The Kaska, probably originating from the eastern shore of the Propontis, may have displaced the speakers of the Palaic language from their home in Pala.
The Kaska first appear in the Hittite prayer inscriptions that date from the reign of Hantili II, c. 1450 BC, and make references to their movement into the ruins of the holy city of Nerik. During the reign of Hantili's son, Tudhaliya II (c. 1430 BC), "Tudhaliya's 3rd campaign was against the Kaskas." His successor Arnuwanda I composed a prayer for the gods to return Nerik to the empire; he also mentioned
Kammama and Zalpuwa as cities which he claimed had been Hittite but which were now under the Kaskas. Arnuwanda attempted to mollify some of the Kaska tribes by means of tribute.
Sometime between the reigns of Arnuwanda and Suppiluliuma I (about 1330 BC), letters found in Maşat Höyük note that locusts ate the Kaskas' grain. The hungry Kaska were able to join with Hayasa-Azzi and Isuwa to the east, as well as other enemies of the Hittites, and burn Hattusa, the Hittite capital, to the ground. They probably also burned the Hittites' secondary capital Sapinuwa. Suppiluliuma's grandson Hattusili III in the mid-13th century BC wrote of the time before Tudhaliya. He said that in those days the Kaska had "made
Nenassa their frontier" and that their allies in Azzi-Hayasa had done the same to Samuha.
In the Amarna letters, Amenhotep III wrote to the Arzawan king Tarhunta-Radu that the "country Hattusa" was obliterated, and further asked for Arzawa to send him some of these Kaska people of whom he had heard. The Hittites also enlisted subject Kaska for their armies. When the Kaska were not raiding or serving as mercenaries, they raised pigs and wove linen, leaving scarcely any imprint on the permanent landscape.
Tudhaliya III and Suppiluliuma (c. 1375–1350 BC) set up their court in Samuha and invaded Azzi-Hayasa from there. The Kaska intervened, but Suppiluliuma defeated them; after Suppiluliuma had fully pacified the region, Tudhaliya and Suppiluliuma were able to move on Hayasa and defeat it too, despite some devastating guerrilla tactics at their rear. Some twelve tribes of Kaska then united under
Piyapili, but Piyapili was no match for Suppiluliuma. Eventually, Tudhaliya and Suppiluliuma returned Hattusa to the Hittites. But the Kaska continued to be a menace both inside and out and a constant military threat. They are said to have fielded as many as 9,000 warriors and 800 chariots.
In the time of ailing Arnuwanda II (around 1323 BC), the Hittites worried that the Kaskas from
Ishupitta within the kingdom to Kammama without might take advantage of the plague in Hatti. The veteran commander Hannutti moved to Ishupitta, but he died there. Ishupitta then seceded from Hatti, and Arnuwanda died too. Arnuwanda's brother and successor Mursili II recorded in his annals that he defeated this rebellion. Over the ongoing decades, the Kaskans were also active in Durmitta and in Tipiya, by Mount Tarikarimu in the land of Ziharriya, and by Mount Asharpaya on the route to Pala; they rebelled and/or performed egregious banditry in each place. At first, Mursili defeated each Kaska uprising piecemeal.