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The Anatolians were a group of distinct Indo-European peoples who spoke the Anatolian languages and shared a common culture. The Anatolian languages were a branch of the larger family of Indo-European languages. According to the most widely accepted Kurgan theory on the Proto-Indo-European homeland, however, these Indo-European Anatolians were themselves immigrants to Anatolia from the north.
The archaeological discovery and eventual deciphering of the Hittites' written (cuneiform) archives, establishing the fact that the Hittite language belonged to a separate Anatolian branch of the Indo-European language family, caused a sensation among historians and forced a re-evaluation of Near Eastern history and Indo-European linguistics. In accordance with the Kurgan hypothesis, J. P. Mallory notes in Encyclopedia of Indo-European Culture that it is likely that the Anatolians reached the Near East from the north, via the Balkans or the Caucasus, in the 3rd millennium BC. Together with the proto-Tocharians, who migrated eastward, the Anatolians constituted the first known waves of Indo-European emigrants out of the Eurasian steppe. Although they had wagons, they probably emigrated before Indo-Europeans had learned to use chariots for war. It is likely that their arrival was one of gradual settlement and not as an invading army. The Anatolians' earliest linguistic and historical attestation are as names mentioned in Assyrian mercantile texts from 19th Century BC Kanesh.
The Hittites, who established an extensive empire in the Middle East in the 2nd millennium BC, are by far the best known members of the Anatolian group. Following the Bronze Age collapse, the lands of the Anatolian peoples were invaded with great frequency by a number of peoples and empires: the Phrygians, Bithynians, the Medes, the Persians, the Greeks, the Galatian Celts, Romans, and the Seljuq dynasty. Many of the invaders settled in Anatolia, sometimes causing the extinction of the Anatolian languages. By the Middle Ages, the Anatolian languages and their associated cultures had gone extinct. However, genetic analyses on modern populations indicate that the genes of the Ancient Anatolians live on in their descendants, which include Turks, Iranians, Kurds and most notably Armenians.
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