On October 7, 2017 archaeologists declared the decoding of a 3,200-year old stone slab describing the story of a Trojan prince with references to the mysterious Sea People.
The 95 feet (26 metre) long stone inscription talks of the ascent of the powerful kingdom of Mira and its martial campaigns, headed by prince Muksus of Troy. Written in Luwain, the inscription is illegible to all but the estimated 20 scholars in the world who can read the language. A copy of the inscription has been decoded by one such scholar, Fred Woudhuizen.
Woudhuizen, along with Eberhard Zangger, geoarchaeologist and president of the Luwain Studies Foundation plan to publish the findings based on the decoding of the inscription in the 2017 December issue of the journal proceedings of the Dutch Archeological and Historical Society.
“According to James Mellaart’s notes, this Luwian inscription was copied by the archaeologist Georges Perrot in 1878 at Beyköy in Turkey. The inscription dates back 3,200 years and discusses the rise of a kingdom called Mira and how it launched raids in targets across the Middle East, destroying the Hittite Empire, along with other kingdoms.” The original stone slab was soon afterwards, used by local villagers as building material for a mosque and Turkish officials had later searched the village to find two undeciphered bronze tablets, now missing.
The inscription being genuine would bring out of obscurity accounts of a group of people, often referred to, by modern scholars, as the Sea People who allegedly ravaged empires and civilizations across the Middle East. The Mira Empire might have been a part of this association, considering their known participation in similar military campaigns all over the region.
The inscription describes the reign of King Kupantakuruntas and his rule over the kingdom of Mira, situated in what is now western Turkey. Mira also controlled Troy, now located in Turkey and mentioned the Trojan prince Muksus heading a successful naval voyage against Ashkelon, situated in modern-day Israel where he erected a fortress.
The inscription goes on to discuss Kupantakuruntas’ rise to the throne of Mira after his father Mashuittas overthrew the Trojan king Walmus and only reinstated him as a puppet king in exchange for the loyalty of Troy to Mira. Crowned king after the death of Mashuittas, Kupantakuruntas took over, referring to himself as the guardian of Troy and appealing to his successors to “guard Wilusa [an ancient name for Troy] (like) the great king (of) Mira (did).” (translation by Woudhuizen)
The original aforementioned Luwain inscription was destroyed in the 19th century and hence no longer exists, although a copy of it was found among the famous British archaeologist James Mellaart’s possessions after his death in 2012. Mellaart has been credited with the discovery of several archaeological sites, the most famous of which is the gigantic settlement of 9,500 year old Catalhöyük in Turkey, believed by scholars to be the oldest city in the world.
Mellaart’s instructions were that if the inscription remained undeciphered till his death, other scholars must finish his work. Some scholars though, doubt the authenticity of the text and suspect it to be an elaborate forgery by Mellart himself or some other modern day archaeologist, since he had never published a scientific paper on it, except for a brief mention of the manuscript in a 1992 bulletin of the Anglo-Israel Archaeological Society journal.
Mellaart was the last surviving member of an archaeological group comprising of Albrecht Goetze, Bahadır Alkım, Handam Alkım, Edmund Irwin Gordon, Richard David Barnett and Hamit Zübeyir Koşay, who started working on Perrot’s copy of the manuscript in 1956, which one of the scholars, Bahadır Alkım copied and was followed by Mellaart himself, whose copy was finally found and decoded by the Swiss-Dutch team. His notes mention that the group was unable to publish their findings before the death of most of his team.
The Swiss-Dutch team found out that although Mellaart had spent a considerable time of his life trying to decode the inscriptions in his possession, he had originally been taken on the team for his expansive knowledge of the landscape of western Turkey and he couldn’t read the ancient language like the rest of his now deceased teammates.