Hans Gustav Güterbock (1908-2000)


Hans Gustav Güterbock was born, May 27, 1908, as son “des Privatgelehrten Dr. Bruno Güterbock” as he himself once phrased it, and the author Grethe Auer. He was practically born into the field of ancient Near Eastern studies because for 35 years his father was the secretary of the Deutsche Orient Gesellschaft until 1936 (see E. von Schuler, Mitteilungen der Deutschen Orient Gesellschaft 100 [1968] 10-13). After the study of Oriental Philology at the universities of Berlin, Leipzig, Marburg and again Leipzig in the years 1926-1932, Hans Güterbock defended his Leipzig dissertation in the beginning of 1933. In one of his later articles, “Hans Ehelolf und das Berliner Boghazköy-Archiv”, published in Das Altertum, 33 (1987) 114-120, he wrote that he attended Ehelolf’s lectures after the latter had accepted a teaching position at the University of Berlin in 1927. Already at the age of 22, while still a student, he published his first volume of Hittite cuneiform texts in the series Keilschrifturkunden aus Boghazköi (KUB XXV, Berlin 1930). It contained so-called “festival texts” and consisted of those cuneiform tablets which had been discovered during the German excavations before the First World War, and had been temporarily brought to Berlin. His dissertation, “Die historische Tradition und ihre literarische Gestaltung bei Babyloniern und Hethitern bis 1200” soon followed and was accepted on 28 February 1933. It was accepted for publication in the Zeitschrift für Assyriologie 42 (1934) 1-91, and 44 (1938) 45-149. In those same early years he took part as the epigrapher in the renewed (1931) excavations at Hattusa, under the leadership of Kurt Bittel. The latter met the young Güterbock for the first time in the library of the German Institute in Istanbul (Konstantinopel) and immediately sensed that “hier ein Mitarbeiter gewonnen sei, dem man mit vollem Vertrauen und ohne irgendwelche Rückhalte entgegen kommen könnte” (K. Bittel, Reisen und Ausgrabungen in Ägypten, Kleinasien, Bulgarien und Griechenland 1930-1934, Mainz-Stuttgart 1998, 384). In 1934 Güterbock published his second volume in the KUB series, XXVIII, devoted to Hattian texts. The changing political situation in Germany, however, made his position increasingly difficult until he was forced to leave and sought refuge in Turkey where he became the first professor of Hittitology at the newly founded university of Ankara (1936).

In his Turkish years Professor Güterbock became engaged in the housing of the renowned Museum of Anatolian Civilizations in Ankara in a former Bedestan and Caravanserai, dating to the late 15th century AD. Together with his former Professor of Assyriology, Benno Landsberger, whom he would later join in Chicago, he not merely taught their Turkish students their respective fields of study, but also the copying of cuneiform texts. As a result of this Muazzez Çıǧ, Hatice Kızılyay (Bozkurt) and Kemal Balkan published under his supervision the volumes I-III of the IBoT series (İstanbul Arkeoloji Müzelerinde Bulunan Boǧazköy Tabletleri) and the single ABoT (Ankara Arkeoloji Müzelerinde Bulunan Boǧazköy Tabletleri) volume between 1944 and 1954. Although Güterbock had been forced to bring his activities as the epigrapher of the German excavations at Boǧazköy to an end, he concentrated his own research on the publication of bullae unearthed in the excavations since 1933, but especially in the campaign of 1936. He did so at the urgent request of his personal friend and chief excavator Kurt Bittel. These bullae are lumps of clay bearing the impressions of royal names as well as those of high court officials, important civil servants and the higher ranks of the army. Through his meticulous editorial work Hans Güterbock was able to bridge the gap between the 2nd millennium hieroglyphic signs, occupying the centres of the bullae (in contrast to the cuneiform outer ring(s) of royal seals) and the signs occurring on 1st millennium inscriptions and seals in hieroglyphic script. In doing so he also laid the foundations for his own later research on 2nd millennium hieroglyphic monuments (for instance, Yazılıkaya, the rock sanctuary near the capital), seals and seal impressions during consecutive decades of his long career. In the process he also defined the first reliable corpus of early Empire texts. The Assyriologist Ernst Weidner, approached by Bittel, published the two volumes in 1940 and 1942 as Beihefte 5 and 7 of the scholarly journal Archiv für Orientforschung, both of which Weidner financed from his own personal funds. Beiheft 5 was dedicated by Güterbock to the memory of his father, Bruno Gustav Güterbock (1858-1940), who had recently died.

In the decade between 1940-1950 Güterbock directed his research towards the Hittite versions of the Hurrian myths, which had earlier been studied by Emil Forrer. He also devoted a first article to the Bildbeschreibungen, and the so-called Cult Reorganization, a subject to which he would later return in the sixties, mid-seventies and early eighties. Partly after and partly concurrently with his Turkish monographs on the Kumarbi Cycle, Güterbock made his work known to the Western scholarly world in volume 16 of the series Istanbuler Schriften: Kumarbi. Mythen vom churritischen Kronos aus den hethitischen Fragmenten zusammengestellt, übersetzt und erklärt (Europaverlag, Zürich-New York, 1946). An English summary of the main points followed in his renowned article “The Hittite version of the Hurrian Kumarbi Myths: Oriental Forerunners of Hesiod” in the American Journal of Archaeology 52 (1948) 123-134. With his equally famous “The Song of Ulikummi. Revised Text of the Hittite Version of a Hurrian Myth” in the Journal of Cuneiform Studies 5 (1951), 135-161 and 6 (1952), 8-42, he published a book-length edition of best preserved part of this cycle. Güterbock's reputation as not only an historian of religions, but also as a historian of literature, was by now firmly established. By this time he had found a permanent home at the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago. In 1948 he had had to give up his position in Ankara and gone to Sweden where in Uppsala he spent one academic year as a guest lecturer. Later both the university of Uppsala (1978) and the university of Ankara (1997) offered him honorary degrees.

In 1952 Kurt Bittel resumed the German excavations in the Hittite capital for a second time, inviting Güterbock to take up again his work as an epigrapher, collaborating with Heinrich Otten, as he had already done in 1936. It was during this campaign that what is now known as KBo 7.14 (+) was retrieved from a deep and thus old layer on the citadel. Being a piece belonging to an early Old Hittite historical composition and having been found in a dated level, it showed a characteristic type of cuneiform handwriting. In the end, after other tablets, found in later levels, had been recognized as showing the same characteristic sign forms and other features, these highly important conclusions led to the recognition of what is now known as the “(typical) old ductus” or “old script.” This discovery by Güterbock and Otten proved to be a revolution in the field of Hittitology. It had consequences for history and linguistics alike that are still felt today and its importance can hardly be overstated.

In 1956 Güterbock returned to the subject of the second part of his dissertation: again, in installments he treated the single long historical text, which had not yet been published in an annotated text edition with a translation: “The Deeds of Suppiluliumas as told by his son, Mursili II” in the Journal of Cuneiform Studies 10 (1956), 41-50, 59-68, 75-85, 90-98 and 107-130, was yet another monograph in disguise. With this Hans Güterbock proved himself to be one of the most outstanding Hittitologists and philologists of his generation, the second in the genealogy of Hittite studies.

During the sixties and seventies Güterbock collaborated with Heinrich Otten on the revived KBo (Keilschrifttexte aus Boghazköi) series of text copies. While volumes 10 (1960), 11 (1961), and 16 (1968) were joint undertakings, volumes 14 (1963) and 18 (1971) have his name only on the cover and title page. Volume 26 (1978), devoted to lexical lists, myths and cult-inventories, was presented to the scholarly world by Güterbock and the late Charles W. Carter, the first American Hittitologist trained by him. In 1962 Carter had published an excellent dissertation on the subject of the Hittite cult inventories.

From 1975 onwards Güterbock with his successor Harry A. Hoffner, who had come from Yale to Chicago in 1974, led the Hittite Dictionary of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, better known as the Chicago Hittite Dictionary or CHD. With grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities Güterbock and Hoffner hired a group of research associates and started completing their lexical files. In 1979 the first fascicle appeared. Because just a few years earlier Annelies Kammenhuber had started her Munich-based Hethitisches Wörterbuch with the letter A, Güterbock and Hoffner felt it would not be opportune to start at the beginning of the Hittite alphabet as well and so the decision was made to begin in the middle. Since then the letters L, M, N, P and three-fourths of the S have been covered.

In spite of this huge undertaking, Güterbock’s unflagging interest in Hieroglyphic Luwian second millennium texts, seals and bullae remained undiminished. A number of important contributions to the various excavation reports and numerous publications elsewhere bear witness to the fact that he was an outstanding expert on both writing systems employed by the Hittites. His chapters “Die Inschriften” and “Einschlägige Textstellen” in the monumental edition of the rock sanctuary Yazılıkaya (Berlin 1975) edited by Kurt Bittel and his later French monograph Les hiéroglyphes de Yazılıkaya from 1982 are milestones in the interpretation of this major Hittite site. Güterbock’s numerous contributions to the Comptes Rendus of the Rencontres Assyriologiques Internationales of these years should be mentioned here as well, especially the continuous series in the volumes XVII-XX during the years 1969-1972.

Another milestone was Güterbock’s role in the renewal during the eighties of the famous Ahhiyawa debate.This renovation started with the papers presented by Güterbock and Machteld Mellink at the general meeting of the American Institute for Archaeology in December 1981, later published in the American Journal of Archaeology 87 (1983) 133-138 and 138-141. Güterbock’s contribution broke the spell of infallibility of all of Ferdinand Sommer’s interpretations and translations in the latter’s monumental work Die Aḫḫiyavā-Urkunden of 1932. One might now disagree and try out new approaches to the textual data. Not only did he come with new proposals himself but, in his turn, he also reacted to the articles written by other, inevitably - with the exception of Fritz Schachermeyer - all of them younger Hittitologists or specialists in different fields.

The later eighties and nineties are partly characterized by a return to older topics among which the Ahhiyawa question just mentioned (“Wer war Tawagalawa” in the Gedenkschrift for Einar von Schuler published in Orientalia 59 [1990] 157-165, “A new look at one Ahhiyawa text” in the Festschrift for Sedat Alp [Ankara 1992] 235-243), and iconography and Hieroglyphic Luwian studies (“Hittite kursa ‘Hunting bag’” in the Festschrift for Helene Kantor, SAOC No. 47, 113-119 w. Pls. 16-19 [Chicago 1989], “Sungod or King?” in the Festschrift for Nimet Özgüç 225-226 [Ankara 1993], “Gedanken über ein hethitisches Königssiegel aus Boghazköy” in Istanbuler Mitteilungen 43 [1993 = Festschrift for Peter Neve] 113-116 with Tafel 8, “A Hittite Silver Vessel in the Form of a Fist” with Timothy Kendall, in the Festschrift for Emily Vermeule [Austin 1995] 45-60 and “Notes on Some Luwian Hieroglyphs” in the Studies in Honor of Calvert Watkins [Innsbruck 1998]).

The return to an older topic also concerned the fulfilling of what had become an almost career-long assignment by his teacher Hans Ehelolf in 1933: the edition of The Hittite Instruction for the Royal Bodyguard. Following Ehelolf’s instructions, Güterbock had copied this long and difficult text in 1934 in Istanbul which was published ten years later as no. 36 in the first volume of hand copies of Hittite texts in the Istanbul Museum, IBoT 1. Over the years he worked on an edition of this important document and made it the topic of seminars in the United States, in Munich and Jerusalem. Several circumstances, however, prevented its publication until he was able to finish his edition with the assistance of Theo van den Hout in 1991 (Assyriological Studies No. 24, Chicago).

Besides these older topics he showed his unrelenting and wide interest, which is so characteristic of his work, in articles on divination (“Hittite Liver Models” in AOS 67 = Festschrift for Erica Reiner [New Haven 1987] 147-153, “Bilingual Moon Omens From Boghazkoy” in the Sachs Memorial [Philadelphia 1988] 161-173), on the tablet collection found in Building A (fulfilling a request of Kurt Bittel, “Bemerkungen über die im Gebäude A auf Büyükkale gefundenen Tontafeln” in Archiv für Orientforschung 38-39 [1991-1992] 132-137), on the word for “woman” (“Ist das hethitische Wort für ‘Frau’ gefunden?” in Historische Sprachforschung 105 [1992] 1-3), on Hittite music (“Reflections on the Musical Instruments arkammi, galgalturi, and ḫuḫupal in Hittite” in the Festschrift for Philo Houwink ten Cate [Leiden 1995], 57-72), on seals (“Observations on the Tarsus Seal of Puduḫepa, Queen of Hatti” in Journal of the American Oriental Society 117 [1997] 143-144), and on Hittite cult (“To Drink a God”, in the Proceedings of the 34th Rencontre Assyriologique Internationale in Istanbul of 1987 but published in 1998, 121-129) as well as in an almost fatherly rebuke entitled “Marginal Notes on Recent Hittitological Publications” (in Journal of Near Eastern Studies 48 [1989] 307-311).

Having been in the field from almost the beginning, Hans Güterbock also provided his colleagues in these years with several invaluable contributions to the history of Hittitology and Anatolian studies. His articles on “Hans Ehelolf und das Berliner Boghazkoy-Archiv” in Das Altertum 33 (1987) 114-120, “Erinnerungen an das alte Boghazköy-Archiv und die Landschenkungsurkunde VAT 7436” in Altorientalische Forschungen 24 (1997) 25-30, tell of his early years in Berlin. “A Visit to Karatepe” in Studies presented to Halet Çambel (Light on Top of Black Hill, Ege Yayınları, İstanbul 1998, 365-370) is based on travel notes to Karatepe in October 1947. A wider canvass was chosen for “Resurrecting the Hittites” (in Jack Sasson et al., Civilizations of the Ancient Near East (New York 1995) 2765-2777). His entry “Boǧazköy” in The Oxford Encyclopedia of Archaeology in the Near East (ed. E. Myers, New York-Oxford 1997, 333-335) may also be mentioned in this context.

Many of his later works were written with his eye sight increasingly failing him and his becoming more and more dependent on others, especially his wife and life-long companion Frances, for checking his unbelievable memory and command of all aspects of ancient Near Eastern studies. His probably last article entitled “Bull Jumping in a Hittite Text?” appeared posthumously in the honorary volume for his collega proximus, Harry Hoffner (Chicago 2003, 127-129), proposing a new restoration in a text that he had himself copied in his very first publication in 1930, KUB 25, thus coming full circle in a publishing career that spanned 73 years.

Two honorary volumes were dedicated to Hans Güterbock on the occasion of his 65th and 75th birthday, both containing a full bibliography of his writings and thus bearing witness to his most impressive width of erudition. A third honorary doctorate (after the ones from Uppsala and Ankara) was awarded to him in the 1990’s by the Freie Universität of Berlin. A monument of a different kind was erected in 1997 by H.A. Hoffner and Irving L. Diamond with “Perspectives on Hittite Civilization: Selected Writings of Hans Gustav Güterbock” (Assyriological Studies 26 (Chicago 1997)): once more it was clear that there is practically no aspect of Hittite culture which at one time or another he had not dealt with in his usual authoritative and highly original manner. Finally, the proceedings of a special session dedicated to Anatolian archaeology at the American Oriental Society Meeting held in 1997 in Miami, Florida, that he himself had attended, were published as Papers in Memory of Hans G. Güterbock (Recent Developments in Hittite Archaeology and History, K. A. Yener et al. (eds.), Winona Lake 2002).

Theo van den Hout