A 1,100-year-old inscription found on a cuirass discovered in the ruins of a Bulgarian fortress may be one of the oldest Cyrillic texts ever discovered.
“The text was written on a lead plate worn on the chest to protect the wearer from trouble and harm,” said Ivailo Kanev, an archaeologist from the National Museum of Bulgaria who leads the fortress’s excavation team, which lies on the border between Greece and Bulgaria. .
The inscription refers to two supplicants named Pavel and Dimitar, Kanev said.
“It is not known who the supplicants Pavel and Dimitar were, but most likely Dimitar participated in the garrison, settled in the fortress and was a relative of Pavel,” Kanev said.
The inscription dates from the time of Tsar Simeon I (also known as Simeon the Great) who ruled the Bulgarian Empire between 893 and 927, Kanev said. Meanwhile, the Tsar expanded the empire, launching military campaigns against the Byzantine Empire.
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One of the oldest Cyrillic texts?
The Cyrillic writing system, which is used in Russian and other languages across Eurasia, was developed in the Middle Ages.
From the way the letters are written and the location of the inscription in the fortress, “this text probably entered the fortress between 916 and 927 and was brought by a Bulgarian military garrison,” Kanev said.
Prior to this discovery, the earliest surviving Cyrillic texts dated from 921. The newly discovered inscription is therefore one of the oldest Cyrillic texts ever found, Kanev said.
Kanev said he plans to publish a detailed description of the inscription and the fortress in the future.
A researcher not involved in the excavations said it was an important find but urged caution.
“This is a very interesting discovery and is rightly generating interest,” Yavor Miltenov, a researcher at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Bulgarian Language, told Live Science in an email. “We will need to see the full publication of the inscription and the context in which it was found before we can be certain of its date.”