The Hittite Laws draw a separation of the Hittite domain into seemingly discrete socio-geographical entities: Hatti, Luwiya, and Pala. This distinction has inspired a long-lasting debate among Hittitologists, chiefly oriented to the definition of different ethno-linguistic spheres in Anatolia. The present paper moves on from this debate and takes the Hatti-Luwiya-Pala opposition to signify a permeable divide between Hatti and other spheres of the early Hittite administration, based on a core-periphery organisation. I propose that this divide did not emerge as an abstract feature of the Hittite administrative map, but was determined by a cultural frontier having its traceable roots in the Old Assyrian period of the early 2nd millennium BCE, when the term Hatti (attested in the form Hattum) already indicated a geographic entity clearly distinct from the rest of Anatolia. In conclusion, I propose that both Hatti and Luwiya originally derived from ethnolinguistic designations for the “Hattian” and the “Luwian” lands respectively, but these meanings were already altered by the time the Hittite kingdom emerged.
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