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The Anatolians were a group of distinct Indo-European peoples who spoke the Anatolian languages and shared a common culture. The Anatolian languages were a branch of the larger family of Indo-European languages.
The archaeological discovery and eventual deciphering of the Hittites' written (cuneiform) archives – establishing the fact that the Hittite language belonged to a separate Anatolian branch of the Indo-European language family – caused a sensation among historians and forced a re-evaluation of Near Eastern history and Indo-European linguistics. In accordance with the Kurgan hypothesis, J. P. Mallory notes in Encyclopedia of Indo-European Culture that it is likely that the Anatolians reached the Near East from the north, either via the Balkans or the Caucasus in the 3rd millennium BC. Together with the Tokharians, the Anatolians constituted the first known wave of Indo-Euoropeans emigrants out of the Eurasian steppe. Although they had wagons, they probably emigrated before Indo-Europeans had learned to use chariots for war. It is likely that their arrival was one of gradual settlement and not as an invading army. The Anatolians' earliest linguistic and historical attestation are as names mentioned in Assyrian mercantile texts from 19th Century BC Kanesh.
The Hittites, who established an extensive empire in the Middle East in the 2nd millennium BC, are by far the best known members of the Anatolian group. Following the Bronze Age collapse, the lands of the Anatolian peoples were invaded with great frequency by a number of peoples and empires: the Phrygians, Bithynians, the Medes, the Persians, the Greeks, the Galatian Celts, Romans, and the Oghuz Turks. Many of these invaders settled in Anatolia, in some cases causing the extinction of the Anatolian languages. By the Middle Ages, all the Anatolian languages (and the cultures accompanying them) were extinct, although there may be lingering influences on the modern inhabitants of Anatolia, most notably Armenians and Kurdish.
List of Anatolian peoples
- Sea peoples
- Indo-Aryan superstrate in Mitanni
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