Tuesday, 26 December 2017

Bulgarian Sacred Script (The Slavic Chapter ) - Part 1


      More than thousand years ago, Bulgarian Medieval author Chernorizets Hrabar wrote 
an inspiring praise of Slavic alphabet, “О писмєньхъ”(An Account Of Letters). There he gives quiet brief outline of the history of Slavic writing. “Прѣжде ѹбо словѣне не имѣхѫ писменъ · нѫ чрътами и рѣзами чьтѣхѫ и гатаахѫ погани сѫще · кръстивше же сѧ · римьсками и гръчьскыми писмены · нѫждаахѫ сѧ словѣнскы рѣчь безъ устроениа" (Kuev K. 1967) (Before, the Slavs did not have books, but read and divined by means of strokes and incisions, being pagan. Having become Christian, they had to [write] Slavic language using Roman and Greek letters without order).Those lines has been commented many times, but the mysterious Slavic pagan writing was never found. Some Russian researchers seek those “чрътами и рѣзами” (strokes and incisions) in Crimea where according to his hagiography, St. Cyril were shown “Роусьские письмена”(Chernyh P. 1951, p. 131). Bulgarian scientist, on other hand, connect Chernorizets Hrabar's note with the numerous signs and short inscriptions incised on the artefacts of Early Medieval Bulgaria (Popkonstantinov K. 1993). Others believe that such writing never existed. (Ivanova T. 2004 p. 36) In contrary of the odds, Macedonian Archaeologist Blaga Aleksova claimed in her monograph “Епископиjата на Брегалница” that she found evidence of the strokes and incisions that Chernorizets Hrabar had written about. Her work is product of over 20 year archaeological research at valley of river Bregalnica. During aforementioned study Macedonian archaeologists found engraved with “mysterious” signs and inscriptions marble plates, stone blocks, and reused architectural elements from antique buildings at villages of Krupiste, Zhiganci, and Kletovo (Republic of Macedonia) (Алексова Б. 1989). According to Aleksova some signs are mysterious and unknown, but some look like Glagolitic and Cyrillic letters. She believes that those signs are evidence of pre-Glagolitic Slavic writing as well as proof of creation of Glagolitic alphabet at city of Raven during Bregalnica mission of St. Cyril. In this work we will examine epigraphic material published in the monograph of Blaga Aleksova, try to understand it, and connect it with writings from other parts of Early Medieval Bulgaria.
      It is believed that the Valley of Bregalnica River was added to Bulgaria in the reign of Khan Presian (836-852). There are no historical sources about such military campaign of Bulgarian army, but medieval authors confirm that during the reign of Presian’s, heir Boris I, this territory was already Bulgarian(Zlatarski V. 1918).

Bulgaria under Presian and the approximate location of Raven (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Presian_I_of_Bulgaria)

In fact, an 11th century apocrypha states that Khan Boris I “accepted” his kingdom at the Valley of Bregalnica River: “And after the death of King Isot, his son Boris accepted the Bulgarian kingdom, and was godly and very glorious. And this king baptised all the land of Bulgaria and created churches on the Bulgarian land and on the river Bregalnica, and accepted the kingdom there. He built white churches in Ovče Pole..."(Petkanova D. 1981). Another legendary account, known as “Solun Legend”, also from 11th century connects city of Raven with the missionary activity of Constantine Cyril : “I was born in Cappadocia and studied in Damascus. And once when I was in the church of the great Patriarchate of Alexandria, I heard a voice directed to me from the altar, saying, "Cyril, Cyril, go to the Slavic people called Bulgarians, because God has ordained you to baptise them…. I was very grieved because I did not know where the Bulgarian land was. Then I went to Cyprus, but when I did not hear a word about the Bulgarian land, I wanted to come back…… and went to Crete. And here they said, "Go to the city of Thessaloniki. And I went and appeared in front of bishop John. And when I told him, he laughed at me and said, "Oh, crazy old man, the Bulgarians are man-eaters and they will eat you." Then I went out to the market and heard Bulgarians talking. And my heart so frightened that I was like hell and darkness…. Then I saw a dove, which spoke and wore in his mouth a bundle of fig-sticks, double-tiered. He threw them into my lap, I read them, and found them to be 32. I threw them into my bosom and brought them to the Metropolitan. Then they hid in my body and I forgot the Greek language. And when the bishop invited me to the table, I did not understand what he was saying to me in Greek. Then they all gathered and wondered. They also hidden me. The Bulgarians heard about me. And the great prince Desimir Moravsky, Radivoy, Prince Preslavsky, and all the Bulgarian princes gathered around Thessaloniki and fought against Thessaloniki for three years, shedding much blood. And they said, "Give us the man whom God has sent us!" Then they gave me. The Bulgarians took me with great joy and brought me to the town of Raven on the Bregalnica River. I created them 32 letters...” (Petkanova D. 1981). Although mentioned in other sources, Bregalnica mission of Constantine is not accepted by the majority of scientists. The importance of the "Solun Legend" though is that connects City of Raven with creation of Old Church Slavonic Alphabet but also ads mysticism to the image of that medieval city. It is expected that epigraphic material found there and its vicinity will revile another piece of the puzzle of history of writing in Early Medieval Bulgaria.

Plan of the city walls of Raven 

First, have to be admitted that Blaga Aleksova published only few photographs of the epigraphic materials in her monograph; the rest is shown by means of drawings. However, they have to be used with caution as the actual graphic is not represented correctly on certain places. At occasions where both drawing and corresponding picture are presented such mistakes can be easily found. For example, there is few mistakes in the drawing of the marble plate, chaotically inscribed with numerous signs and short inscriptions, picture of which is shown on head cover of the book. On the top left corner we see drawn a composition of few letters. Huge vertically extended sign occupies the right side, when on left tree signs are drown more or less in position of triangle. On the actual stone the composition is different: in the bottom, two large signs form horizontal group and the other signs stay isolated. All this makes signs on this part of the drawing unrecognisable and any conclusions that might be drawn upon it is might be irrelevant: 

Same is the case with the group of signs on other stown. Here the differences are less, but still enough to totally mislead the research:

These mistakes are not dangerous because they can be detected, but in cases where only drawings are published, epigraphic material from the book cannot be trusted entirely.

      Nonetheless, we have to work with the available material. In “Епископиjата на Брегалница“, were published drawings of over 29 stone and brick plates engraved with signs and short inscriptions. Some of them also are added with readable photographs. The first step of understanding them is to distinguish individual signs, analyse them statistically, and compare with signs found at other sites of First Bulgarian Kingdom. Here in some 29 plates are presented drawings and photographs of epigraphic material from Raven that will be analysed afterwards:

      Plate 1 is a marble slab used in the construction of Martyrium. It is entirely covered with writing and its photograph is with best quality.
 Plate 1 (Aleksova 1989) p. 294 and 

      Plate 2 is another marble slab from construction of Martyrium also covered with many signs and monograms. Its photograph is less well presented then Plate 1 and some of the signs cannot be understood correctly.

Plate 2 (Aleksova 1989) p. 279 and p.

      Plate 3 is another marble slab from the same location. Its photograph is difficult to comprehend.

Plate 3 (Aleksova 1989) p. 279 and p. 295

      Plate 4 also comes from Martyrium. It was inscribed with only few signs.

      Plate 5 Is sandstone block coming from vicinity of Kletovnik. Its photograph is entirely unintelligible. Here only corresponding drawing can be used. 

Plate 5 (Aleksova 1989) p. 273

      Plate 6 is limestone block from church St. Nicholas. Only its drawing has been published.

Plate 6 (Aleksova 1989) p. 290

      Plate 7 is broken part of marble sculpture reused in construction of St. Nicholas.

Plate 7 (Aleksova 1989) p. 271

      Plate 8 is marble alter from cathedral church of Raven. Its photograph presented in the monograph is not very helpful in studying Raven Script.
Plate 8 (Aleksova 1989) p. 282

      Plate 9 is a sandstone block from one of the walls of St. Nicholas. On the photograph, can be seen some examples of what appears to be cursive writing.

Plate 9 (Aleksova 1989) p.269 and p. 289

      Plate 10 is stone block incised with signs.

 Plate 10 (Aleksova 1989) p. 295

       Plate 11 is another limestone block from St. Nicholas.

Plate 11 (Aleksova 1989)

      Plate 12 is marble tile from St. Nicholas floor. 

Plate 12 (Aleksova 1989) p. 285

      Plate 13 contains of several bricks found at village of Begov Dab.

(Aleksova 1989)
      On Plate 14 are presented signs that have been incised on building bricks of the cathedral church at Raven. 

Plate 14 (Aleksova 1989) p. 284

      On Plate 15 are shown signs found on stone blocks at village of Zhiganci:

Plate 15 (Aleksova 1989)

Plate 16 (Aleksova 1989) p. 286

      Plate 17 and 18 are stone slabs inscribed with signs found at church of St. George.

Plate 17 (Aleksova 1989)

Plate 18 (Aleksova 1989)

      Plate 19 is fragment of sculpture detail from St. Nicholas.

Plate 19 (Aleksova 1989) p. 270

      Plate 20, 21,22 are graffiti inscribed on stone blocks found in vicinity of Raven.

Plate 20 (Aleksova 1989) p. 291

Plate 21 (Aleksova 1989) p. 291

Plate 22 (Aleksova 1989) p. 291

      On plate 23 you can see peaces of bricks from Cathedral church covered with some signs.

Plate 23 (Aleksova 1989)

      Next are Plate 24, 25, 26 which are drawings of graffiti that has been inscribed on mortar, a limestone slab and sandstone, all found at St. Nickolas.

Plate 24 (Aleksova 1989) p. 290

Plate 25 (Aleksova 1989) p. 289

Plate 26 (Aleksova 1989) p. 286

Plate 27 is a stone block covered with few sins from St. Nicholas Church.

Plate 27 (Aleksova 1989) p. 298

Plate 28 is a stone block covered with signs from Cathedral church at Kale.
Plate 28 (Aleksova 1989) p. 293

And finally, Plate 29 is a limestone block found at St. Nickolas.

Plate 29 (Aleksova 1989)

      Very first look at graffiti from Raven gives impression of a collection of randomly inscribed signs, that might not be even proper writing but ideograms or tamgas. After familiarising with them though, patterns and organisation appear, so the following basic statistics and comparisons have been made with presumption that this is a developed writing, which might be akin to Bulgarian Sacred Script. The very furs step in this investigation is to determine how many characters are used and how often they occur. In the following 5 tables representative characters are shown for already presented plates, as some of them are grouped in a single row for simplification. In the sake of accuracy, any little difference in appearance has been used to distinguish each one of in individual characters, as church for alographs is left for next stage of the study. 

Table 1 

Table 2

Table 3

Fallowing two tables show sins that have been used only once:

Table 4

Table 5

      The total number of characters appear to be 203, as 141 of them are used only ones. The most frequently incised character is used 80 times. The large number of used characters leads to conclusion that Script from Raven is not an alphabet, but in fact characters that are used 3 ore more times are only 42, that's why is very early to jump to conclusions. It is possible that writing from Raven is with mixed character as Murfatlar Script which is an alphabet with addition of some logographs, but here we have much more alographs and ligatures. In fallowing table are compared characters found at Raven with characters of Bulgarian sacred script (Ovcharov,  ), Murfatlar script (Ovcharov, ) and Glagolitic alphabet. Overall, only 26 characters from Raven can find their matches among those writing systems. This compared with the total number of 203 characters shows the uniqueness of Raven script.

Table 6

Also, very small number of matches with glagolitic letters, puts in question Aleksova's theory that  glagolitic alphabet was created at Raven. On the other hand, those similarities lead to the next step: search for familiar clusters of signs already known from previous research. This however, will be the topic of second part of this study. 


   Aleksova B. 1989- Епископијата на Брегалница, Прилеп,1989;     Chernyh P. 1951- Черных П. Я. Язык и письмо / История культуры древней Руси. М.; Л., 1951.Т. II;
   Ivanova T. 2004- Иванова Т. А.. Избранные труды, Под ред. С. А. Авериной. -СПб.: Филологический факультет СПбГУ, 2004;     Kuev K. 1967 - Куйо Куев, Черноризец Храбър. С.,БАН, 1967;
   Ovcharov N. 2014 - Nedyalko Ovcharov, Murfatlar Script,  https://murfatlar.blogspot.ca/2014/03/;
   Ovcharov N. 2016 - Nedyalko Ovcharov, Bulgarian Sacred Script (The Horn from Sofia) Part 1,  https://murfatlar.blogspot.ca/2016/11/bulgarian-sacred-script-part-1.html
   Petkanova D. 1981- Петканова, Д. Стара българска литература. Т. 1. Апокрифи. Съст. и ред. Д. Петканова, София, 1981;   
   Popkonstantinov K. 1993-  Казимир Попконстантинов, Рунически надписи от средновековна. България. – В: Studia protobulgarica et mediaevalia europensia. В чест на проф. Веселин Бешевлиев. Велико Търново, 1993;
    Zlatarski V. 1918- Васил Златарски, История на българската държава, 1:1, София, 1918.

Monday, 1 May 2017

Bulgarian Sacred Script (The Horn from Sofia) - Part 2

      Rajko Sefterski, Bulgarian scientist who published the inscriptions on "Musical horn", believed that the script used to write it derived from Chinese characters . His argument was indirect: the testimony of Al Nadim in Fihrist. He never tried to compare Bulgarian glyphs with Chinese characters. This was done by Bulgarian cinologist, Gogova before even those inscriptions had been published. Unfortunately, only a short preview of her work was shown to public. One can ask himself, if is it possible a writing system similar to Chinese to be used unnoticed in Middle Ages Europe. On other hand,  Bulgarian signs look so different from Chinese. But are they really so different? Or they just underwent centuries long evolution. What about their ancient forms, Bronze vessel script and Oracle Bone script? First Bulgarian glyph that catches eyes, , looks exactly as Chinese hanzi   大 (dà- big). Also, an alograph of     found at Great Basilica at Pliska resemble very first form of  character 天 (tiān- sky,god). In fact, the very rare Glagolithic letter "ТЕ" have similar cross-like shape which synchronizes with the possible word for God in Bulgar language- "tengri".
Secondly, the glyph resemble character for 5 in Oracle bone script. Also, the Murfatlar letter   looks like Chinese character 王 (wáng- chief). It looks that search for more similarities between Bulgarian glyphs and Chinese characters will give more results.
       But BSS is not an isolated phenomenon among steppean writing systems. Orkhon script, an alphabet used to write Old Turkic, is also suspected to contain a group of signs that initially started as pictographs. uniform writing  that it is wort examining another writing system that have traces of pictography among its inventory of signs, Orkhon script. Danish philologist Vilhelm Thomsen, who deciphered Orkhon script in 1893  suspected that letters r2, l2, t1, n2, g1 and š are pictographs. Latter, A. von Gabain and G. Clauson added to this list b2, k4 and y1. Finally, A. Rona Tas summed up all possible pictographs in his paper “On the Development and Origin of The East Turkic “Runic” Script:”
Orkhon pictographs

    Some of those photographic signs look similar to gliphs of Bulgarian sacred script (BSS) : ,,, ,. The phonetic values of those characters are known, so together with Chinese characters they will be valuable source of understanding BSS. 

Glyphs 24L.gif and 08.gif
      Gliphs 24L.gif and 08.gifare presented in both "horn" inscriptions, where they are incised together or in close proximity.  Their forms are identical with symbols of the Sun and the Moon known from many different cultures. For example, the ancient forms of Chinese characters   (the Sun) и  yuè (the Moon) look very similar:

Evolution of Chinese character rì

Evolution of Chinese character yuè

Sign  is identical with so called "solar cross", a symbol of the Sun which was used in antiquity and middle ages.