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I. PROTO-BULGARIAN INSCRIPTIONS IN GREEK LETTERS

2. Remarks on the Proto-Bulgarian Inscription from Preslav

The inscriptions will be analysed one by one in order to clarify their linguistic nature. The largest inscription - that from Preslav, enumerates the armaments at the disposal of two high Bulgarian dignitaries - one of the rank of ICHIRGU BOILA and another one of rank of TORTUNA PILE ZHOPAN (see Supplement 1, 8).

Preslav inscription

The inscription reads:
 

ZITKOI ITZIRGU BOILA
HOUMS-HI KJUPE 455
TOULS-HI 540
ESTROGIN KJUPE 427
TOULS-HI 854
TURTUNA PILE ZHUPAN
ESTRJUGIN KJUPE 20
TOULS-HI 40
ALHASI KJUPE 1
HLOUBRIN 1
 
 

It is interpreted as a list of armaments because of the frequent repetition of the word KJUPE (which means 'armament, armour' in many eastern languages), and also from the fact that against every occurence of the word KJUPE there are numbers, expressed in letters. The numbers certainly indicate the number of the arms, which each of the dignitaries must have possessed. This special feature was already detected by the first investigators of the inscription - J.Denis and J. Venedikov, and it was an important contribution towards its deciphering. Researchers have until now tried to explain the inscriptions with the help of the Turkic languages alone, which, however, do not have words  as "estrogin" and "chlobrin" and designations as "humski kjupe" and "alhasi kjupe". Thus the inscription could be only half translated. Below is given a systematized list of the terms in the inscription, and their meaning in certain eastern languages:

ZITKOI ITZIRGU BOILA. Since in Greek the sound "ch" is missing, a likely ecplanation of the first word ZITKOI is provided by the eastern Iranian term CHITKA - "fortification, ditch", which is still used in the Tajik language in the form of CHUDGOH - a fortified military camp. In Caucasus (among the Chechens and Lesgins) from this root are formed the words CHUCH-VAR - a ditch fortified with stones, and CHUTKIA - a cover. The ending -I is likewise well-known in the eastern Iranian languages.

ALHASI KJUPE. We already know the second part of expression, but now we want to determine what the word "alhasi" means. From the Preslav inscription it can be seen that the armament "alhasi kjupe" was not a normal armament, available in great quantities - there was only one of it, compared with 400 and more copies of the other types of armament. Therefore the translation of "alhasi kjupe" as a "mail armour", done by the previous researchers of the inscription, is highly improbable. Mail armour was not any rarity, in the opposite - it was the most common type of armour for the areas the Proto-Bulgarians came from. The combination ALHASI KJUPE denotes something else. Clues about its meaning come from the languages of those peoples who once lived in the neighbourhood of Kubrat Bulgaria (Northern Caucasus and Southern Russia). In some of these languages (for example in Georgian) the word ALHASI means a siege machine. Therefore it can be assumed that in the Proto-Bulgarian language  ALHASI KJUPE denoted not a common type of armour, but large defences with observation towers. This explains also why in contrast to the remaining types of arms - "chumshi kjupe", "estrogin kjupe", the armament "alchasi kjupe" was specified in only one copy in Preslav.

ESTROGIN KJUPE. This expression from Preslav remained likewise to date untranslated. Comparison of the word "estrogin" with the Hungarian "estragon", a type of shed, could not solve the problem. However, in a number of small Pamirian languages the word "estrika" means knitting, from which is derived the adjective "estrigin" (knitted). Terms of this type are observed in the Pamirs since the first century AD. Therefore it is highly probable that the Proto-Bulgarian "ESTROGIN KJUPE" means "mail armour", i.e. the typical eastern type of armour. From the Preslav inscription is seen that the defenders of Preslav had in total 427 pieces of arms of the type "estrogin kjupe". Such a great quantity can be accepted for mail armour.

HOUMS-HI KJUPE. This somewhat difficult expression was translated as a "soft armour" up to now. The reason for this was the weak similarity between HOUMS-HI and the Turkic JUMSHAK. However it would be difficult to find peoples calling their armour 'soft'. If one considers the fact that because of the missing sound "sh" in the Greek language the combination "s-h" was used instead, it can be assumed that the word HOUMS-HI KJUPE sounded as HUMSHI KJUPE in Proto-Bulgarian, which facilitates significantly the investigations. In the areas neighbouring the former Kubrat Bulgaria in Caucasus one finds even nowadays the word HUNCHI (moulded, cast in metal), which resembles the Proto-Bulgarian term HUMSHI. Elaborating further, under the Caucasian word HUMCHI is hidden the Sumero Accadian term HUMSJU (moulded piece). Thus the unsettled expression HOUMS-HI KJUPE meant not a 'soft armour' but a cast armour, i.e. a type of armour common in the Middle Ages. From the Preslav inscription it is evident that the armament named HUMSHI KJUPE was available in great quantities, which likewise fits very well the supposition that it denoted moulded and not 'soft' armour.

TOULS-HI. The translation of this word by previous researchers, who all assumed it must be translated as helmet, was quite precise. Also the quantity of this article was large (over 1000 pieces), which correlates with the number of the aforementioned armaments since carrying helmets was mandatory. So far the Turkic word "tuldzha" is the only form suggested as similar to the word "touls-hi ". But, as in the case with "kjupe", no further attempts were undertaken to find similarities. Having in mind that the Proto-Bulgarian word was pronounced as "tulshi" (since sometimes the Greek combination "s-h" denoted the sound "sh") it appears that the Proto-Bulgarian word is closer to the Sumero Accadian term TULSJU (helmet) (formed from the Sumerian root TUL [cover]) rather than to the Turkic "tuldzha". Therefore, for the sake of accuracy it must be pointed out that 'tulshi' is not a Turkic term, but a term which was born in the oldest human civilization and which in relatively late times spread among the Turkic peoples settled in the western areas.

HLOBRIN. There was a consensus that this word, as well as the word ESTROGIN, is of Turkic origin and it was assumed that it meant "saddle". But HLOBRIN should have been a very rare article since the inscription of Preslav mentions only one copy of it, which apparently contradicts its interpretation as a "saddle". Similar to the Proto-Bulgarian word HLOBRIN were some ancient terms, common among the Indo European peoples - for example the Pamir word "hulburae" (protection cover) and the Celtic word "hlubram" (canopy). Therefore HLOBRIN was most probably a large protection device, used for assaulting fortresses.

Now we can translate the whole Preslav inscription as:

THE BOIL OF THE FORTRESS (or OF THE FORTIFIED CAMP)
HAS 455 CAST ARMOUR
AND 540 HELMETS,
427 MAIL ARMOUR
AND 854 HELMETS.
THE MAIN ZHUPAN OF THE TRIBE HAS
20 MAIL ARMOUR,
40 HELMETS,
ONE SIEGE TOWER
AND ONE CANOPY.

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