‘Whoever Breaks This Will Die’

by Pelican Press
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‘Whoever Breaks This Will Die’

Archaeologists discovered a royal seal from the ancient Hittite Empire that warns of death if a contract is broken.

Contracts during this time often had consequences if broken, but death as a penalty was not typically on the table.

The seal was found in the Büklükale ruins near Ankara, capital of present-day Turkey.

Contracts in ancient Turkey came with clearly spelled out punishments if broken, so one would know what they’re getting themselves into. Archaeologists recently found a seal promising a severe penalty: “Whoever breaks this will die.”

Whatever contract came sealed with this inscription—which can be traced to Hittite Empire royalty in the second millennium BC—must have been quite serious. This wasn’t a negotiation to be trifled with.

The find, according to Arkeo News, comes from the Büklükale ruins near the Kizilirmak River about 60 miles outside of Ankara, the capital of present-day Turkey. The excavation site has been well-known for over a decade, sitting at a location where the country’s longest river once served as a pivotal transportation link for trade.

The seal’s intense inscription was written in an ancient Middle Eastern logosyllabic writing system, according to experts. Because ancient Hittite laws typically assigned punishments of fines, not death, for breaking contracts, the team of archaeologists led by Kimiyoshi Matsumura of the Japanese Institute of Anatolian Archaeology were surprised by the discovery. The recent find also unearthed a different terracotta seal, this one in fragments. Experts hope to discover the meaning of the motifs on that seal with closer examination.

To add another layer of gravity to the intact seal—not that the punishment isn’t enough to take this contract language seriously—Matsumura, according to Anatolian Archaeology, says the seal is from a royal family, either the sovereign king or queen of the day.

“These seals were usually stamped on contracts,” Matsumura says, “stating that if something was done against the contract, it would be penalized. The king and queen from Hattusa sent something here. This shows that this city was in intensive relations between Hattusa and the royal family.”

This isn’t Matsumura’s first find in the area. He recently discovered a tablet that discussed civil war in the area and the role of various cities during wartime. The language style from the tablet matched the one found on the seal.

“Hurrian tablets have recently been found in Büklükale,” Matsumura says according to a translation of TGRT Haber. “The discovery of Hurrian tablets shows that religious ceremonies were held here. It is known that these ceremonies were performed by the Hittite royal family, king, or queen. In that respect, it is also thought that the Hittite king came here or resided here.”

The growing body of evidence linking the area to the royal family continues to mount, and experts now believe that Büklükale may have served as a royal residence during the Bronze Age empire. “All these (finds) show that Büklükale is an important city in the Hittite Empire,” Matsumura says.

And such a crucial city clearly requires crucial contract security.

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