drafts of the “Beyköy Text.” Mellaart had placed the items he claimed to be the unpublished translations of Late Bronze Age tablets at the entrance to his study, clearly visible and appropriately labeled. The kits he had used to fabricate these documents, however, were kept well hidden. But not only that: I also found pieces of slate with pictorial carvings that were obviously sketches that Mellaart had published as reconstructed murals from Çatalhöyük. By this point there was no longer any doubt that Mellaart was a forger. The fact that he had carefully hidden the drafts hints at a sense of wrongdoing […].

Still, Zangger insists, despite this clear evidence of Mellaart’s predilections and methods, somehow Beyköy 2 is real. Diether Schürr, scholar of Anatolian languages, is less sanguine, noting:⁹

[T]he drawings of the inscriptions, as well as the translations of the longest ones, are by James Mellaart, not only an important archaeologist but an unscrupulous inventor of artifacts like the Treasure of Dorak and kilim-like wall paintings at Çatal Hüyük, all of which exist only in his drawings. As early as 1954, he had published a drawing of a seal impression with the hieroglyphic Luwian name of a king’s son, the writing and reading of which evidently came from himself. He used a large amount of information in the inscription drawings he left behind. In form they imitate the inscription of Yalburt, in content he combined the names of kings and countries known from Hittite sources with names of Sea Peoples (Pulasati, Luka, Sakarasa), later documented city names and also the fables attributed to Xanthos, whereby he equated Mopsos alias Moxos with the name Muksus (written Mu-uk-šu-uš) recorded in a Bronze Age Hittite text or the name Mu-ka-sa- recorded in the Iron Age hieroglyphic Luwian double inscription from Karatepe in Cilicia, as others had done long before him.

The provenance of Beyköy 2 is presented by Zangger and Woudhuizen with no footnotes as to its historicity, so I assume it to be part and parcel of Mellaart’s fabrication. It’s quite a yarn:¹⁰

In 1878, news arrived at the Department of Antiquities in Constantinople that peasants in the hamlet of Beyköy, about 34 kilometers north of Afyonkarahisar in western Turkey, had found a large number of stone blocks with hieroglyphic inscriptions resembling those from Hama. The government commissioned the French archaeologist Georges Perrot, who had visited and carefully documented the ruins in Boğazköy in 1862 and was visiting Turkey at that time, to travel to Beyköy to produce drawings of the stone inscriptions and, if possible, to even photograph them. […] The archaeologist was successful—he proceeded from Beyköy directly to Edremit to record the inscription that had been found there and was stored in a public park. Perrot returned with copies whose quality satisfied the requirements he had been set. Realizing the potential significance of the finds, the Turkish government then ordered the stones from Beyköy to be secured. But nothing happened. So, the Director of the Department of Antiquities ultimately went to Beyköy himself, only to find that the stones had already been built into the foundations of a new mosque.

After all this, Mellaart came by copies of Perrot’s drawings and had a translator sent by the Turkish government. These layers of obfuscation are a great way for Mellaart to deny it’s even his work—he’s just presenting it. I’m inescapably reminded of a similar metafictional device, Miguel de Cervantes’ narrative of how he came upon the second part of Don Quixote. He relates he encountered a boy selling pamphlets in Arabic, which he couldn’t read. He found a Morisco who could, and:¹¹

When I heard Dulcinea del Toboso named, I was struck with surprise and amazement, for it occurred to me at once that these pamphlets contained the history of Don Quixote. With this idea I pressed him to read the beginning, and doing so, turning the Arabic offhand into Castilian, he told me it meant, “History of Don Quixote of La Mancha, written by Cid Hamete Benengeli, an Arab historian.” It required great caution to hide the joy I felt when the title of the book reached my ears, and snatching it from the silk mercer, I bought all the papers and pamphlets from the boy for half a real; and if he had had his wits about him and had known how eager I was for them, he might have safely calculated on making more than six reals by the bargain. I withdrew at once with the Morisco into the cloister of the cathedral, and begged him to turn all these pamphlets that related to Don Quixote into the Castilian tongue, without omitting or adding anything to them, offering him whatever payment he pleased. He was satisfied with two arrobas of raisins and two bushels of wheat, and promised to translate them faithfully and with all despatch; but to make the matter easier, and not to let such a precious find out of my hands, I took him to my house, where in little more than a month and a half he translated the whole just as it is set down here.

Even if we squintingly accept the inscription’s origins, there are still issues. As noted by Schürr, one of the central elements of “proof” offered by Mellaart and Zangger is the connection of a prince called Mu-uk-šu-uš in the Hittite and Luwian inscriptions (Muksus, also seen as Mu-ku-susa and Mu-ka-sa) with the Ancient Greek (AG) Mόψος.¹²

Kupantakuruntas states that this maritime campaign to southeastern Anatolia and the Levant was conducted not by himself but by four great princes: Muksus, Kulanamuwas, Tuwatas, and Piyakuruntas. Of these, Muksus is the most prominent, as his name is singled out by the determinative of personal names and more sections are dedicated to him. Bearing a Phrygian type of name, he was seated in Apassawa or Apaisos on the Dardanelles. The memory of the conquest of Ashkelon by Muksus has been preserved in the legendary tales of Mopsos in Greek historical tradition.

In order for this to be the case, they cite another Woudhuizen work in their footnotes, stating:¹³

Muksus is of origin a Phrygian type name, cf. Linear B mo-qo-so “Mopsos”

Mόψος is indeed attested in Linear B as mo-qo-so. However, although a confessed amateur, I’d differ with this reading. As I’ve noted elsewhere, Linear B is a defective script for Mycenaean Greek (MG), so ⟨q-⟩ does the work of a few different consonants: /ɡʷ/, /kʷ/, and /kʷʰ/. So how can we tell which is meant? By back-forming from AG. When we see ⟨ψ⟩, we can confidently say it developed from MG /ɡʷ/, so the name there was likely Mogwos, but definitely not Muksus as Woudhuizen and Zangger would have it. Furthermore, in MG Moξος would have been Modjos and rendered as *mo-zo-so in Linear B, so that alternation doesn’t work either. And not only have they made this consonantal leap, but they’ve also seen fit to alter the vowels as well, where Linear B’s vowel store contains a perfectly serviceable set in ⟨-u⟩.

Again, I’d say the articles I write, while sometimes exploring pretty obscure realms, qualify only as popular history in that my object is to entertain rather than submit for peer review—although, I should note, I’m always happy to be set straight if I’ve gone astray. Even so, the Woozling involved in referring to your own work is something I instinctively steer away from. I’ve gone so far as to revisit an article of mine when I saw Wikipedia referenced it to find and cite my source. I have quoted my own articles, but where I’ve said something whose accuracy is not debatable and well and concisely put.

Schürr agrees with my linguistic conclusion, further stating:¹⁴

[…] Muksus could be connected to the Graeco-Lydian Moξος and Mukasa- on Karatepe, especially a ca. 740 BCE Phrygian example of Muksos in Gordion has been known since 2009, which noticeably changes the picture of name distribution. Because this mediates between Lydia and Cilicia, the name may have wandered across Anatolia in the Iron Age—instead of a Greek seer or a Lydian king in the dim past. Above all, the other evidence of the name Muksos, which dates from about the same time, suggests the Karatepe [inscription] actually reads [Muksa-].

What Zangger, Woudhuizen, and Mellaart are trying to do here is to establish a large and influential Greek presence in western Asia Minor prior to the LBAC. They are led to do so by Ancient Greek accounts, including those of Homer and Plato, and indeed others motivated by their own political interests, as ancient historian Robin Lane Fox notes:¹⁵

Later Greek writers place actual Greek settlements [in the Cilician plain] and even claim that mythical Greek heroes in the legendary past once founded the important towns. False claims to a Greek origin became notorious in the plain in later centuries, arising when non-Greeks wished to compete for status in the later Greek-speaking age.

It shouldn’t have surprised me to learn Zangger has a history of Atlanteanism. Though he seems to have backed away from it, it’s problematic in the same way as his and Woudhuizen’s paper. Both argue a European culture is responsible for technological advances among non-European ones because they couldn’t possibly be capable of such advances on their own.

Read previous articles in the Late Bronze Age Collapse series

Part 1: Apocalypse BCE

Part 2: Whither the Wanax?

Part 3: The Luwian Menace


  1. Jorge Luis Borges, “The Homeric Versions” (“Las versiones homéricas”), 1932, collected in English in On Writing, Suzanne Jill Levine, ed., 2010.
  2. Eberhard Zangger and Fred Woudhuizen, “Rediscovered Luwian Hieroglyphic Inscriptions from Western Asia Minor”, Talanta, December 2017.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Ibid.
  5. Eberhard Zangger, “James Mellaart: Pioneer… and Forger”, Popular Archaeology, October 2019.
  6. See Eberhard Zangger, The Flood from Heaven: Deciphering the Atlantis Legend, 1992, “Plato’s Atlantis Account—A Distorted Recollection of the Trojan War”, Oxford Journal of Archaeology, 1993, Ein neuer Kampf um Troia: Archäologie in der Krise (A New Battle for Troy: Archeology in Crisis), 1994.
  7. Thorwald C. Franke, “Eberhard Zangger: Atlantis = Troy: Atlantis brought down from heaven to earth”, Atlantis Scout, March 2017.
  8. Zangger, 2019.
  9. Diether Schürr, “Ein Königssohn, der Mops hieß (oder Mucks?): von Phantasie-Inschriften, antiken Fabeleien und Namenbelegen zwischen Pylos und Karatepe” (“A King’s Son Whose Name Was Mops (Or Mucks?): Of Fantasy Inscriptions, Ancient Fables and Names Between Pylos and Karatepe”), Gephyra, 2019. My mediocre translation.
  10. Zangger and Woudhuizen, 2017.
  11. Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Don Quixote, John Ormsby, trans., 2004.
  12. Zangger and Woudhuizen, 2017.
  13. Fred Woudhuizen, Documents in Minoan Luwian, Semitic, and Pelasgian, 2016, referenced in Zangger and Woudhuizen, 2017.
  14. Schürr, 2019.
  15. Robin Lane Fox, Travelling Heroes: In the Epic Age of Homer, 2009.

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