HITTITE DEAF MEN IN THE 13th CENTURY BC: introductory notes with annotated bibliography

The article introduces bibliographical evidence on deaf men working in palaces and temples of the Hittite Kingdom in Anatolia (now Turkey) during the 13th century BC, with further notes on signing and deaf people's activities in the ancient and medieval Middle East. With some additions and revision September 2009. Internet publication URLs: www.independentliving.org/docs7/miles200809.html and www.independentliving.org/files/miles200809.pdf.


En français (PDF, 637 KB, source: http://cis.gouv.fr/spip.php?article3794)

M. Miles, West Midlands, UK.
1.1 The following references and annotations are collected to facilitate the emergence of Hittite Deaf people, from archaeological sites of Anatolia in the 13th Century BC into the modern literature of Deaf History. The present work is tentative, and welcomes critical comment and corrections. The study is reaching a critical stage of development, as it becomes clear that there were not merely isolated references to a 'deaf man' in the remains of the Hittite royal palaces and temples around the modern village of Boghaskoy in central Turkey. There are several distinct references to a 'chief deaf man' or 'supervisor of deaf men'. The obvious inference is that deaf men were working as an organised group, with various roles and duties allocated to them. How did they communicate with one another? Deaf people now, and linguistic researchers, will not be slow to supply an answer. Yet the scholars of Hittitology, studying cuneiform script on thousands of clay tablets, have not published anything that looks like a reference to Deaf people's formal Sign Language. However, there is evidence of ordinary gestures and physical signals in use by hearing people in the Hittite palaces and temples, of which a few examples are collected below in section 4.0 'Sampling Hittite Signs and Signals'. That kind of communication seems to have been acceptable and familiar among the hearing people with whom the deaf men had daily contact.
1.2 Work on Hittite languages has been developing for more than a century, with increasing speed and depth as modern information technology facilitates scholarly communication, fragmentary sources are more reliably pieced together, and evidence-based dictionary volumes are accumulating. Nevertheless, considerable difficulties remain to be resolved, in discovering the range of meanings in many Hittite words, and more precise meaning in any specific text. The meaning of the key Sumerogram, represented as U.HUB in Hittite texts, was disputed for about 40 years. Jestin (1937) found it obvious that a 'deaf man' would not suddenly appear in the middle of an important religious ceremony -- what on earth would he be doing there? Yet since the 1980s, the consensus of scholarly opinion has been that the term does mean 'deaf', and it appears in combinations meaning 'deaf man', 'deaf men', 'chief deaf man' or 'supervisor of deaf men', even occasionally 'deaf woman'. However, in the absence of a 'Deaf History' perspective, i.e. a knowledge of other ancient or medieval times and places where deaf people played roles in ceremonies, and may have been thought of as omens of 'good luck', the scholars of ancient Hittite literature continue to sound slightly puzzled -- why do these deaf men pop up in the royal palaces and temples, in the 13th century BC, taking some ordinary, domestic servant roles, and also playing a part in religious ceremonies? What is the significance, if any, of their deafness? Why were they mentioned at all? Why is the Sumerian term applied to them, when there is another Hittite word meaning 'deaf'?
1.3 These questions do not, as yet, have firmly assured answers. In 1982, Pecchioli Daddi (q.v.) listed the (then) known occurrences (and duplicates) of U.HUB and its compounds (using Italian). The first serious examination of the relevant texts, by Yasemin Arikan Soysal (q.v.), appeared in 2001, in a detailed, scholarly article in Turkish, with transliterated Hittite text, in a conference proceedings with a German title, having low circulation in the anglophone world. The present collection gives a brief tour of the specific Hittite evidence available mainly in English and German, and adds a Deaf History viewpoint and some broader Middle Eastern context, moving toward some possible explanations. It is published on the web, because the great majority of people interested in Deaf History have no access to journals or conference proceedings of academic Hittite studies and Assyriology, nor to most of the 20 languages used in those journals. (Work on Hittite literature in the past century has appeared mostly in German, with English and Turkish also making an increasing contribution. German scholars started early in Hittite studies, and took to the field with characteristic seriousness, finding funds to publish their work in great detail and with elaborate apparatus and indexing, to the great benefit of later scholars).
1.4 The present 'work in progress' bibliography has drawn upon contributions from scholars in many disciplines, in none of which the present compiler is specialised or even knowledgeable. Some technical faults are acknowledged below, i.e. the absence of some diacriticals or symbols, for technical reasons. Other faults may be discovered by experts from different sides, e.g. in some of the speculative interpretations enclosed in square brackets in some of the annotations below. However, the picture of deaf people's activities that begins to emerge from the combined scholarly work is one of the earliest that has been discovered so far, in the world's Deaf History. Most of the evidence, being inscribed on clay tablets, is unusually durable, apparently original, and capable of fairly close dating. At least, it compares rather well with the more familiar position when seeking historical primary sources, where for example, a single, mutilated, 15th century manuscript may exist, that includes probably a late copy of a weak 10th century translation of a lost 4th century document in an obscure language and script, of which a few fragments are quoted in one or two places, having fleeting mention of a 'dumb' person who may have lived two or three centuries earlier in an unknown location. The Hittite Deaf look comparatively solid, and may have a lot more to say to us, as more cuneiform imprinted tablets are being discovered each year, and more scattered fragments are reunited, interpretative work becomes more accurate, and Hittite lexicography gathers pace.
1.5 One of the most remarkable points about the early Hittite Deaf is their appearance in Anatolia, several hundred miles from Constantinople (Byzantium, Istanbul), capital of the Ottoman Empire, and about 110 miles east of Ankara. Evidence of deaf people's sign language exists from the late 15th century CE at Istanbul, and accumulates steadily through 500 years to the present, giving the longest continuous history, so far discovered, of any sign language (www.independentliving.org/Miles200907.html). There is a gap of perhaps 2,700 years between the deaf servants in the Hittite palaces and temples, and the deaf servants at the Ottoman court, with modest fragments of regional evidence scattered across that gap. Could it be mere coincidence, that the earliest solidly established 'sign language community' history, should appear around 1500 CE, a few hundred miles from the earliest evidence-based group of deaf people, 2,700 years earlier? Modern Turkish Deaf people will certainly want to throw a bridge back in time, across that gap, and find a continuous history of deaf 'ancestors' stretching back to the antiquity of their homeland. Professional historians are likely to be more cautious, and will wish to find solid evidence before putting too much weight on any bridge; yet the possibility is worth keeping in mind.
1.6 To facilitate the 'bridging' work, further materials appear in section 5.0 "Deaf People in the Middle East, 23rd Century BC to 1400", having possible relevance to the Hittite Deaf. There was clearly a good deal of travel, trade, correspondence and exchange of ideas across the region through many thousands of years, so odd 'spots' of evidence about deaf people and their lives in one place may illuminate earlier or later spots from other places. Still broader evidence and incidents from early Deaf History in South and South West Asia appear in: "Signs of Development in Deaf South & South-West Asia: histories, cultural identities, resistance to cultural imperialism", revised, extended and updated, at: www.independentliving.org/docs7/miles200604.html (and .pdf)
2.1 The Hittite references shown below lack the correct diacritical marks on letters, and superscript positions of some words, as will be obvious to anyone involved in Hittite studies. Those marks, symbols and graphic representations are a necessary part of linguistic studies, involving the complicated and ongoing process of transliterating cuneiform script, and translating it to European languages using roman characters. Their inclusion would, however, introduce difficulties in transfer to html files on the web, while not contributing to the present purpose, which is simply to inform people interested in Deaf History, of the range of evidence that exists for deaf men in Anatolia of the 13th century BC, working individually or as a group, in the temples and royal palaces of the Hittite Kingdom.
2.2 The use of curly brackets { } indicates a superscript position of a word, or part of a word. The square brackets [ ] are used: i. within some words or phrases, to indicate some break, discontinuity, difficulty or conjecture in transliteration from the cuneiform original; ii. in the annotations, to indicate an explanatory comment, addition or interpretation by the compiler, which does not appear in the book or article itself, and must not be attributed to the author (who might or might not agree with it). Words shown in capital letters are Sumerograms, used in the Hittite languages (and capitalised according to convention in Hittite studies).
2.3 Apologies are offered to authors listed below, whose work may have made a casual, passing mention of a deaf person, on which they would not have placed any weight at all, and who find themselves cited in evidence for an hypothesis which they might still not find entirely plausible!
Note. Three abbreviations used below, but not widely understood, are KUB, KBo and CTH. They are simply standard abbreviations for major series of of cuneiform texts. (KUB can be expanded as Keilschrifturkunden aus Boghaskoi, but it serves very well just as KUB).
ARDA, Berna & AKSU, Murat (2004) What [do] the Hittites' tablets tell us? A short historical view of deafness on the basis of genetics. Turkish J. Medical Science 34: 357-358.
Briefly mentions some features of the Hittite civilisation, and refers to papers by Soysal (see below) and Arikan-Soysal, for information on blind and deaf people in those times.
BOYSAN-DIETRICH, Nilüfur (1987) Das hethitische Lehmhaus aus der Sicht der Keilschriftquellen. Heidelberg: Carl Winter, Universitätsverlag.
In this monograph on the Hittite mud or earth building, chapter 4 (pp. 106-140) concerns 'door and window'. It quotes transliterated text from KBo V 11 IV 13 ff. (KUB XXVI 23 IV 2'), in which a palace servant and a deaf man are shown working together, with translation to German: "Der Page geht auf das Dach hinauf, dabei läuft ihm ein Tauber voran. Der Taube schliesst die Fenster zu. Der Page legt die 'Riegel' vor und geht hinunter. Der Taube schliesst 'd[en Kop]f{?} der Treppe' ab, und der Page legt den 'Riegel' vor." (p. 134) This follows several pages of description and discussion about hinges and locking mechanisms. [The security of the monarch's residence was obviously a matter of great importance, with some ingenuity of design being employed, in this case requiring two people to secure the window frame or shutter: one held the shutter in the correct alignment, the other went up, by stairs or ladder, onto the (flat) roof and lowering the window bolt into the correct hole or securing device, then came down, and the trap door was locked after him. Thus it would be very difficult for anyone climbing up outside, or for an unauthorised person inside, to open a window. A further refinement might be to have two 'security men' who belonged to different groups, and who would be mutually suspicious, or have difficulty communicating with one another, to reduce the possibility that they might plot together to facilitate some breach of security. Cf. McMAHON, Gregory (1997) Instructions to the Royal Guard (Meshedi Protocol). In: WW Hallo & KL Younger (eds) The Context of Scripture. Volume I, 225-230. Brill: Leiden.]
[CHICAGO ASSYRIAN DICTIONARY (CAD)] The Assyrian Dictionary of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, edited by IJ Gelb, T Jacobsen, B Landsberger, AL Oppenheim; MT Roth, RD Biggs, JA Brinkman, M Civil, W Farber, E Reiner, et al (1956- [?2009]) Chicago: Oriental Institute, University of Chicago.
Numerous disability-related words, and words for bodily or mental abnormalities or some kind of affliction, are found throughout the dictionary, either as entries, or in illustrative texts for unrelated words, and with many variants. Some (more or less) equivalent Sumerograms are shown, where they were adopted in Akkadian. These include: hummuru (crippled) KUD.KUD(.DU); kubbulu (lame, paralysed, crippled); lillu (fool, moron); pessu, (crippled, deformed) BA.AN.ZA; sukkuku (deaf, obtuse, with four apparently different kinds of meaning) U.HUB.
[CHICAGO HITTITE DICTIONARY (CHD)] The Hittite Dictionary of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, edited by HG Güterbock, HA Hoffner & TPJ van den Hout (1989- ) Chicago: Oriental Institute, University of Chicago.
The Dictionary usefully offers texts using or displaying the semantic range of the listed words, phrases, grammatical constructions etc, to make their meanings and mechanisms clearer in context. Much of the available material (roughly, letters L to S) is open online, so terms related to disability or deafness can be found in some texts, irrespective of the meaning of the dictionary headword. For example, in the L-N volume, on p. 57a, an illustrative passage is quoted about the blind, deaf or lame man, while the entry itself is about a "categorical negative", le-e. In the P volume, the 'deaf man' appears incidentally on pp. 26b-27a, 211b, 309a. In the S (Sh)1 material, there is blind or deaf material on pp. 55, 65-66, 68, 73-75, 119a, 128a, 141b; and in Sh2, on pp. 217a, 258b. [When the dictionary is complete, some entries specifically on deafness and allied terms may be expected...]
GOEDEGEBUURE, Petra M (2007) "Let only Nesa become populous!", and more philological notes on Old Hittite. In: D Groddek & M Zorman (eds) Tabularia Hethaeorum: Hethitologische Beiträge Silvin Kosak zum 65. Geburtstag, 305-312. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz.
The second item treated here is the purification ritual for the Royal Couple, earlier transliterated and translated to German by OTTEN & SOUCEK 1969 (q.v.), following KBo 17.3, with participation by a deaf man. The relevant parts are translated to English here (pp. 307-308). There is no difference to the deaf man: "But when it dawns, a deaf man and I enter {the royal sleeping quarters} to pick them {the ritual materials} up"; but some points are clarified by Goedegebuure in the curious ceremony, which is intended to remove "woe, pain and worries" from the king and queen, by their symbolic transfer to various ritual materials.
            [The ritual is described 'in the first person' by the chief actor, who does not mention anything that the deaf man does. Elsewhere a deaf man is described as taking part in palace security, i.e. shutting windows, barring the staircase (see BOYSAN-DIETRICH 1987; PUHVEL 1983), as part of a two-man operation. In the present case, the deaf man might possibly have a similar security function, in reverse, i.e. the responsibility to unlock the way into the royal sleeping quarters, at first light, and to conduct the ritual practitioner into the presence of the king and queen. As might be expected, some surviving ancient law codes prescribe close control of the presence of male personnel in the vicinity of females in royal palaces, with severe penalties for infringement. (Water-carriers - one of the occupations of deaf men - are specifically mentioned, possibly because some carriers may have come and gone frequently through the day, carrying skins of water from the tanks known to be located outside the palace buildings and filling large vessels or basins at various convenient points, or conveying water from such containers to wherever it was needed).]
GOETZE, Albrecht (transl.) (1969) Hittite Instructions. Instructions for palace personnel to insure the king's purity. In: J.B. Pritchard (ed.) Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament. Third edition with supplement, 207-211. Princeton University Press.
Goetze provided a selection from various Hittite manuals and codes of practice. On p. 207, water carriers are admonished. "Further: You who are water carriers, be very careful with water. Strain the water with a strainer! At some time I, the king, found a hair in the water pitcher in Sanahuitta. The king became very angry and I expressed my anger to the water carriers (saying): 'This is scandalous.'" (The carrier who was found guilty of leaving a hair in the king's water was killed). [This may have been a matter of interest to the deaf men who sometimes supplied water to the king).]

            [Royal palace water tanks, cisterns, vessels, pipes, gutters, drainage, sewage mains, and similar arrangements are described, depicted, or mentioned by Jürgen Seeher (2002) Hattusha Guide, revised edition, Istanbul, pp. 7, 9-11, 13, 25, 48-49, 55, 71, 84-86, 104, 107-108, 112, 115. (More detailed graphics appear in archaeological reports).]

GOETZE, Albrecht (1970) Hittite shipant-. J. Cuneiform Studies 23 (3) 77-94.
This philological study contains 194 brief translated excerpts illustrating use of different parts of the verb shipant- (libate, pour a libation). In one religious ceremony (p.78), "8. The deaf man, [{LU}U.HUB] gives the cup to the king; the king libates. The chief deaf man [GAL U.HUB] libates into the pipe, then performs the sanctifying rite over the king. KUB XX 24 iii 6ff." [The relevant Sumerograms have been added in brackets in these translated sentences.] Further, "26. The chief deaf man [GAL {LU}U.HUB] gives 2 t. vessels of m. to the king. The king libates 3 times before the table. X 21 v 15ff." (p. 79) [Location of this second example, X 21 v 15ff., is not shown in the list of passages treated (pp. 93-94); but other scholars cite it as KUB X 21 v 15, or 15-19.] In other examples given by Goetz, where people libate, they are variously specified as: the king (No. 5); a priest (No. 9); the chief of the cup-bearers (13); the palace official (19); the cup-bearer (20); the seer (21); the foreman of the cooks (23); the oeconomos (27); the crown prince (28); the anointed one (35); the sacrificer (37); the oracle priest (40); the woman... in her inner chamber (44); a woman, outdoors (63); the 'Old Woman' (64); the nurse (96). (As the purpose of the excerpts is simply to illustrate the uses and grammatical nuances of shipant-, Goetze made no comment on the actors or circumstances).
            [Pouring a libation to a god or gods was evidently a common Hittite religious practice, in whatever parts of the second millennium BC these various excerpts appeared. Yet the examples involving 'deaf men' have some interesting points: (i) The appearance of a "deaf man" together with a "chief deaf man", or "supervisor of deaf men", seems to suggest that there was a cadre of deaf men on the palace staff (with the implication of their possible use of sign language among themselves); (ii) Apart from this Hittite case, evidence of the involvement of deaf people in religious ceremonies (of hearing people) is rare; (iii) yet the "chief deaf man" is shown apparently performing "the sanctifying rite over the king", a role which one might expect to be taken by one of the most senior religious officials, or at least a highly respected person having a right of close access to the monarch. (It would be easier to imagine the chief deaf man on some occasions performing a sanctifying rite 'for' the king, or 'with' the king, rather than 'over' {= 'upon'} the king -- perhaps the translation could be re-examined, to see what makes the best sense in the light of the original text).

            More than 2500 years later, in late 15th century Istanbul, some of the Ottoman Sultans - who were also titled as Caliph of Islam, the highest ongoing 'role' in that religion - had deaf servants, who in some cases were their closest companions, and who caused sign language to become a medium of communication also among hearing courtiers, with evidence that this practice extended to the close of the Ottoman period c. 1920. Some senior officials also had deaf servants. The principal reason seems to have been that spoken discussion between the sultan and his chief officials could be held with the deaf servants standing by, without secrets quickly being known and disseminated).]

GOETZE A & PEDERSEN H (1934) Mursilis Sprachlämung: ein Hethitischer text. Det Kbl. Danske Videnskabernes Selskab, Historisk-filologiske Meddelelser, XXI, 1.
[See THURSTON, 2000, below.]
GÜTERBOCK, Hans G (1979) Some stray Boghazköy tablets. In: Florilegium Anatolicum. Mélanges offerts à Emmanuel Laroche, 138-144. Paris: Éditions E. de Bocard.
The third tablet here given transliteration, translation and commentary by Güterbock (pp. 142-144) is here titled "A Letter of the Queen to the King", comprising 44 lines, with some damage. It was probably detached from a collection of Hittite letters found on Büyükkale in 1964 (published as KBo XVIII), came to an Ankara dealer, and was seen and copied by H Otten, and later photographed by DI Owen. Lines 29-44 seem to be a kind of additional, explanatory message by a palace official, in which the GAL {LU}U.HUB "Chief of the deaf men" appears clearly in a damaged section (line 36), then appears again (partly, with damage, line 38) reporting about the supply of part of a provisions order: "Fruit and sesame oil I shall give you, but the sweet(-smelling) oil and linen cloth I shall [take]" (39-42). Güterbock reviews the 'deaf men' texts known to him (p. 144), supplying one (not listed in GOETZE, or OTTEN, q.v.) in KBo V 11 iv 13-17, where "a 'deaf man' assists the palace attendant in closing up windows and staircase." (See BOYSAN-DIETRICH, above). Güterbock asks himself "Who are these men, and why are they called 'deaf'?", and notes that "Here the 'chief of the deaf men' seems to be in charge of provisions, which fits his role in the festivals." Further, he shows how the Queen's letter and the official's addition would link well with letter KBo XVIII 2, with the sender and recipient probably being Queen Mother Puduhepa and her son King Tudhaliya IV [reigned circa 1237-1209 BC ?].
HAAS, Volkert, with BAWANYPECK, Daliah (2003) Materia Magica et Medica Hethitica. Ein Beitrag zur Heilkunde im Alten Orient, vol. II. Berlin: de Gruyter.
Section 322.4 'Krüppel', has some discussion of Blinder; Tauber (Hittite duddumiyant, Sumerogram U.HUB); and Lahmer; in various texts (vol. II, pp. 549-552). [Many other diseases and disorders are indexed.]
HAZENBOS, Joost (1972) The Organisation of the Anatolian Local Cults during the Thirteenth Century. Leiden: Brill.
[The "Thirteenth century" in the title was of course BC, not the Christian Era.] Hazenbos gives transliteration and English translation of some "Cult Inventories", probably collected as part of a royal survey, providing a guide to the local gods, cultic objects and practices, spring or autumn festivals, etc. On p. 35, transliteration of KUB XXV 23, Rev. IV, Left Edge, (a) lines 1 and 3, and (b) line 1 contain {LU}U.HUB, and corresponding translation on p. 40: [Left Edge (a)] "1. Stormgod of the Rain. On the Deaf Man's Tell he stands on a pashshu-. [footnote: a kind of elevated or raised structure...] It becomes spring 2. and the Man of the Stormgod [ftn: a kind of priest and magical expert...] goes down from Hakmish. He carries 3 loaves of bread of an UPNU (and) 1 haneshshat(-vessel) of beer 3. from his house. The men of the Deaf Man's Tell deliver 1 black sheep 4. and the man of the Stormgod offers it. They slaughter it at the huuashi for him. They put down 5. meat, from the raw (and) from the cooked." [Left Edge (b)] 1. "Bread and beer, the men who (are living) around the Deaf Man's Tell, 2. they too deliver (it)." [etc.] Glossary, p. 207: {LU}U.HUB "deaf man". This "Deaf Man's Tell" (i.e. mound, or site of earlier occupation), seems to have been the standard name of the location of this particular cult.
            [A 'Tel-Harsha' or 'Tel-Haresha', which may translate as 'mound of the deaf man', occurs amidst Babylonian place names in ancient Hebrew texts of Ezra 2: 59, and Nehemiah 7: 61. See F Brown, SR Driver, CA Briggs (eds) (1976) A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament, Oxford UP, p. 1068a, and p. 361a (H_r_sh, silent, dumb, deaf).]
HOFFNER, Harry A (1966) Composite nouns, verbs and adjectives in Hittite. Orientalia 35: 377-402.
On pp. 397-398, Hoffner (partly following H. Ehelolf) discusses structure and possible etymological basis for Hittite words meaning 'deaf' (duddummi) and 'blind' (dashuwant), mentioning also the Sumerian terms used in Hittite. "The Sumerogram which means 'blind' in Hittite texts is a good example; IGI.NU.GAL literally means 'having no eye'. The Sumerogram for 'deaf', on the other hand is U.HUB, yet a rare example of GESHTUG.NU.GAL does exist at Hattushash KUB XVIII 16 ii 1). The Hittite adjective 'blind' (dashuwant) may also fit into this category."
JESTIN, Raymond (1937) Texte religieux hittite (KUB X No. 21). Revue d'Assyriologie 34: 45-58.
(KUB X.21 v 15f. is the text translated by GOETZE, 1970, see above): "The chief deaf man [GAL {LU}U.HUB] gives 2 t. vessels of m. to the king..." Doubts had been raised in the 1930s, about the 'deaf man' [U.HUB] who seemed to appear in some Hittite cultic practices. Jestin noted (p. 58) that PA Deimel [1928-1933] Sumerisches Lexikon, 318, 67, gave 'Tauber' for U.HUB (Jestin transliterates 'U.GUB', pp. 49, 58); but thought this was "évidemment impossible à admettre ici", and found it doubtful in other cases also. [A possible alternative explanation was repeated as late as 1980 by Gurney (see annotation to OTTEN, 1971 below); nevertheless, by the late 20th century, scholars had found no other credible meaning for U.HUB, and mostly concluded that deaf people did take part in palace and cultic ceremonies; unless perhaps there was a group of palace functionaries who were nicknamed 'the deaf' (or 'dumb') for some reason now unknown, such as that they were forbidden to speak, or had taken a vow of silence, or had once been made to wear a helmet that prevented them hearing.]
KLINGER, Jorg (1996) Untersuchungen zur Rekonstruktion der hattischen Kultschicht. Studien zu den Boghazköy-Texten, Heft 37. Harrassowitz. xx + 916 pp.
In this massive 'reconstruction' of Hattic / Hittite cultic ceremonies, texts, German translation and commentary, some deaf men (with the Sumerogram U.HUB) appear fleetingly in texts on pp. 544-545; 596-597; 610 (fragmentary); from passages in Keilschrifturkunden aus Boghazkoi (KUB) texts 2.13; 56.45; with comments on pp. 573-574, 605, and reference to the remarks by H OTTEN 1971 (see below).
            [Further Anatolian U.HUB references appear in KUB XX 24 iii 6ff; and X 21 v 15ff (Klinger gives X 21 V 19) (see GOETZE); and KUB 13.34 + 40.84 I 21; and KBo XIX 128 V.32; V.7 (citing also Bo 2926 II 4ff., Bo 2843 IV 16f.; KUB II 13 I 8f. {X 20 Z.5f.} (see OTTEN); and in KBo V 11 IV 13-17, and a stray letter (see GÜTERBOCK 1979).]
MELCHERT, H Craig (2007) Hittite huuapp-, huppa(i)- and huppiia-. In: D Groddek & M Zorman (eds) Tabularia Hethaeorum. Hethitologische Beiträge Silvin Kosak zum 65. geburtsdag, 513-519. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz.
Melchert's discussion of the meaning of huppi and similar includes KUB 43.30 III 16-17: "memal shemehunan {UZU}NIG.G[IG ANA UGULA {L/U.MESH}U.HUB huppi=shshi shuhhanz[i] 'they strew groats, sh. and liver onto the pile [of the leader] of the deaf men." (p. 516)
OETTINGER, Norbert (1976) Die Militärischen Eide der Hethiter. Studien zu den Bogazköy-Texten, Heft 22. Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz. vii + 138 pp.
A provision for retaining the allegiance of Hittite troops, probably dating from the middle of the second millennium BC, has become known as the 'Soldier's Oath', during which there is supposed to have been a dramatic enactment of the woes that would befall any soldier resiling from his undertaking. Oettinger provides text, introduction, translation of the Hittite document into German, with detailed commentary and apparatus. In verse II of the first Soldier's Oath, wax is melted, salt is strewn, there is grinding of barley, to show that the disloyal soldier would be similarly treated; then women's clothes, a spinning wheel and a mirror are placed to suggest that such a man would turn into a woman (pp. 9-11). Verse III begins with "eine blinde und taube Frau" being brought in (pp. 12-13, also pp. 38, 121, 123) ['blind': IGI NU GAL; 'deaf': U.HUB], and the oath-taking soldiers are warned that this could be their fate if they break the oath. (Other versions translate the passage as 'a blind woman and a deaf man' being exhibited as warning examples).
OTTEN, Heinrich (1971) Ein Hethitisches Festritual (KBo XIX 128). Studien zu den Bogazköy-Texten, Heft 13. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz.
This description of a Hittite religious festival, probably from the second millennium BC, includes mention of deaf (U.HUB) servants of the King, who appear briefly in Rs. V:32 and VI:7 (pp. 14-17) to sweep the floor, sprinkle water, and provide the King with water for hand-washing. "Die Taub(stumm)en fegen (den Boden), Wasser spritzen sie, dem König bringen sie Hand-Wasser herbei." (p. 15) [It has been suggested that in V 32-33, 'sweep' is not correct; the sense is more "the deaf men flush (and) sprinkle water": PUHVEL 1979, below.] Otten mentions the deaf men's part in Hittite ceremonies in his Commentary (p. 43, see also p. 23), without casting much light on it. [Reviewing Otten's book, OR Gurney, 1975, Bibliotheca Orientalis 32 (5/6), p.385, mentioned the "U.HUB ('deaf'?) men", noting a suggestion by Sommer, 1938, Orientalistische Literaturzeitung 41: 281, "that the graph U.HUB was a confusion with SAI 2404 (= kalu 'lamentation priest' Deimel 213b)". Gurney reiterated the point in 1980, Bibliotheca Orientalis 37 (3/4) p. 198; yet after 70 years, it appears that Sommer's suggestion has not found favour among scholars of Hittitology.]
OTTEN H & SOUCEK, Vladimir (1969) Ein althethitisches Ritual für das Königspaar. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz.
[See previous item.] Patched together from various fragments (pp. 3-9), this ancient Hittite ceremony for the Royal Couple includes mention of a deaf man {LU}U.HUB (pp. 38-39). It appears that he accompanies another palace servant, taking early morning (?) food and drink in to the King and Queen. On p. 105 the participation of deaf men in other ritual contexts is noted briefly.
PECCHIOLI DADDI, Franca (1982) Mestieri, Professioni e Dignità nell'Anatolia Ittita. Rome: Edizioni dell'Ateneo.
In this extensive listing of the known occupations of the ancient Hittites, LU.U.HUB "sordo" appears on pp. 572-573, with GAL U.HUB, and UGULA LU{MES} U.HUB "sovrintendente dei sordi", indicating textual locations, connections and details (but without translation to Italian).
PUHVEL, Jaan (1979) Some Hittite etymologies. In: Florilegium Anatolicum. Mélanges offerts à Emmanuel Laroche, 297-304. Paris: Éditions E. De Bocard.
[See next item.] Mentions KBo XIX 128 v 32-33 "{LU.MESH}U.HUB sh]anhanzi walar papparsh[a]nz]i 'the deaf men flush (and) sprinkle water' (p. 299).
PUHVEL J (1983-) Hittite Etymological Dictionary, Vols 1/2 & 3 to 7. Berlin: de Gruyter.
[Only vols 1/2 and 3 seen.]  Vols 1/2. Under the entry for "istap(p)-" (p. 471), meaning 'shut', 'close', 'bar' etc, two among the examples given are from KBo V II iv 14 and 16: "the deaf man [{LU}U.HUB] shuts the windows"; "the deaf man bars the staircase". [See BOYSAN-DIETRICH 1987, who gives detail and context of these phrases, in German. Also GÜTERBOCK 1979, who notes that the deaf man assists another palace functionary to carry out these tasks. This kind of responsibility seems to extend a little the other mentioned tasks, concerned with provision of water for cleansing purposes, and provision (and cooking) of food and drink.] Under "iwar" (p. 499), meaning 'in the manner of' or 'like', the example given is "they shall blind him like a blind man, and make him deaf like a deaf man" (KBo VI 34 iii 7-9).
Vol. 3. "hu(r)uppi- (c.) a kind of dish or bowl, in plural also a kind of bread, ...KUB...(XLIII 30 III 17 ANA UGALA {L/U.MESH}U.HUB huppi-shshi suhhanz[i 'they pour [them] into the h. of the chief of the deaf'." (p. 407) [See also MELCHERT, above.] "hu(wa)llis- 'cone' (of fir, pine or other conifer) ... KBo XI 32 Vs. 22 ... (ibid. 20 {LU}U.HUB {GIS}irhu(y)az ME-i 'the deaf man takes cones from the basket'). (p. 423)
RÜSTER, Christel & NEU, Erich (1989) Hethitisches Zeichenlexikon. Inventar und interpretation der Keilschriftzeichen aus den Bogazköy-Texten. Studien zu den Bogazköy-Texten, Beiheft 2. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz.
p. 186, entries for two cuneiform terms having slight visible difference, transliterated {LU}U.HUB (second case without one diacritical), "tauber Mann, Tauber, taub"; and also GAL U.HUB, "Oberster der Tauben", with note below that the {LU}U.HUB entries are from fragmentary sources.
SOYSAL, Yasemin [Arikan] (2001) Hitit din ve sosyal hayatinda {LU/MUNUS}U.HUB "sagir". In: G Wilhelm (ed.) Akten des IV. Internationalen Kongresses für Hethitologie, Wurzburg, 4.-8. Oktober 1999, pp. 652-669. Studien zu den Bogazköy-Texten, Band 45. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz.
This contribution in Turkish is the sole published article in the field of Hittitology that focuses specifically on the deaf or U.HUB. It collects most of the available locations and constructions in which {LU}U.HUB (deaf man) and GAL{LU} U.HUB (chief / supervisor of deaf men) are found, and gives transliteration of them, with translation to Turkish. Soysal lists and briefly discusses the social activities and roles performed by Hittite deaf men, mostly within the cultic ceremonies performed in or near the royal palaces and temples, in the later half of the second millennium BC. One fragment of text examined by Soysal seems to suggest that a deaf man may be, or might have been, a 'Golden Spear man', one of a superior corps of guards, ranking higher than the ordinary guards, while not being among the MESHEDI who were the elite of the king's personal bodyguards (cf. T Bryce, 2007, Hittite Warrior, Osprey, pp. 29-30).
            [On p. 668, an instance appears of a deaf woman, {MUNUS}U.HUB, in KUB XVIII 40, in what seems to be a sexual offence, i.e. a man and a deaf woman being together, overnight, inside a temple. The text has some gaps; the compiler's attempt to read Turkish, using Turkish-English dictionaries and machine translation, has much greater gaps! Yet the problematical situation may be transculturally comprehensible.]
TAGGAR-COHEN, Ada (2002) The EZEN pulas - a Hittite installation rite of a new priest. In light of the installation of the IM Priestess in Emar. J. Ancient Near Eastern Religions 2 (1) 127-159.
Based on text KUB 17.35 i 17'-37' (CTH 525), among the cult inventories from the reign of Tudhaliya IV, in the late 13th century BC, discussion of the ceremony involves transliteration of further material, among which is KUB 60.152 9 (pp. 143-146). This fragmentary text, relating to a religious ceremony in the city Zuppara (location unknown), includes fleeting mention of LU {MES} U.HUB, the deaf men... (144, 145) The deaf men appear to play a minor, subsidiary part in the ceremony, located at the temple, providing bread, in the presence of the king and priests. [This text is of interest as one of the few indications of deaf men apparently located outside the capital city.]
THURSTON S (2000) The Speech Loss of Mursili II. [CTH 486]. www.hittites.info/indexList.aspx [navigate]
Part of a scholarly website by Steve Thurston designed to inform the literate public about Hittite history. The apparent 'stroke', facial paralysis and speech difficulty suffered by Murshili II (reigned c. 1317-1293 BC; son of Shuppiluliuma I) has several paragraphs in the general history pages of this Hittite ruler and his times, and refers more specifically to another page where an English translation is given of the prayer in which he described his symptoms and offered ritual sacrifices. "The Storm God brought a storm and then kept thundering frightfully. I was afraid and speech became scarce in my mouth. The matter went up from me as something small, and I put aside that matter entirely. As the years came and went, it came about that that matter began appearing to me in dreams. The hand of a god reached out to me in a dream and my mouth went to one side." (The religious ceremonies followed, in which efforts were made to transfer the ailment to 'a substitute ox'). [This is referenced to the Hittite text "Mursilis Sprachlähmung" edited by GOETZE & PEDERSEN, q.v.] Earlier in his reign (under "The Conquest of Arzawa"), Murshilis II and his troops witnessed a thunderbolt hurled by the Storm God, which passed them and "struck the land of Arzawa. It struck Uhha-ziti's (capital) city of Apasha. It settled in Uhaa-ziti's knees, and he became ill. (10 Year Annals, para. 17)" The weakness in Uhha-ziti's knees prevented him from leading his troops in defence of his land.
At present, no Hittite references have been found (by the present compiler) to deaf people using gestures, sign language, or other body signals. However, even a casual search indicates that meaningful signals and gestures were in use in the Hittite palace and religious ceremonies. A few such examples are listed below. Given that deaf men were playing their roles under a 'chief deaf man' or 'supervisor of deaf men', it would be reasonable to infer that regular communication must have taken place between the chief or supervisor and the men under his leadership, and probably between the men themselves, whether on duty or off duty. In such situations, where deaf people are regularly in one another's company, an increasingly elaborate sign language normally develops. These men were sometimes participants, working in the buildings and ceremonies, in which the examples below show a variety of meaningful signs and gestures being used by hearing people. It is difficult to imagine that the deaf men did not also use some signs and gestures in public, with hearing people, at least at a sub-linguistic level.
ARIKAN, Yasemin (2007) An official in Hittite cult: {LU} tazelli-. In: D Groddek & M Zorman (eds) Tabularia Hethaeorum: Hethitologische Beiträge Silvin Kosak zum 65. Geburtstag, 33-58. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz.
In KBo 30.155 I, on the ceremony of the hunter's bag, "The hamena-man gives the priest a signal with (his) eyes. The priest, (and) the tazzelli-priest bow." (p. 52)
[CHICAGO HITTITE DICTIONARY (CHD)] The Hittite Dictionary of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, edited by HG Güterbock, HA Hoffner & TPJ van den Hout (1989- ) Chicago: Oriental Institute, University of Chicago.
In the 'P' volume, the following phrases occur, from Hittite texts: "the king gives a signal to the guard" (p. 145); "The king ge[stures] with his eyes to the cupbearer 'of squatting'" (p. 190); "With a wing, he seats them, the king and queen (i.e. he signals them to sit down)" [apparently writing about an unspecified bird, having a part in a ceremony] (p. 199); "the chief of the bodyguards gives a signal with his spear" (p. 354). The 'S' volume has many more examples, e.g. on pp. 19, 54, 66, 74-75, 125, 169, 181, as appears by searching for 'sign', 'gesture', 'hand' etc, in the electronic version.
HOFFNER, Harry (1997) The Laws of the Hittites: a critical edition. Leiden: Brill.
"For this reason it is at least worth considering if the blow was not part of corporal punishment, but a gesture with some legal significance: striking the spear on its hand-guard or something similar. This archaic gesture was then subsequently eliminated, perhaps because its significance was no longer understood." (p. 198)
HOUWINK Ten CATE, Philo HJ (1987) The sun god of heaven. The assembly of gods and the Hittite king. In: D van der Plas (ed) Effigies Dei. Essays on the History of Religions, 13-34. Leiden: Brill.
On p. 13 is a divine figure "clad in the togalike attire of a Hittite King carrying the lituus, held down in his right [hand], and making a 'speaking gesture' with his left hand."
KITTS, Margo (2005) Sanctified violence in Homeric society. Cambridge University Press.
"In the Hittite 'Apology of Hattusilis', for instance, taking by the hand appears to be both a guiding gesture and a gesture of solidarity when Hattusilis claims, 'In the hand of Ishtar, my lady, I saw prosperity. My lady Ishtar took me by the hand. She led me along." (p. 79; also see ftn 72).
LANGDON, S. (1919) Gesture in Sumerian and Babylonian prayer. J. Royal Asiatic Society new series, 51: 531-556 plus illustrations.
Detailed study of hand and arm position, gestures and bodily postures depicted on seal cylinders from 3500 BC onward, with discussion of changes and possible influences among the South West Asian regional cultures. Hittite religious practice is mentioned briefly, in the context of a characteristic gesture and bodily position that "denotes humility, submission, contrition". Langdon considered that "The fact that this pose continues in Hittite religion" indicates Sumerian influence on the Hittites "in Asian Minor and Anatolia in the twenty-fifth century BC..."
WRIGHT, David P (1986) The gesture of hand placement in the Hebrew Bible and in Hittite literature. J. American Oriental Society 106 (3) 433-446.
The Hittite material runs from p. 439b to p. 446, and quotes a good number of examples in transliteration and English translation. The focus is on a gesture of placing the hand on the item that is to be sacrificed, identifying its possession ("this is mine") with the person placing the hand, before the priest actually carries out the sacrifice, e.g. "The AZU-priests hold forth to the king three sour loaves; the king places the hand (on them)" [StBoT 13 i 21] (Wright, 440b). In a birth ritual, the heavily pregnant woman "puts forth her hand on the birthstool"; or if she were ritually impure, and keeping her distance, "she puts forth her hand toward the birthstool" (p. 441a). "Hand placement attributes the offering and offering act to the offerer", even though some other person actually enacts the rite. (p. 443b).
These items are listed in approximate date order, starting with the oldest.
23rd century BC ?
FRAYNE, Douglas (1993) Sargonic and Gutian Periods (2334-2113 BC). Volume 2, of The Royal Inscriptions of Mesopotamia. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.
[Considerable detail is given below, to indicate that the suggested identification of a deaf woman in the Royal Inscriptions text, while possibly accurate, seems to have a number of unresolved aspects.] On p. 175, Frayne translates an inscription, collated from a published photograph of a seal that appears to depict princess Tutanapshum (daughter of King Naram-Sin, 2260-2223 BC), seated, with a servant woman, presumably Aman-Eshtar, standing before her. For the woman standing, the suggested English translation (lines 3-5) is: "Aman-Ashtar, the deaf lady, the prattler, (is) her female servant." Frayne gives two lexical references for the Sumerian U.HUB, equivalent to Akkadian, su-uk-ku 'deaf' ('Materials for the Sumerian Lexicon' vol. XII, ed. M Civil et al, Rome, 1969, p. 142; cf. Von Soden, Akkadisches Handwörterbuch, II: 1055-56, sukkuku and U.HUB; and in greater detail, the 'Chicago Assyrian Dictionary' 15: 362b-363b). To make 'prattler', sa-bi-ri-im is taken as a part of sabaru(m), 'to be voluble, to prattle'. [Diacriticals in several quoted words are omitted here.] Unfortunately, the location of the seal itself is no longer known.
            [Several details of scene and inscription have been interpreted differently by various authors. Some (including Frayne) suggest that Aman-Eshtar is offering a small harp-like instrument to the princess, while another view is that a 'thread-spinning' apparatus is being worked (WH Ward, 1910, Seal Cylinders of Western Asia, Carnegie Institution of Washington, p.81). Photograph of the seal appeared in CJ Ball, 1899, Light from the East, p.153; also in D Collon, 1987, First Impressions, British Museum, p.126 (no. 530), brief comments p.125, with date c. 2225 BC, (but see # below); and the same (enlarged from CJ Ball) in Aage Westenholz & Joachim Oelsner, 1983, Zu den Weihplattenfragmenten der Hilprecht-Sammlung Jena, Altorientalsiche Forschungen 10: 209-216, on p.215. A sketch from the photo, in Ward, p.81, retains details that might distinguish the nature of the apparatus in the servant's hands, though the sketch diminishes the hands and feet of both women depicted. In a drawing by S Beaulieu, "after Frayne 1993: cover illustration", on p.3 of J Stuckey, Nin-shata-pada... MatriFocus 7-1, www.matrifocus.com/SAM07/spotlight.htm (downloaded 25 Mar 2008), the apparatus has significant differences from that shown in the photo published by Ball and by Collon.]
            [For the inscription, a slightly different transliteration and translation is given by Westenholz & Oelsner, who do not translate U.HUB (they give the MSL XII lexicon reference, but not the 'deaf' equivalent on p.142; and seem to be thinking of a possible occupational designator or personal name for Aman-Eshtar. An early ruler of Kish bore the name Uhub, but it hardly seems common. The sa-at Za-bi-ri-im (Frayne) becomes "die (Angehörige / Abhängige) des Zabirum", "belonging to, or dependent on, Zabirum". Yet the use of U.HUB for 'deaf' seems to be accepted as a Sumerian term, used also more widely (e.g. in Hittite, see GOETZE 1971, pp. 78-79, also in a context of palace servants). The modest quantity of scholarly literature making reference to the seal of Aman-Eshtar (-Ashtar, -Ishtar) is almost entirely preoccupied with the identification of Tuta-napshum and details of her life -- the female servant is an incidental. If she were in fact deaf or hearing impaired, Aman-Eshtar might have been found a job at court as a relative or dependent of some other functionary, 'Zabirum'. If the relevant word is in fact related to sabaru(m), it might be a reference to 'indistinct speech, babble', as by someone losing much of their hearing in early childhood, rather than 'prattle' in the sense of an adult domestic who chatters continually without saying anything of significance. An alternative use of U.HUB, to mean 'stupidity, ignorance', might better accommodate 'silly prattling'.] # A further anomaly is that Collon, p.125, describes the photographed seal no. 530, as having the inscription "Naram-Sin, king of the Four Quarters: Tutanapshum, 'entum'-priestess of Enlil, your daughter." The detailed work by Frayne, pp. 122-124, shows those words as one of three other known inscriptions of Tuta-napshum, quite distinct from the seal inscription.]
13th-12th Centuries BC
GARDINER AH (1911, reprint 1964) Egyptian Hieratic Texts, transcribed, translated and annotated. Series I: Literary Texts of the New Kingdom. Hildesheim: Georg Olms.
An early suggestion of signed or gestural language appears in a series of Egyptian magisterial admonitions to an idle schoolboy or clerk: "Thou art one who is deaf and does not hear, to whom men make (signs) with the hand", in the Papyrus Koller, "dated approximately to the end of the 19th Dynasty" or around 1200 BC (pp. 35-39, 84-86). [Another translation makes the admonition slightly more positive, without appreciable change to the sign or gesture reference: "But thou art not one that is deaf, that cannot hear, and one speaketh unto him with the hand" (Erman A, 1927, The Literature of the Ancient Egyptians, transl. AM Blackman, London: Methuen, p.292). Aylward Blackman, translating Professor Erman's work, stated (p. v) that his renderings of the Egyptian texts had "in every instance been made directly from the Egyptian, though strictly in accordance with Professor Erman's interpretation, as set forth in his own German translations."] Metaphorical references to deafness were not uncommon in various Egyptian periods, e.g. "he that can hear is deaf", or "plays the deaf man" i.e. chooses not to hear (Erman, pp. 122, 218; cf. pp. 124, 130, 232, 235).
            In his introduction to Die Literatur der Aegypter, Professor Erman remarked (Blackman's translation, p. xlii) on the variety of possible interpretations resulting from the omission of vowels from the writing and corruption of the textual sources. He demonstrated this with the word for 'hear': "Szm can just as well mean "to hear," as "hears," or "is heard," "may hear," "hearing," "heard," etc., and we are thrown back on guessing from the context what form is meant in the case in question." The choice of example may have been fortuitous, but more likely based on a complicated passage from the 'Instruction of Ptahhotep', that plays on the word "to hear" (Erman, p. 64). Three different hieroglyphic representations of words for 'deaf' or 'deaf person' can readily be located in the Koller text and parallels as given by Gardiner (1964), p. 74 (line 10); pp. 84; 86 (lines 15/16; lines 1/2); and pp. 86 (lines 3/4), using the Dictionary of Late Egyptian (Lesko & Lesko, 1982 - 1990, vol. III: p. 92; IV: 136; and III: 82, respectively. See also Ibid. II: 88; III: 81. The complexities of possible meanings, around speech, hearing and deafness, are illustrated in a word study by William Ward (1969) The Semitic root HWY in Ugaritic and derived stems in Egyptian, J. Near Eastern Studies 28: 265-267. Ward compared roots of words in several regional languages and suggested a different meaning in the above-cited 'idle student' passage (p. 267).

            The reference to sign or gesture communication in the text cited (and a parallel text) should also be approached with caution. The German-Egyptian index (in vol. VI) to Wörterbuch der Aegyptischen Sprache (Erman & Grapow, edn 1982- ) does show under "Zeichen" (sign, signal, indication, mark, etc) two apparent locations for "Zeichen geben mit d. Hand", one being the Koller 2, 5 reference (and parallel in Anastasi IV, 2, 7); and a variety of examples of "zeichen, figur, gestalt" (vol. V, 239-240). [The rather dismissive context, and the slightly equivocal translations offered, do not suggest that a formal sign language was in use, but more likely the informal gestures and mime commonly used for simple communication between deaf and hearing people, in the absence of a commonly understood more formal sign system. It might yet become possible for language experts to build a credible case for the existence, and some public awareness, of a formal sign language used by deaf people in ancient Egypt, employing various kinds of evidence; but no such case seems to have been published yet. See also the informative review of many kinds of 'sign' or 'signal' by Emma BRUNNER-TRAUT (1975) Gesten == Gebärden. In: W Helck & W Westendorf (eds) Lexikon der Ägyptologie I: 573-585. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz.]

12th century & 8th century BC
HARPER, Robert F (1904) Babylonian and Assyrian imprecations. The Biblical World 24 (1) 26-30.
Among the later imprecatory inscriptions, one of the time of Nebuchadrezzar I (c. 1140 BC) calls for comprehensive ills and woes on any person who tries to damage the inscription, "or who employs a fool, a deaf man, a blind man, or a knave to destroy this tablet with a stone, or to burn it in the fire, or to cast it in the river or to hide it in a field where it cannot be found." A similar fate is wished on anyone in the reign of Merodachbaladan, King of Babylon (721-710 BC) who persuades "an enemy, a deaf person, a fool, a blockhead, a short-sighted (?) ignorant person, a knave" or similar, to damage or remove a tablet.
7th Century BC
FREEDMAN, Sally M (1998) If a City is Set on a Height. The Akkadian Omen Series Summa Alu ina Mele Sakin. Volume 1: Tablets 1-21. Philadelphia.
The Summa Alu omens seem to have accumulated over a period of more than 1,500 years, with the majority of available tablets dating to the 7th century BC (pp. 13-14). A series of omens about city-dwellers with impairments or abnormalities, has the pattern: 'If X-Y are numerous in a city, that city will be happy / in trouble / in dispersal/ abandonment' "86. If lame women are numerous in a city, [that] city will be happy." On the same pattern, "87. If idiots ... happy. 90. If wise men ... abandonment 91. If men with warts ... dispersal. 94. If deaf [U.HUB] men ... happy. 95. If blind men ... trouble. 98. If cripples ... trouble. 99 If disabled men ... dispersal." (p. 33) [It is not clear whether any real experience or logic is present in these predictions. On the face of it, deaf men seem to be regarded as a lucky omen.]
5th Century BC ?
GINZBERG, Louis (1909-1959, reprinted 1968) The Legends of the Jews. Translated from German, by H Szold. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society of America. 7 volumes.
Volume IV: 382-383 (and notes in volume VI: 458-459) tells a story from the Jewish community living in exile in Persia. Among them was the nobleman Mordecai, whose niece Esther reportedly became the wife of King Ahasuerus (probably Xerxes I, reigned 486-465 BC). Of Mordecai it is written that he "knew the language of the deaf mutes." Two examples are given in which Mordecai correctly interpreted important signed (or at least gestural) messages by deaf people. The Book of Esther may have achieved written form in the 2nd or 3rd century BC. The legend concerning Mordecai is hard to date. Also lending possible support to signed communication, though by its nature, undated, is the apocryphal story of Moses praying for Judah, in Ginzberg vol.III, p.456:
            "The sin for which Moses asked God to forgive Judah was that he never redeemed his promise to bring Benjamin back to his father [Jacob] ... But as soon as Moses prayed to God, saying, 'Hear, Lord, the voice of Judah,' the bones joined together once more, but [Judah's] sin was not quite forgiven, for he was not yet admitted to the heavenly academy. Therefore Moses continued to pray: 'Bring him in unto his people,' and he was admitted. It did not, indeed, benefit him, for in punishment of his sin, God brought it to pass that he could not follow the discussion of the scholars in heaven, much less take part in them, whereupon Moses prayed: 'Let his hands be sufficient for him,' and [then] he no longer sat as one dumb in the heavenly academy. [Emphasis added.] But still his sin was not quite forgiven, for Judah could not succeed in being victorious in the disputes of the learned, hence Moses prayed, 'And Thou shalt be an help against his adversaries.' It was only then that Judah's sin was quite forgiven, and that he succeeded in disputes with his antagonists in the heavenly academy."
            Notes to this story (Vol. VI, p.155, no. 922, give several references, including Baba Kamma 916. The latter, in The Babylonian Talmud, vol. I, Seder Nezikin transl. I Epstein, 1935, Soncino, p.534, gives much the same story, with the prayer of Moses being "His hands shall contend for him!", a reference to Deuteronomy 33: 7, a text that in fact underlies each successive part of Judah's rehabilitation. [That reference is a verse in which the phrase under scrutiny yields many variations: The New Jewish Publication Society (1985) gives alternatives: i. "Though his own hands strive for him"; ii. "Make his hands strong for him". The Soncino, ed JH Hertz (1952) repeats the earlier Epstein: "His hands shall contend for him". The New English Bible (1972) makes the Lord the subject: "thou whose hands fight for him"; the New International Version (ed. Kohlenberger, 1979): "With his own hands he defends his cause". The Septuagint, "hai cheires autou diakrinousin autO" (final omega with iota subscript), is perhaps where some translators take the idea of hands that 'contend for him', more assertively than hands which are 'sufficient' (Hebrew: 'rab') for him. It is certainly unlikely that the original Deuteronomy meaning had anything to do with using hands for communication. Yet the later legend pictures Judah struggling to be admitted to the heavenly academy of sages; and once there, he understands nothing and is "as one dumb" -- until his hands are made to work for him, and then he is no longer dumb.
            Whatever the modern reader may believe or disbelieve about the 'religious value' of such legends, their existence suggests a cultural awareness of deaf people using their hands to communicate, several centuries BC. Much later, a Qur'anic text (36: 65) seems to take up a similar idea, in a Day of Judgement, when the ungodly will be bereft of words, but their hands will speak, and their feet will bear witness, to all that they have done.

            Ginzberg also relates a story of Dan, one of Judah's brothers, who had a deaf son, Hushim (Legends, II: 38-39; 106). When the sons of Jacob brought their father's remains back from Egypt, to bury them in Canaan, and their uncle Esau raised a problem and delayed the burial, Hushim demanded to know why there was a delay, because he had not heard the debate that was going on. When it was explained to him, he was indignant, and hit uncle Esau with a club, killing him (II: 153-154). [But a different version has Esau being killed by Judah, VI: 371-372.]

circa 530 BC to 70 CE
FALK, Ze'ev W (1972, 1978) Introduction to Jewish Law of the Second Commonwealth. 2 volumes. Leiden: Brill.
The 'Second Commonwealth' of the Jews in Palestine is normally understood to date approximately from 530 BC to 70 CE. Some parts of the legal code concerned deaf people. Part I has a few passing references, e.g. p. 29, "He who sets fire by the hand of a deaf-mute, an imbecile or a minor...", [i.e. who takes advantage of the legal non-liability of people in these categories;] also p. 100; and pp. 123 (legal incapacity of "deaf-mutes, lunatics and minors" to testify in court). Part II has more detail on the legal capacities of "Deaf-mutes, Idiots and Minors" (pp. 256-261), and suggests a progressive removal of the legal 'disability' under which they suffered. Thus, "A deaf-mute may communicate by signs and be communicated with by signs ... in matters concerned with movable property. (M Gittin V 7)".
1st Century CE
HUSSELMAN, Elinor M; BOAK, Arthur ER; & EDGERTON, William F (1944) Michigan Papyri, Volume V, Papyri from Tebtunis, Part II. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
Amidst many papyri transcriptions (with translations from Greek to English) from Tebtunis, Egypt, detailing land deals, tax payments, division of property, etc, a few incidental details show people with disability or deafness. Document 293, the sale of a house and courtyard, some time in the 1st century CE (pp. 202-204), located the property precisely: "The neighbours are on the south, the house of Apynchis, son of Apynchis, on the north the house and court of Apynchis, the so-called deaf mute, [(Greek) "borra 'Apunchis kophEs legomenEs oikia kai aulE"] on the west the house of Leontiskos, on the east the royal road." Footnote 4: "'Apunchis kophEs legomenEs": 'Apunchis does not occur elsewhere as a woman's name, but Punchis is found as a feminine form in P.Tebt.I, 164, 7." [The householder on the north side thus seems to have been a deaf woman, one of extremely few recorded in antiquity with a name, place and approximate date.]
1st Century CE
ABRAMS, Judith Z (1998) Judaism and Disability: portrayals in ancient texts from the Tanach through the Bavli. Washington DC: Gallaudet University Press.
This detailed review of disability and deafness in early texts of Judaism includes discussion on people with serious impairments of hearing, speech and cognition. They were often bracketed, together with minors, as a category of people who could not participate in obeying some parts of Jewish law that required a depth of understanding, and conscious choice, and verbal affirmation. Nevertheless an example was discussed in the literature of the 1st century, concerning the sons [or some suggest the nephews] of Rabbi Yohanan ben Gudgada. They were deaf (chershim, plural of cheresh), yet had made good progress in studies and understanding of the law, and had a position of considerable responsibility in supervising the preparation of ritually correct foods in the temple at Jerusalem. Their situation was often cited as a reason why the law should have a broader interpretation, since they gave evidence of a depth of understanding, and this was recognised by their having been entrusted with a high responsibility (pp. 168-176). [The deaf relatives of Yohanan ben Gudgada can also be seen as having some direct parallels with the deaf men preparing and serving food used in religious rituals in the Hittite temples, more than a thousand years earlier.]
382 CE
GREGORY of Nazianzus. Saint Grégoire de Nazianze. Lettres, vol. II, ed. and transl. P Gallay (1967). Paris: Société d'Édition "Les Belles Lettres".
[Gregory was briefly Bishop of Constantinople, but resigned in 381 and left for his home town of Nazianzus. He made a vow of silence during the 50 days of Lent, 382. During this period he visited a religious community at Lamis, and communicated with signs and gestures, which apparently some of the monks did not appreciate. He wrote several short letters in Greek (II: pp. 5-11) discussing this visit, including one to his cousin, Eulalios, whom he had visited at Lamis.]
            No. CXVI. "A Eulalios. Lamis a été pour moi un lieu de silence et d'entrainement à la philosophie; mais si j'ai contemplé ce lieu en me taisant, je désire aussi le voir en parlant, afin de satisfaire mon affection pour les frères et de me justifier du reproche de taciturnité devant vous, mauvais interprètes de mes signes de tête [Gk. neumatOn]."
            [E Venables (1880) Eulalius, in W Smith & H Wace (eds) A Dictionary of Christian Biography, vol. II, London, suggests that, during the visit, Gregory's "sighs [sic] and gestures were so correctly interpreted by Eulalius that the visit was one of great mutual edification." Venables may have had some further ancient source for this; or perhaps was simply using his imagination.]
3rd to 7th centuries CE
AL-JAHIZ [attributed]. Le livre de la couronne. Kitab at-Taj (fi ahlaq al-muluk), translated by Charles PELLAT (1954) Paris: Société d'Édition "Les Belles Lettres".
pp. 46-47. The Sassanian monarchs (reigned c. 224-636 CE in Mesopotamia) had the custom of silence at mealtimes, and if they needed to communicate their wishes they used signs and gestures instead of speaking (cf pp. 50, 56, 81, 83, 85, 106, 118). Monarchs also maintained their status and dignity by not being seen by their courtiers, particularly when engaging in amusements (49-50). The 'third rank' of people at court were entertainers, i.e. clowns, jugglers, tumblers, comics and musicians. However, these were not to be drawn from among people of humble origin, the weak or disabled, giants or dwarfs, deformed people, or others of low class (52-53).
mid-5th century?
RAABE, Richard (transl. 1895) Petrus der Iberer, Ein charakterbild zur kirchen- un sittengeschichte des fünften jahrhunderts. Syrische übersetzung einer um das jahr 500 verfassen griechischen biographie. Herausgegeben und übersetzt von R. Raabe. Leipzig. (Syriac text, pp. 3-143 from one end of book, German translation, pp. 13-132 from other end).
In the period described in the following extract, probably in the 480s CE, the renowned monk Peter the Iberian (born possibly 409 or 412 or 417, died 488 or 491) was probably in his late 70s and in poor health, as a result of severe ascetic practices, old age, and no doubt the stress of battling over many years for the Monophysite doctrine against the tide of Chalcedonian domination. He had gone from his base in southern Palestine to visit the hot springs at Livias in Arabia, and then at Ba'ar. That journey also became something of a "pilgrimage tour of Transjordan", visiting historic sites of the Old Testament heritage (A Kofsky, 1997, 'Peter the Iberian. Pilgrimage, monasticism and ecclesiastical politics in Byzantine Palestine, Liber Annuus 47: 209-222, see pp. 215-220, based on the present Vita Petri Iberi). Near the close of the trip, as he headed toward Jerusalem, "Peter and his companions were invited by the tribune Elias, a long time admirer of Peter who had been in the service of Eudocia and lived in Jerusalem, to spend the hot summer in his village (Beit Thafsha), five miles north of Jerusalem. Peter accepted his invitation" (Kofsky, p.220).
            Raabe (German transl. pp. 92-93, of Syriac text pp. 96-97): "Ein Mann aber, welcher Christus und die Heiligen und die Armen und Fremden liebte, feurig im Glauben und ein eifriger Orthodoxer, Namens Elias, der die Stellung eines Tribuns inne hatte und in Jerusalem wohnte und mächtig und ein Hausgenosse der gläubigen und orthodoxen Königin Eudokia war, der schon mit dem Heiligen bekannt war und seine Güte erfahren hatte -- als er nämlich taub war, wurde er durch ihn der Heilung teilhaft -- bat ihn dringend und überredete ihn, weil es Sommer wäre und in der Ebene grosse Hitze   [p.93] herrschte -- es war nämlich die Zeit nach Pfingsten -- bis zum Vorübergehen der Hitze auf dem Gebirge zu bleiben.
            [Approximate translation*] "There was, however, a man named Elias,** who loved Christ and the holy ones, and the poor and strangers, ardent in faith and keenly orthodox, and who lived in Jerusalem. This man held the position of Tribune and had been a member of the household of the Empress Eudokia, and had previously known the holy man and experienced his blessing - in fact, Elias had been deaf,# and the holy one had a hand in his healing - this Elias urgently begged and persuaded Peter, because it was the period after Whitsuntide and the summer was extremely hot on the coastal plain, to remain in the mountains until the hot season ended."
            [* After the compiler made this secondary translation from Raabe's German text, a new Syriac to English translation became available, see below, HORN & PHENIX (2008). That is obviously preferable, being based on a fresh edition, with extensive introduction, and translated directly from Syriac to English. Yet in fact, apart from stylistic differences, there is very little difference in Horn & Phenix's rendering of the passages concerning deaf Elyas.]
            [** In the Syriac text, p. 96, line 22, the name would transliterate as Alya.]
            [# The word uses h_r_sh, the common Semitic root for deaf, dumb, silent, see Syriac text p. 97, lines 4 and 14. (Cf. below, in RUFUS, Plérophories, the case of "Abba Thomas the Deaf" from southern Palestine of the same period, where the less common Syriac 'dOgya' is used for 'deaf'. Also incidental remarks on Syriac cheresh by T Baarda, 2001, The 'foolish' or 'deaf' fig-tree ... Novum Testamentum 43 (2) 161-177.)]
RAABE: "Die Art aber, auf welche seine Ohren geheilt wurden, erzählte uns der Tribun in folgender Weise: 'Als der Selige in der Gegend von Ascalon wohnte, veranlasste mich ein Geschäft nach eben dieser Stadt zu gehen. Und als ich hörte, dass der Selige in der Nähe war, wünschte ich, während ich mit ihm noch nicht freimütig verkehrte [p. 93, ftn 1] und keinen Umgang hatte, seines Segens teilhaft zu werden. Ich war aber seit langer Zeit taub. Und als ihm über mich Mitteilung gemacht wurde, nahm er mich freudig auf. Und wie ich zu seinen Füssen fallen und ihm Verehrung bezeigen wollte, ergriff er mich bei meinem Kopfe und richtete mich auf. Während er nun seine beiden Hände auf meine Ohren legte, wie um mich zu hindern, vor ihm niederzufallen, küsste er mich auf mein Haupt. Augenblicklich wurde mein Gehör geöffnet.'
 [1] durch (Greek) parrEsia ausgedrückt --
Deshalb hatte er von dieser Zeit an solchen Glauben und solch Zuversicht zum Seligen, wie zu einem der Apostel, indem er unablässig zu ihm ging, und es ihm schwer fiel, sich von seinem Umgang zu trennen, damit er gewürdigt würde, auch in der Todesstunde der Seligen zugegen zu sein [2] und seines Segens teilhaftig zu werden.
   [2] wörtlich: damit er ion der Zeit des Todes erfunden würde."
            [approximate English transl.] "The manner in which his ears were healed was recounted to us by the Tribune in the following way. 'When the blessed one lived in the area of Ascalon, I had some business to go to that city. And as I heard that the blessed one was nearby, though I did not yet openly associate with him and had no contact, I wished to have a part in his blessings. But I had been deaf for a long time. As information about me was given to him, the holy man was pleased to see me. And as I wished to fall at his feet and show him my reverence, he caught me by the head and brought me upright. While he now placed both hands on my ears, to prevent me from falling at his feet, he kissed me on my head. Immediately, my hearing was opened.
            Therefore, from that time he had such faith and confidence in the blessed one, as to one of the holy Apostles, while visiting him constantly; and it was hard for him to part from his company, so that he appreciated the opportunity, in the closing scenes of the holy one's life, to be a participant in his blessing.'"
See also: AHM Jones & J Robert (1980) The Prosopography of the Later Roman Empire. Vol. II, A.D. 395 - 527. Cambridge University Press.
p. 390. "Elias 4. A tribunus, he was a Christian and a member of the household of the empress Eudocia 2 at Jerusalem (c. 443-460). Peter the Iberian cured his deafness, V. Petr. Iber, p. 92. A tribunus, he helped Peter when the latter was ill, V. Petr. Iber. p. 114."
HORN, Cornelia B & PHENIX, Robert R (ed. & transl.) (2008) John Rufus: The Lives of Peter the Iberian, Theodosius of Jerusalem, and the Monk Romanus. Brill: Leiden.
[See annotation to RAABE above.] Section 132 of the Life of Peter the Iberian, in which the deafness of the tribune Elias is mentioned, appears on pp. 192-195 (Syriac and English on facing pages, with English footnotes on both pages) of this edition and translation (in which the tribune's name is rendered as "Elijah"). The tribune recounted "the manner in which his ears had been healed" (p. 193). He had wished to have Peter's blessing; yet there was the problem of being "deaf in my ears for a long time. When he was told about me, he received me gladly. I was about to fall down at his feet and reverence him when he took me by my head and raised me up. He placed both of his hands on my ears, so as to prevent me from falling down before him, [and] he kissed me on my head. Immediately in that very moment my hear- [p. 195] ing was opened." [Footnote:] "Peter is shown as foreknowing what Elijah's need for healing was."

            Horn & Phenix provide detailed introduction, background, chronology, bibliography and index. [However, the encounter with Elias is not found under that name, nor under 'healing', nor 'deaf', but only via 'Elijah' or 'Tribunus' in the index. The footnote on Peter "foreknowing" Elijah's need is curious, after the statement that "he was told about me".]

late 5th Century [?]
RUFUS, Jean [515?] Plérophories. Témoinages et révélations contre le Concile de Chalcédoine. Version Syriaque et traduction française, éditées par F. Nau (1912). Patrologia Orientalis 8: 11-161. Paris: Firmin-Didot.
Jean Rufus, bishop of Maïouma, wrote this work (attacking the Council of Chalcedon, 451, and the spread of what the Monophysites believed to be false doctrine) in Greek while Severus was patriarch of Antioch (512-518). It survives in Syriac translation, which is introduced and presented by François Nau with parallel translation in French, and some textual annotation and indexing. In chapter X (p. 22), there is brief mention of Abba Thomas the Deaf, the principal (chief, or finest) disciple of Abba Romanus. (The Syriac term after Thomas's name, translated by Nau as 'le sourd', can be transliterated 'dugya', similar to the term for a deaf person or deaf mute given by J Payne Smith, 1903, A Compendious Syriac Dictionary, Oxford, Clarendon, pp. 83b, 85a; and to the equivalent 'duga' given by ES Drower & R Macuch, 1963, Mandaic Dictionary, Oxford, Clarendon, p. 103). Thomas was one of a number of elderly monophysite monks and other believers who had taken refuge in the monastery run by Abba Romanus in Gaza, Palestine.
c. 500 CE / revisited 842 CE
LAURENT, Vitalien (1964) Une homélie inédite de l'archevêque de Thessalonique Léon le Philosophe sur l'Annonciation (25 mars 842). In: Mélanges Eugène Tisserant, vol. II, Orient Chrétien, première partie pp. 281-302. Studi e Testi. Vatican: Biblioteca Apostolica.
The homily delivered by Archbishop Leo, probably in 842 CE, on the Christian feast day celebrating the Annunciation [informing the Virgin Mary of her pregnancy with Jesus, Son of the Most High], is given a detailed introduction by Laurent (pp. 281-297), followed by the Greek text (pp. 297-302). It includes a story from the time of Andreos, an earlier Archbishop of Thessalonika, apparently in that post from 491 to 497 and probably some years earlier and also later, perhaps up to 510. A deaf-mute Jewish girl aged 15, living in her parents' house in the Jewish quarter of the city, reportedly had a dream in which two venerable figures, male and female, led her from the house, up the street to the church of the Theotokos ['God-bearer', referring to the Virgin Mary], leaving her at one entrance. Entering with other people, the girl thought it was a public bathhouse, and got into the water, where something like a baptism by immersion took place. The two venerable guides reappeared and told her to 'Hear and speak to your people' [Greek: "Akouson kai lalEson tO genei sou" (p.301).] In the dream, she did immediately hear and speak. Waking up, and wishing to make real the experience, the girl left her house, unnoticed, and went to the church, where the baptistry had been filled for the baptism of a man named Basilides. To the astonishment of those present, the young Jewish girl stripped and plunged into the water, then presented herself before Archbishop Andreos for the sacrament. Perhaps under divine inspiration, Andreos placed his hand on her head, and baptised her. Emerging from the water she received her hearing, and began to speak, recounting the events of her dream. She then succeeded in identifying, among the icons in the church, the two persons who had appeared in the dream: the Virgin Mary and St Demetrios. The immediate outcomes in the community, and the subsequent ascetic life of the young woman, are sketched briefly.

            In his introduction, Laurent's account of this curious tale (pp. 288-289) follows closely the order of the Greek text (pp. 300-302, lines 103-185). Yet he omits some useful 'deafness' details, e.g. lines 109-113, where it is noted that the impediment of the tongue and incapacity of the auditory channels was 'from infancy' [Gk. ex autOn sparganOn, literally 'from her swaddling bands']; and where Leo (as 'Philosopher') digressed briefly with remarks on the common association of deafness and muteness. Leo seems to have speculated about whether the incapacity of the ears affects the functioning of the tongue, or whether the wordless tongue comes first and prevents the ears from receiving words. # Laurent does comment on some verifiable and some improbable details of the story, in terms of the history of Thessalonika and of baptismal practices. In several ways the entire homily departs from standard hagiography, and appears more as an academic or antiquarian discourse. [The relevance of the story to the feast of the 'Annunciation' may be that each reported event comprised a dramatic revelation of the salvific 'Word', by messengers of God to a Jewish maiden, who would 'hear' and act upon it, without any human instruction, regardless of the apparent impropriety of her behaviour and the doubts and questions of the conventionally religious community. The 'miraculous' elements are of course left for the reader to receive with belief, with incredulity, with interpretation, or other response.] [# cf. comments by JAHIZ, below, in Kitab al Hayawan.]

550 to 650 CE
CRUM WE & BELL HI (1922) Wadi Sarga. Coptic and Greek texts from the excavations undertaken by the Byzantine Research Account. Hauniae: Gyldendalske Boghandel-Nordisk forlag.
Excavations in 1913-1914 at the religious settlement at Wadi Sarga, some 15 miles south of Assyut, Egypt, found many ostraca and papyrus or parchment fragments of minor texts in Greek or Coptic, dating from the early 5th to early 7th century (pp. 5, 16, 29). Many of the ostraca, which can be dated between 550 and 650 CE (p. 16), are a kind of waybill, carried by the delivery man and handed over when he made delivery (p. 163). Several were written by a clerk named Horus, and one of these mentions "Enoch the Deaf" [EnOch p-kour] (p. 158, no. 207), as the person delivering a consignment of barley and wheat, on the 26th day of the month Mesore. [Enoch was a fairly common name among Coptic Christians of the period - Crum & Bell index other ostraca bearing names such as Enoch the builder, brother Enoch, Apa Enoch, Enoch the steward, Enoch the less, Enoch the camel-driver; so it would not be surprising if anyone called Enoch might acquire some appropriate nickname, to distinguish him from the others. This ordinary deaf working man might otherwise have passed unnoticed.]
c. 623-641 CE
i. NIKEPHORUS I, Patriarch. Nicephori Archiepiscopi Constantinopolitani Opuscula Historica, edidit Carolus de Boor, accedit Ignatii Diaconi Vita Nicephori. Lipsiae, 1880.
ii. JOHN, Bishop of Nikiu [late 7th century CE] Chronique de Jean, Evêque de Nikiou. Texte Ethiopien, publié et traduit par H. Zotenberg (1883). Paris: Imprimerie Nationale.
iii. KAEGI, Walter E (2003) Heraclius, Emperor of Byzantium. Cambridge University Press.
[Flavius Heraclius (c. 575-641) became Emperor in October 610, and married Eudokia, with whom he had two children. Eudokia, who had epilepsy, died in 612. In 622 or 623, Heraclius married his niece Martina and had further children (Kaegi, pp. 106-107, 266-68), the second being Theodosius, who was deaf {and mute}. After a few years, Heraclius arranged for the marriage of Theodosius with Nike, daughter of the Persian ruler Shahrbaraz (Nikephorus, p. 21, lines 19-21). Kaegi comments (p. 188) that this marriage of "the very young (five or six years old at the time), deaf-mute Theodosius" had great implications for Byzantine power in Persia. (While his deaf son was growing up, Heraclius was busy fighting the Sassanids).

            The 'Short History' by Nikephorus (750-828), Patriarch of Constantinople, mentioned the impairments of the first two sons of Heraklius and Martina, i.e. Flavios {or Fabius} had a 'wry neck' which restricted turning his head, while Theodore was deaf {and mute}. These features were portrayed by Nikephorus as a divine judgement in the form of a 'visible public disgrace' for their scandalous marriage:]

            "{Greek transliterated} kai dE duo huieis ex autEs tiktei, hOn tov men Phlauion ton de Theodosion prosEgoreusen. hE dikE de ethriambeue to athemiton, kai tou men presbuterou pareimenon edeiknu ton auchena hOs mEd' heterOthi epistrephesthai hoion te einai, tou d' au neOterou tEn akoustikEn aphEirEto aisthEsin kai kOphon EdE apephaine." (Nikephorus, p. 14, lines 17-23. The Latin index has Theodosius as the "filius surdus" of the royal couple, p. 243).
[The two facts, that this deaf boy was the Emperor's son, and that it was possible for a 'geopolitically strategic' marriage to be arranged for him while he was still very young, make it highly likely that some care and attention was given to the upbringing of Theodosius, with provision for his training and education, probably at Byzantium (Constantinople). At the very least, some servants would regularly have taken care of his safety and wellbeing, and an informal system of 'home sign' communication would probably have developed over months and years, with such servants, and some of Theodosius's brothers and sisters. It is even possible that a few deaf youths might have been collected as companions for Theodosius, but no record has been seen of his education. The focus of historical attention has been on the public disapproval of the Emperor's consanguineous marriage, and on the boys' physical impairments.]
            [Bishop John of Nikiu was a leader in the Jacobite church of Egypt in the second half of the 7th century, whose Chronicle survived in an Ethiopian version written in 1602 on the basis of an old Arabic paraphrase (p. 6). Bishop John recorded that after the death of Heraclius in 641, Martina and her surviving sons were seized and mutilated by her enemies, so that the young men would be disqualified from the throne; but Theodosius was spared the cutting, because he was already disqualified:]
            "On ne fit aucun mal à un autre de ses fils qui, étant sourd-muet, n'était pas apte au tröne." (Bishop John, transl. Zotenberg, pp. 460-461).
7th century CE
KASSIS, H.E. (1983) A Concordance of the Qur'an. Berkeley: Univ. California Press. xxxix + 1444 pp.
From the 7th century onward, the Qur'an has been a revered text, memorised and read, publicly and privately across the Islamic world. This concordance gives Roman transliteration of Qur'anic vocabulary, with compounds and derivatives. An alphabetical index of words in English provides the roots of relevant Arabic word(s) transliterated. Under the words derived from each root, the citation is given of texts using each word. Examples concerning deafness, muteness and signs:
Root A Y W, used in many references to Signs or revelations from Allah, and for verses of the Qur'an (pp. 203-210).
Root B K M, used in 6 references to 'dumb' (pp. 317-318).
Root R M Z, used when Zakariya should speak only "with signals", in Sura 3: 41 (p. 1020).
Root [S] M M, used in 15 references to 'deaf'. (p. 1194)
Root W [H] Y, used when Zakariya "made signal" to people", in Sura 19: 11. (p. 1265).
Root Y D Y, used for 'hand', when the "hands shall speak", in Suras 24: 24, and 36: 65. (p. 1305)
7th to 9th Centuries CE
IBN KHALLIKAN. Ibn Khallikan's Biographical Dictionary translated from the Arabic. 4 vols, transl. Baron MAC GUCKIN DE SLANE (1842-1871). Paris, for Oriental Translation Fund.
Vol. I: 83-86. Abu 'l-Abbas Ahmad Ibn Yahya Ibn Zaid Ibn Saiyar, born probably in 815 and known as Thalab, was a deaf scholar and "chief grammarian and philologist among the learned men of Kufa". He died in a traffic accident at Baghdad in April 904: "...some time before he had got a deafness, which prevented him from hearing unless with great difficulty; he was holding a book in his hand and reading it in the street, when a horse knocked against him and threw him into a deep pit..."
Vol. II: 586-89. Muhammad Ibn Sirin (653-4 - 729) of Basra was a highly esteemed law lecturer, and was also valued as an accurate transmitter of sayings of the prophet Muhammad. To students of law, "As-Shabi used to say 'Stick to that deaf man!' meaning thereby Ibn Sirin; because he was dull of hearing."
between 813 and 838 CE
MAS`UDI, translated & edited by P Lunde & C Stone (1989) The Meadows of Gold. The Abbasids. London: Kegan Paul International.
The inhabitants of Kufa (in Iraq) chose a deaf man to plead their case before Caliph Ma`mun (813-833), which he did with both subtle wit and effrontery. The Caliph was infuriated, but the deaf man obtained what the Kufa people wanted (pp. 193-94).
9th Century CE
AL-JAHIZ. Kitab al-Hayawan. ed. Harun, Cairo. In: C PELLAT (1969) The Life and Works of Jahiz, transl. (from French original, 1967) by DM Hawke. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.
Al-Jahiz (776-868 CE) was a prolific, influential and notably ugly essayist, whose work continues to be read by educated people across the Arab world. He made a number of comments on deafness and deaf people. In the 'Book of Animals' IV: 404-405, Jahiz gives one of the earliest clear descriptions of the different degrees of hearing impairment, and why prelingually deaf people have great difficulty in producing speech:

            "Theologians say that your dumb man is deaf: his inability to speak is due not to any malformation of the tongue, but to the fact that having never heard sounds, articulated or otherwise, he does not know how to produce them. Not all deaf people are completely dumb, and there are also degrees of deafness." [Gives examples of loud noises that some deaf people can hear.] "Others can hear words if spoken in their ear, but otherwise they hear nothing, even if the speaker raises his voice; if the speaker positions himself so that the sound goes right into their ear, they understand perfectly, whereas if he speaks just as loudly into the air, the sound of his voice not being concentrated and conducted along a canal into the brain, they do not understand." (p. 164). [cf. the comments of Archbishop Leon, at a similar period, in LAURENT, above.]

AL-JAHIZ. Kitab al-bayan wa al-tabyin. ed. Harun, Cairo (1948-50). 4 vols. In: C PELLAT (1969) The Life and Works of Jahiz, transl. DM Hawke. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.
From the book on 'Elegance of expression and clarity of exposition' [I: 77-79]:
            "As regards gesticulation, the hands, head, eyes, eyebrows and shoulders come into use when a conversation is carried on at a distance, and even a piece of cloth or sword. ... Speech and gesture are partners, and what a precious helpmeet and interpreter gesture is to speech! It often takes its place, or makes writing unnecessary. ... The wink, the movement of the eyebrows and other gestures are priceless adjuncts, and a great help in expressing surreptitious thoughts." (pp. 102-103)
963 CE
FRANTZ-MURPHY G (1981) Arabic and earlier Egyptian contract formularies. Part I, the Arabic contracts from Egypt. J. Near Eastern Studies 40: 203-225.
A house sale contract drawn up in Egypt, early in 963 CE, mentions "the residence of the heirs of Munah the Deaf" [Arabic: al-Asamm].
1046-1049 CE
KHOSRAU [KHUSRAW], Nasir [Nassiri]. Sefer Nameh. Relation du Voyage de Nassiri Khosrau, célèlebre poète et philosophe Persan, ca. 1003-1088 A.D., en Syrie, en Palestine, en Égypte, en Arabie et en Perse, pendant les années de l'Hégire 437-44 (A.D. 1045-1052), texte Persan, publié d'après trois manuscrits... translated and introduced by Charles Schefer (1881, Paris), reprinted 1970, Amsterdam: Philo.
The Persian religious teacher and traveller Khosrau visited Egypt from 1046 to 1049, and his detailed observations are largely confirmed by other sources. One detail concerned the annual rise of the Nile and the important ceremony of opening the major water canal (pp. 136-142). The Caliph led the ceremony and gave the first symbolic blow to the embankment sealing the river; then the crowd piled in with picks and shovels, until the water poured through, and it was possible to launch boats. A vast population then took part in the celebrations. The honour of opening the boating was reserved for deaf-mute people: "La première barque, lancée dans le canal, est remplie de sourds-muets appelés en persan Koung ou Lal. On leur attribue une heureuse influence et le sultan leur fait distribuer des aumônes." (p. 142). [This was one of the rare reports in North Africa and the Middle East in which a group of deaf people gathered and performed an important symbolic role in a public religious ceremony of national importance.] See also AC Hunsberger (2003) Nasir Khusraw, the Ruby of Badakhshan. A portrait of the Persian poet, traveller and philosopher, p.169, London: Tauris, who reports the same remarks indirectly.
SKYLITZES. Ioannis Scylitzae Synopsis Historiarum. Editio Princeps, edited by Ioannes Thurn (1973). Berlin: Walter de Gruyter.
JACOB, Xavier (ed) (1990) Les Turcs au Moyen Age. Textes-Byzantins. Traduits du Grec et annotés. Ankara: Türk Tarih Kurumu Basimevi.
[In 1048, the Seljuk ruler Tughrul Beg, occupied with besieging Pasar, sent his nephew, known as Asan the Deaf {Greek: "'Asan ton legomenon kOphon"}, sometimes represented as Hasan the Deaf, at the head of a Turkish army of 20,000 men to fight the Roman {Byzantine} troops and to occupy Media. Near the river Stragna, Asan came upon the Roman camp apparently abandoned, and allowed his troops to disperse for booty. Later the Romans emerged from hiding, and attacked strongly. Asan died fighting in the front line, and his army was defeated. (Skylites, pp. 447-449; Jacob (1990, pp. 80-82).]
Further Materials
From the Byzantine Era, 4th to mid 15th centuries, stories are recorded in which people who were deaf or mute are reported to have experienced some form of healing in the presence of a saint or the relics of a saint. A few examples have been given above, where the incidental details of the deaf person's life or activity made them particularly pertinent; but many more exist, some having interesting features.
From about 1300 onward to the present, a large amount of documentary evidence on deafness and signed communication is provided from Turkey at: www.independentliving.org/miles200907.html


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