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Abstract

The Old Women are well-attested as religious functionaries in the Hittite texts. There is extensive evidence documenting their ritual and divinatory practice: they pacified deities, combated sorcery, cured illnesses, performed oracles, and protected the royal family from evils. Despite this, however, there has not yet been a study devoted to them. This dissertation aims to fill that gap: it is a comprehensive analysis of the Old Women as they appear in Hittite documents. The dissertation focuses first on the evidence of the earliest texts, which reveals that the Old Women were professionally supporting the Hittite king from the beginning of the kingdom, and that in this period they were already at home in the Hittite heartland of central Anatolia. The few attestations of the Old Women in the cult supports this point: they appear in official positions in all of the major central Anatolian cult cities. Next, the oracle texts are analyzed, demonstrating that the difficult and opaque KIN-oracles in fact use a coherent system of symbols, whose relationship with one another mirrors the Hittite relationship with the divine. The Old Women were called upon to communicate with the gods on behalf of the Hittite state, and the method they used was a microcosm of the issues they were attempting to resolve. They may also have functioned as advisors on their own merits. Finally, the ritual texts are addressed. The Old Women treated patients for various evils, whether they were caused by divine anger, contamination, sorcery, or other negative forces. A careful examination of the Old Women’s ritual method demonstrates that their primary technique was the concretization of evil into a physical form, such that it could be removed from a patient and destroyed. In addition, they brought positive divine attention to bear on the patient, and diverted negative attention. Overall, their ritual method can be seen to adhere to a coherent system of thought, which can also be seen in their oracle method. Both of these techniques were used in the employ and for the benefit of the Hittite royal family.

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