3. Some Considerations regarding the Peculiarities of the Proto-Bulgarian Inscriptions
Altogether, 31 are the photographed and published inscriptions from Murfatlar. 5 of them were written in the Slavic alphabet and 26 - in Proto-Bulgarian. Supplement 3 contains a systematized collection of the Dobrudjan, Slavic inscriptions and Proto-Bulgarian runic, inscriptions.
The collection starts with inscriptions, accompanied by drawings. These inscriptions are particularly valuable, since the drawings facilitate significantly the interpretation and allow a relatively easy deciphering of the words, written in runic characters. Five inscriptions with drawings were found in Murfatlar, one - written in Slavic letters, and four - in Proto-Bulgarian runic characters.
Most of the illustrative material have religious content. Three of the drawings show persons in clerical garbs - most likely saints, and in one - a rectangular plan, most likely a church. Another drawing depicts a bird. Prof. Edward Triarsky, who was the first to deal with these inscriptions, explained the religious character of the drawings by the fact that they come from churches. Murfatlar was one of the Early Christian Bulgarian centres, it is not amazing therefore that most of the drawings illustrating the inscriptions represent saint.
The second part of the collection contains more than twenty inscriptions unaccompanied by drawings. They were written in a rather free manner, in some of them the letters are large and legible, in others they were quite volatilely and superficially carved. E. Triarsky, V. Beshevliev, I. Barnia and E. Stefanescu are unanimous that their characters represent a kind of alphabet, without being able to determine its type.
E. Triarsky advanced the hypothesis it was an artificial writing created by a Greek scholar specifically for the Proto-Bulgarians after their conversion to Christianity. But the occurrence of similar inscriptions in the areas of the former Old or Kubrat Bulgaria points out it was a runic writing, used by the Proto-Bulgarians even before their settlement on that side of Danube. The inscriptions of Murfatlar appear to be very old , they were brought from Kubrat Bulgaria. G. Turchaninov discovered a multiplicity of inscriptions of this type in Southern Ukraine, in Northern Caucasus and in the Imeon (Pamir) mountains. With no sufficient argumentation as to why he assumed that they were left by the Alans and the Kassogs. But what was regarded as Alanian and Kassogian proved to be an inheritance of the Kubrat Bulgaria. It is not clear and there is no common opinion whether the characters of these inscriptions were letters or syllables. It is also not clear in which direction they should be read - from left to the right or vice versa. These are the two main questions to be answered.
In the study of old writings there are mathematical criteria allowing the determination of the type of a certain writing, i.e. whether it uses letter, syllables or hieroglyphs. Such criterion is the frequency of occurrence of the characters. The hieroglyphic writings consist of a very large number of characters and therefore the frequency of occurrence of one and a same character is small (if the order of hundredths to thousandths in short texts). In the syllabic writings (for example in the Sanskrit) the number of the characters is much smaller, which increases the possibility of repetition of one and a same character in the text. Highest, however, is that frequency when the characters are letters.
Prof. V. Beshevliev determined quite correctly that some characters occur very often, but so far none of the researchers applied the criterion of the frequency of occurrence of all characters to the inscriptions of Murfatlar.
It appears that in Murfatlar's inscriptions that frequency is similar to those for letters: each character occurs 5 times on the average (the total number of characters is 53 and a total length of the texts is 237 characters). Such frequency is untypical for the hieroglyphic and syllabic systems. Thus the answer to the first question is that the inscriptions of Murfatlar contain letters. The frequency of occurrence of the characters at Murfatlar corresponds to that in the Proto-Bulgarian texts - total length of 240 characters, between 6 and 7 occurrences. In the Caucasian writings it is between 5 and 6.
The second question was in which direction the texts should be read. Prof. E. Triarsky thought, most likely because of the wide-spread assumption that the Proto-Bulgarians were Turkic people, that these inscriptions must be read from right to the left. The interpretation was based on the fact that all Turkic runic writings are read from right to the left. The thorough study of the inscriptions found on the walls of Murfatlar reveals, however, the following special features:
First of all, the letter in the leftmost corner of one inscription is particularly large and stretched, a clear hint that the text must be read from that letter, that is from left to the right. Secondly, in almost all inscriptions the first left letters are the most carefully written ones. The further to the right we go, the more uneven and carelessly written they become.
Third, in some inscriptions the last line contains only one or two characters. And these lonely characters, with obviously end the text, are either in the centre (which is likewise very interesting) or in the left corner of the line.
Fourth, the lines in the longer inscriptions are aligned to the left, pointing that the line started from left.
All these special features point that the inscriptions of Murfatlar, unlike the Turkic inscriptions, were written from left to the right. This direction of writing, although rare in the East, was characteristic for a number of Iranian and Caucasian peoples - Alans, Kassogs, etc.
Now we can proceed further with the analysis of the individual characters. Fig. 2 shows the Proto-Bulgarian alphabet, i.e. the complete list of runic characters from the Murfatlar inscriptions. A specialized computer program with the code name HF was deployed for the decoding of the alphabet, it allowed the determination of the phonetic values of some rarely met characters. Supplement 6.3 shows how the Turkic runic alphabet looked like in order to check what was somewhat arbitrarily stated by some authors - that the alphabet of Murfatlar resembles the Turkic one. The difference between these two writings is quite obvious - however which concerns the form of the characters. That is why up to now nobody succeeded in deciphering the inscriptions of Murfatlar with the help of the Turkic runic alphabet.
The alphabet brought by the Asparuh Bulgars is not Turkic. A proof for that are the works of the well-known Turkologist R. Kazlassov, who after a thorough investigation of the two writings came to the conclusion that they are principally different. "The inscriptions of Murfatlar (Besarabi), he writes, were written in a special alphabet, which does not resemble any of the well-known alphabets of the Turkic peoples". (see R. Kazlassov. The ancient Turkic runic alphabet - In: Problems of the Proto-Bulgarian history and culture. Sofia, 1989, p. 239).
An important peculiarity, revealed by the deciphering and interpretation of the inscriptions of Murfatlar, is the quite frequent use the special church character "tilde" above some words. This character accompanies holy terms in the Christian texts, or more accurately, it is an abbreviation for holy terms.
The following words appear with "tilde": . It greatly assists the translation as each of these characters is Christian.
A set of inscriptions from Caucasus renders some clarification. Inscriptions from Eastern Dagestan from the epoch of the spread of Christianity there show that some more important religious terms were denoted with special runic characters. And above these terms (although written in runes) appears the symbol "tilde". It was probably brought to the region of Caucasus by Byzantine missionaries.
The word GOD, for example, is written there as (see A. Abramjan. The deciphering of the Caucasian inscriptions, Erevan, 1963). Similar religious terms, marked with a "tilde", are also discovered in Western Caucasus. The religious traditions probably brought with them certain characters and symbols. Thus the character "tilde" has travelled a very long journey back - from the Greeks to the Christian Caucasians, to the Proto-Bulgarians, and, finally, to the Slavs.
Then, even not knowing the exact meaning, it can be safely stated that the special words such as are Proto-Bulgarian Christian terms. Thus in the Christian texts the word GOD was written as BG and CHRIST like XC, etc. The Proto-Bulgarians apparently abbreviated the high Christian symbols and in this way came to somewhat strange combinations of runic characters, marked by the classic Christian "tilde". Particularly interesting is the symbol which was not marked by "tilde", but has particularly large dimensions and stands out against the rest inscriptions on the wall. It is the most remarkable of the inscriptions of Murfatlar, and that could be hardly a coincidence (see Supplement 3, inscription 2.1).
The stress on this symbol shows that it probably meant the common among the ancient Near East peoples word AN (GOD), which appeared first in Sumerian but later spread among many eastern peoples. It makes us believe that the Proto-Bulgarians (whose homeland was situated to the east of Sumer and Accad) could have use similar religious terms in their language. The character is read exactly as AN in some eastern alphabets (Alanian, Kassogian). In them, as well as in the Proto-Bulgarian, the combinations AN and EN were depicted by a single letter. The cases of similarities between Proto-Bulgarian and Sumerian words, revealed in our earlier publications, show likewise that the Sumerian word AN was also used by the Proto-Bulgarians.
And finally, in this inscription below the word is the word which, with the help of eastern alphabets, can be read as UAKH (monastery, cloister). That likewise confirms the proposition that the character denotes GOD. Both words together form GOD'S CLOISTER - the meaning of the most impressive inscription from Murfatlar.
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