Hieroglyphic Luwian
Hieroglyphic Luwian is a variant of the Luwian language
Luwian language
Luwian is an extinct language of the Anatolian branch of the Indo-European language family. Luwian is closely related to Hittite, and was among the languages spoken during the second and first millennia BC by population groups in central and western Anatolia and northern Syria...

, recorded in official and royal seals
Seal (device)
A seal can be a figure impressed in wax, clay, or some other medium, or embossed on paper, with the purpose of authenticating a document ; but the term can also mean the device for making such impressions, being essentially a mould with the mirror image of the design carved in sunken- relief or...

 and a small number of monumental inscriptions. It is written in a hieroglyphic script known as Anatolian hieroglyphs
Anatolian hieroglyphs
Anatolian hieroglyphs are an indigenous logographic script native to central Anatolia, consisting of some 500 signs. They were once commonly known as Hittite hieroglyphs, but the language they encode proved to be Luwian, not Hittite, and the term Luwian hieroglyphs is used in English publications...

A decipherment was presented by Emmanuel Laroche
Emmanuel Laroche
Emmanuel Laroche was an expert of ancient Anatolian languages . He was professor of Anatolian studies at the Collège de France, 1973–1985.-Works:*Dictionnaire de la langue louvite, 1959...

 in 1960, building on partial decipherments proposed since the 1930s.
Corrections to the readings of certain signs as well as other clarifications were given by David Hawkins, Anna Morpurgo Davies and Günther Neumann in 1973, generally referred to as "the new readings".


The earliest hieroglyphs appear on official and royal seals, dating from the early 2nd millennium BC
2nd millennium BC
The 2nd millennium BC marks the transition from the Middle to the Late Bronze Age.Its first half is dominated by the Middle Kingdom of Egypt and Babylonia. The alphabet develops. Indo-Iranian migration onto the Iranian plateau and onto the Indian subcontinent propagates the use of the chariot...

, but they begin to function as a full-fledged writing system only from the 14th century
14th century BC
The 14th century BC is a century which lasted from the year 1400 BC until 1301 BC.-Events:* 1397 BC: Pandion I, legendary King of Athens, dies after a reign of 40 years and is succeeded by his son Erechtheus II of Athens....

. The first monumental inscriptions confirmed as Luwian date to the Late Bronze Age, ca. 14th to 13th centuries BC. And after some two centuries of sparse material the hieroglyphs resume in the Early Iron Age
Iron Age
The Iron Age is the archaeological period generally occurring after the Bronze Age, marked by the prevalent use of iron. The early period of the age is characterized by the widespread use of iron or steel. The adoption of such material coincided with other changes in society, including differing...

, ca. 10th to 8th centuries. In the early 7th century, the Luwian hieroglyphic script, by then aged more than 700 years, falls into oblivion.


A more elaborate monumental style is distinguished from more abstract linear or cursive forms of the script. In general, relief inscriptions prefer monumental forms, and incised ones prefer the linear form, but the styles are in principle interchangeable. Texts of several lines are usually written in boustrophedon
Boustrophedon , is a type of bi-directional text, mostly seen in ancient manuscripts and other inscriptions. Every other line of writing is flipped or reversed, with reversed letters. Rather than going left-to-right as in modern English, or right-to-left as in Arabic and Hebrew, alternate lines in...

 style. Within a line, signs are usually written in vertical columns, but as in Egyptian hieroglyphs
Egyptian hieroglyphs
Egyptian hieroglyphs were a formal writing system used by the ancient Egyptians that combined logographic and alphabetic elements. Egyptians used cursive hieroglyphs for religious literature on papyrus and wood...

, aesthetic considerations take precedence over correct reading order.

The script consists of the order of 500 unique signs, some with multiple values; a given sign may function as a logogram, a determinative or a syllabogram, or a combination thereof. The signs are numbered according to Laroche's sign list, with a prefix of 'L.' or '*'. Logograms are transcribed in Latin in capital letters. For example, *90, an image of a foot, is transcribed as PES when used logographically, and with its phonemic value ti when used as a syllabogram. In the rare cases where the logogram cannot be transliterated into Latin, it is rendered through its approximate Hittite equivalent, recorded in Italic capitals, e.g. *216 ARHA. The most up-to-date sign list is that of Marazzi (1998).

Hawkins, Morpurgo-Davies and Neumann corrected some previous errors about sign values, in particular emending the reading of symbols *376 and *377 from i, ī to zi, za.

Roster of CV syllabograms:
-a -i -u
- *450, *19 *209 *105
h- *215, *196 *413 *307
k- *434 *446 *423
l- *176 *278 *445
m- *110 *391 *107
n- *35 *411, *214 *153, *395
p- *334 *66 *328
r- *383 *412
s- *415 *433, *104, *402, *327 - -
t- *100, *29, *41, *319, *172 *90 *89, *325
w- *439 -
y- *210 - -
z- *377 *376 *432(?)

Some signs are used as reading aid, marking the beginning of a word, the end of a word, or identifying a sign as a logogram. These are not mandatory and are used inconsistently.


The script represents three vowels a, i, u and twelve consonants, h, k, l, m, n, p, r, s, t, w, y, z. Syllabograms have the structure V or CV, and more rarely CVCV. *383 ra/i, *439 wa/i and *445 la/i/u show multiple vocalization. Some syllabograms are homophonic, disambiguated with numbers in transliteration (as in cuneiform transliteration), notably, there are many (more than six) syllabograms each for phonemic /sa/ and /ta/.

There is a tendency of rhotacism
Rhotacism refers to several phenomena related to the usage of the consonant r :*the excessive or idiosyncratic use of the r;...

, replacing intervocalic d with r. Word-final stops and in some cases word-initial a- are elided. Suffixes -iya- and -uwa- may be syncopated to -i-, -u-.


Case endings:
singular plural
Nom. c. -s -inzi
Acc. c. -(a)n
Nom./Acc. n. -n, - -a(ya)
Gen. -as(i)
Dat. -i(ya), -a(n) -anza
Abl. -ati -ati

Personal pronouns:
1. sg. 2. sg. 1. pl. 2. pl.
Nom. amu, EGO ti anunz(a) unzunz(a), unzuns(a)
Dat. amu tu
Acc. amu tu
Abl. tuwati(?) unzati(?)

Verbal endings:
present indicative preterite indicative
active med.-pass. active med.-pass.
1. sg. wi -ha
2. -si
3. -ti/-ri -ati/-ari -ta
1. pl.
2. -tani -tan


  • Forrer, Emil
    Emil Forrer
    Emil Orcitirix Gustav Forrer was a Swiss Assyriologist and Hittitologist....

    . 1932. Die hethitische Bilderschrift, SAOC 3. Chicago.
  • Hawkins, J. D. 2000. Corpus of Hieroglyphic Luwian.
  • Laroche, Emil. 1960. Les hiéroglyphes hittites, Première partie, L'écriture. Paris.
  • Marazzi, M. 1998. Il Geroglifico Anatolico, Sviluppi della ricerca a venti anni dalla "ridecifrazione". Naples.
  • Melchert, H. Craig. 1996. "Anatolian Hieroglyphs", in The World's Writing Systems, ed. Peter T. Daniels and William Bright. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-507993-0
  • Melchert, H. Craig. 2004. "Luvian", in The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the World's Ancient Languages, ed. Roger D. Woodard. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-56256-2
  • Payne, A. 2004. Hieroglyphic Luwian, Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz.
  • Plöchl, R. 2003. Einführung ins Hieroglyphen-Luwische. Dresden.
  • Woudhuizen, F. C. 2004. Luwian Hieroglyphic Monumental Rock and Stone Inscriptions from the Hittite Empire Period. Innsbruck. ISBN 3-85124-209-2.
  • Woudhuizen, F. C. 2004. Selected Hieroglyphic Texts. Innsbruck. ISBN 3-85124-213-0.
  • Yakubovich, Ilya. 2010. Sociolinguistics of the Luvian Language. Leiden
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