What did the Hittites look like remains a question many seeked answers to over the years. The Hittites were unmistakably Mongoloid in body type, as shown by their presence on Egyptian monuments and theirs.

They appear to have started in Mesopotamia’s northeast and pushed south into Palestine and west into Asia Minor. However, the loss of most of their ethnic identity in Palestine and the modification of their language and names over the years made tracing their origins a difficult task.

In this article, we examine who the Hittites are and what the Hittites look like.

Were the Hittites Black or White?

There are little to no certified sources to confirm if the ancient Hittite people were black or white. However, biblical accounts believe the Hittites are descendants of Heth, the second son of Cannan, the youngest son of Ham. Considering that Ham is believed to be the Father of the black race has made many suggest the Hittites were blacks.

However, other sources claim that they were a Caucasian people, thus they could have been white. Also, long-standing inter-marriages between the Egyptians and the Hittites suggest that they could be mixed as well.

What we know from the historical accounts and their representations in ancient art is that the Hittites were a group of people with small and stocky, prognathous, and receding brows.

Who Were the Hittites?

The Hittites were part of an ancient group known as the Anatolians, also known as the Indo-European people. They consisted of different tribes and existed as far back as 1900 BC.

Around this period, they occupied Central Anatolia and formed an empire at the Hattusa with the capital at Bogazkoy. The Hittites further expanded their empire to cover almost all of Anatolia and parts of Upper Mesopotamia and the northern Levant during the reign of Suppiluliuma I.

To develop weapons for their army, they initially used bronze, which was heavier and more complex when compared to iron, which later served as its replacement. However, the Hittites later developed an advanced technique to use meteorites rather than smelting iron to make their weapon during their rise.

Another factor that helped the Hittites’ advancement was their use of lightweight chariots. These chariots were swift and helpful in taking narrow paths and rough routes. These horses eased their movements, and they were able to travel long distances.

The History of the Hittites

The Hittites’ history is traced back to their ancestors, who were initially ancient Anatolian people. They came together to form an empire between 1600-1180 BC in a place known as Hattusa, in Anatolia.

The territory they occupied is what is today known as modern-day Turkey. Historians referred to them as Hittites because archaeological findings identified them with the Biblical kingdom of the same name.

History assumes the ancestors of the Hittites people came into Anatolia in 2000 BC.

With their arrival in Anatolia in the bronze age, the Hittites imposed themselves on the existing native culture found in the region.

They did this either by conquest (as with the Hattians) or gradual assimilation (as with the Hurrians). However, they also adapted to some of the existing cultures. The adoption of the Cuneiform script used by the Hattians was a testament to this.

The Hittite Kingdom peaked in the mid-1300s BC, with Mursili I succeeding the founding monarch. They gained economic and military might through their pioneering work in iron, expanding the Kingdom across Asia Minor, the northern Levant, and Upper Mesopotamia.

How Did the Hittite Government Look Like?

The king was the leader of the Hittites government. The heir-apparent, one of the king’s offspring, is born into the position of succeeding him.

However, several officials exercised independent authority over various government sectors, implying that the king did not have unchecked control over the realm. The officials include the chief of the royal bodyguards, the scribes (in charge of bureaucracy), the leader of the wine stewards, amongst others.

The Hittites developed the earliest known constitutional monarchy. The king was the supreme leader of the kingdom. He was also the commander of the military and a spiritual head in the form of a High Priest. He had two seats of power, one in Kadesh, the capital city located on the Orontes River, and another in Carchemish, Southern Anatolia.

A Hittite monarch always needed to demonstrate his value in military confrontations, even occasionally engaging in hand-to-hand combat with the enemy. Because the king needed to make such exploits, he received military training from an early age.

There are also tales of crown princes granted authentic leadership of battalions in adolescence. One example is crown prince Tudhaliya IV (reigned 1237–1209 BC), who led the army at age 14.

The Hittites used cylinder seals to sign papers and indicate property like several others throughout Mesopotamia. The government officials wrote in Akkadian script, using the Indo-European language.

What Was the Hittites’ Religion?

The Hittite religion and mythology got their influence from Hattic, Mesopotamian, and Hurrian religions and mythologies. However, Indo-European characteristics still exist from earlier times.

The Hittite pantheon featured many “storm gods.” For example, Tarhunt was “The Conqueror,” “King of Kummiya,” “King of Heaven,” and “Lord of Hatti’s Land.” He was the deity of combat and triumph, particularly against foreign forces, represented as a bearded man across two mountains and wielding a club.

The Hittites Culture

The Hittite culture was greatly influenced by the cultures they were close to or those they conquered during the military conquest. Two mighty nations impacted the Hittites.

The first is the Egyptians, their neighbours, and the second is the Hatti – a tribe conquered by the Hittites. The Hittite language was part of the Indo-European family, including today’s languages in the Americas, Europe, and Western and Southern Asia.

According to nineteenth-century archaeology, the Hittite people got their name from their first association with the Biblical Hittites. The Hittites are commonly thought to have lived among the Israelites. Although the Hittites culture flourished during the Bronze Age, beginning approximately 3000 BCE, they were forerunners of the Iron Age, beginning to produce iron objects around 1400 BCE.

This development is essential because the Hittites’ use of iron and steel resulted in more efficient tools and weaponry than bronze. There are several ideas as to how the Hittites developed this technique.

According to some academics, the Hittites experimented with metalworking for years before discovering a smelting method to melt iron at a greater temperature than other metals. They also likely picked up part of this technology from inhabitants in western Iran’s Zagros Mountains.

How Did the Hittites’ Civilization Develop Iron for Warfare?

The Hittites civilization is one of the first to use iron in weapons and armour, ushering in the Iron Age, characterized by its widespread use in warfare. In addition, the Hittites’ kingdom possessed iron mines near the Black Sea in the North. As a result, the Hittites were adept metallurgists or individuals who investigated the characteristics and composition of metals.

The Hittites found out how to harness the strength of iron and turn it into weapons and armors; they had first to smelt the ore, which meant turning it into liquid. They used charcoal instead of a wood fire to smelt it, which added carbon to the iron and made it even stronger. Then, after pouring the metal into flat sheets or shapes, they utilized a previously unknown process of softening the metal in the fire, then moulded it with a hammer.

The Hittites’ Advancement of the Chariot for Warfare

The Hittites advanced the use of chariots for warfare as one of their military revolutions. This advancement does not mean they invented it; instead, they redesigned them for efficiency and speed.

Chariots are two-wheeled vehicles driven by horses (though other animals were occasionally used) with a carriage area for troops to ride in while fighting, generally with bows or spears.

The Hittites modified this basic form by soaking the wood to make it malleable and bowing the riding chamber for more significant space.

Where Are Modern-day Hittites?

There is little to no record of modern-day Hittites. Around 1200 BC, the Bronze Age civilization of Central Anatolia (or Turkey), which we now call Hittite, vanished all of a sudden.

Despite many modern theories, we still can’t say in particular what happened to the Hittites. Still, many sources allude to their destruction due to the Battle of Kadesh, which mentioned that the Assyrians destroyed the capital city, and it remained deserted for hundreds of years.

Over the following centuries, several small independent nations emerged as Syro-Hittite states. They were formed from the ruins of the Hittite empire, preserving some of their ancestral traits and languages. However, they now exist with some of the new ethnic groupings in the area, primarily the Arameans.

Conclusion

Here’s a summary of essential features describing what the Hittites look like and who they were, as discussed in the article:

  • The Hittites had physical features similar to the Mongols; small and stocky, prognathous, receding brows, receding forehead, oblique eyes, protruding jaws and upper lip.
  • It is not known if the Hittites were black or white. Still, some sources other than Biblical ones believe their association with Turkey and intermarriages with Egypt could mean they were Caucasian.
  • The Hittites spoke Indo-European, and they developed their weapons themselves, transforming from bronze to iron.
  • The Hittites government was sustained through a system of primogeniture, where the first son succeeds the king.
  • The Hittites practiced a form of theocracy and also developed the earliest form of constitutional monarchy.
  • The Hittites were greatly influenced by the Egyptians, the Hattians, and other neighbouring tribes.
  • In warfare, the Hittites also developed the advanced use of chariots.
  • The Hittites empire did not survive the Battle of Kadesh and the onslaught of the Assyrians, which brought its decline and end.

We hope we caught your interest with this account of these mysterious people, who vanished from history yet left their mark on subsequent civilizations.

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