site.btaArchaeologists Find Rare 10th c. Cyrillic Inscription from Times of Simeon the Great
Last year’s archaeological season brought a find bearing an inscription in Cyrillic dating from the times of Tsar Simeon I the Great, said member of the team with National History Museum, archaeologist Ivailo Kanchev, who is studying the site. The site is a fortification in a locality called Balak Dere by the village of Houhla, near Ivaylovgrad in southern Bulgaria.
Kanev discovered a lead plate amulet folded through the middle while exploring the site at Balak Dere. Subsequent conservation by Prof. Vesselina Inkova revealed a shallow inscription in Cyrillic letters. Then, while deciphering it with the help of reflectance transformation imaging (RTI), Georgi Singalevich assumed that the beginning of the text was applied on the inner side of the plate. The researchers carefully unfolded it and found a long Old Bulgarian Cyrillic inscription, seven lines on the inside and four lines on the outside of the plate.
The lead plate amulet was discovered in a cultural layer attributable to the first half of the 10th century. This made the archaeologists focus on the so-called Golden Age of Tsar Simeon I (893-927), comparing historical sources from the time that described the Bulgarian ruler’s marches on Constantinople and the epigraphic analysis of the find, complete with the archaic orthography of particular letters dated to the 10th century. According to the experts, the one-year orthography resembles that of writings mainly from present-day Northeast Bulgaria, where Simeon’s capital of Preslav was located. Unlike any known finds of the kind made until now, this one is unusual by the canonical sounding of the text it carries, as well as by the successful deciphering of the names of the supplicants, Nikola and Pavel.
All the above placed in the context of its archaeological environment gives scholars reason to assume that they have discovered one of the earliest Cyrillic texts known so far. The geographically closest similar artefacts, i.e. Old Bulgarian Cyrillic inscriptions, are two 10th-11th c. amulets found in the regions of Kardjali and Haskovo.
According to Kanev, there was a Bulgarian garrison at Balak Dere during Simeon’s march on Constantinople, one that purposefully supported the military campaign.