The Hattians were an ancient people who inhabited the land of Hatti in present-day central part of Anatolia, Turkey, noted at least as early as the empire of Sargon of Akkad ca. 2300, until they were gradually displaced and absorbed ca. 2000-1700 BC by Indo-European Hittites, who adopted their name for the “land of Hatti”.
As the Hattians did not have a written language (in other words, they were proto-historic), scholars rely on indirect sources or statements by other peoples. Hattian leaders probably used scribes writing in Assyrian to conduct business with northern Mesopotamia. Scholars have long assumed that the predominant population of the region of Anatolia “in the third millennium [BC] was an indigenous pre-Indo-European group called the Hattians.”
The oldest name for Anatolia, “Land of the Hatti” was found for the first time on Mesopotamian cuneiform tablets from the period of Sargon the Great of Akkad ca. 2350-2150 BC: on those tablets Assyrian traders implored the help of the Akkadian king Sargon. This appellation continued to exist for about 1500 years until 630 BC, as stated in Assyrian chronicles. According to later Hittite documents, Sargon the Great had fought with the Hattite king Nurdaggal of Burushanda, while his successor Naram-Suen of Akkad had battled Pamba, king of Hatti and 16 other confederates.
The Hattians spoke a non-Indo-European language of uncertain affiliation called Hattic, now believed by some scholars to be related to the Northwest Caucasian language group. Trevor Bryce writes:
“Evidence of a ‘Hattic’ civilisation is provided by the remnants of one of the non-Indo-European languages found in the later Hittite archives. The language is identified in several of the texts in which it appears by the term hattili-i.e. ‘(written) in the language of Hatti.’ The few texts that survive are predominantly religious or cultic in character. They provide us with the names of a number of Hattic deities, as well as Hattic personal and place-names.”
The use of the word “Proto-Hittite” instead of Hattians is inaccurate. This would imply that the Hittites evolved from the Hattians, which is completely false. The Hittites were an Indo-European people, ethnically and linguistically distinct from the Hattians. However, the term “Land of Hatti” was so ingrained that the Hittites continued to use it when referring to their own country. The Hattians eventually merged with, or were replaced by, the Hittites, who spoke the Indo-European Hittite language.
The vast Hittite empire that replaced Hatti and its core lands was based in the lands of central Anatolia.
The Hattians were organised in feudal city-states and small kingdoms or principalities. These cities were well organized and ruled as theocratic principalities. Even as they were taken over one by one by the conquering Hittites after ca. 2200 BC, the Hattians probably continued to form the major portion of the population. They may have been the people “who built and inhabited the early Bronze Age kingdoms of central Anatolia.”