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II. PROTO-BULGARIAN RUNIC INSCRIPTIONS

2. Details about the Largest Finding ot Proto-Bulgarian Runic Inscriptions

More than thirty years ago in the small village of Murfatlar (today Bessaraby) in Northern Dobrudja were discovered inscriptions, written in unknown writing - different from the Greek, from the Cyrillic and from the Glagolic alphabet. They came from a former spiritual centre - today lifeless, as attested by the four rock churches. A bronze bronze rosette with fourteen characters of the same unknown writing was discovered almost at the same time in Preslav.

A number of Bulgarian and foreign scholars became immediately interested in the problem. Acad. V. Beshevliev visited the village in Dobrudja and took pictures of large section of the inscriptions there. The Romanian historians Ion Barnia and Pavel Diakonu reported these finds in the magazine "Dacia". The Polish scientist Edward Triarsky undertook the attempt to interpret part of the inscriptions and published a special study over on this question. Thus from a Bulgarian, the problem of the writings in Northern Dobrudja became international, with scholars from several Eastern European countries involved in working on it (see the bibliographical information in Supplements 3, 4, 5).

Notwithstanding the great interest, the interpretation of the writing of Murfatlar proved difficult. So far we could be confident only about the date of the inscriptions. According to opinion of the researchers they were produced during the epoch immediately after the adoption of Christianity in Bulgaria - the end of the IXth and the beginning of the Xth century. The dating is based, first, on the fact that part of the inscriptions were carved on the walls of small rock churches, where inscriptions with Cyrillic letters are also to be found. They were written during the epoch immediately after the christianisation of the Bulgarians  - only this could explain the symbiosis between the two writings. Secondly, the Cyrillic inscriptions from Murfatlar  also contain characters characteristic to the other, non-Cyrillic writing. The "inclusion" of non-Cyrillic letters into the Cyrillic inscriptions took place at the time when the use of Cyrillic was still in its embryonic stage. There is no other reliable explanation for that symbiosis. Both writings were in use at the same time until only one of the them - the Cyrillic writing, continued to exist.

The finds of Murfatlar lead to a still little known period, a period when the Slavic alphabet made its first appearance and when besides it existed other, arrived from elsewhere and already disappeared alphabet. The mixing of Slavic and not Slavic characters in the inscriptions from the old churches in Murfatlar is hardly coincidental, and it would be appropriate to clarify the origin of the already disappeared other writings, in order to reveal clearer the secret of the Slavic alphabet.

Let us look at some interesting examples from Murfatlar, which show the influence of a still unknown writing in an unknown language on the Slavic inscriptions and which in some places lead to mixing of Slavic with non-Slavic words. Here are some special characters, which are appear among the Slavic letters: 

There are two inscriptions, numbered 63 and 63a in the collection of Barnia and Shtefanescu, which are not noticeable by their special letters, but which contain many apparently non-Slavic words, mixed with Slavic words, and which render the text difficult to understand.

First of the inscriptions reads:

ZHUPAN I IMAET GEORGE ONC TEBE TAM ESTEK KRAIN I REZHET,

and the second:

A TONAGN IZ POLOU TUBA OBASA ES APE.

Beside the second inscription, which contains the special words "tongan", "obasa", "es", "ape" and "tuba", is drawn a bird, which, according to the opinion of the previous researcher, was connected to the word "tongan" - meaning most likely "falcon" or "hawk". The inscription will be translated in the sixth paragraph of this section, here we want to lay stress on the strong admixture of non-Slavic characters and words - most probably the result of a Proto-Bulgarian influence. This influence is felt both in the language and in the writing, which although Cyrillic, differs from the Slavic traditions and is in many places is a mixture of Cyrillic and non-Cyrillic characters. How strong was the influence of this factor can be seen from the more than thirty inscriptions, written from the start to the end in specific yet not interpreted characters. They show quite clearly that during the IX-X c. AD a Proto-Bulgarian runic writing was still in use in our lands parallel to the Slavic one. Altogether, the Romanian, Bulgarian and Polish publications about Murfatlar contain 26 inscriptions of this interesting type. The rest are still inaccessible to the Bulgarian researchers, because of the difficulties imposed from the Romanian side. But if even incomplete, the material available allows us to draw a number of important conclusions.

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