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Copyright © 2001 by Sergei V. Rjabchikov. All Rights Reserved.


by Sergei V. Rjabchikov

During my expedition at Taman' from 22 till 27 August 2001 I found a fragment of a Tmutarakan' amphora (a private collection) of the 11th century with a graffito on a slope of the Lysaya mountain (Lysaya gora). In my opinion, the Monastery of Saint Nikon of Kievo-Pechersk and Tmutarakan' was located in this area. Let us consider the graffito, see figure 1.

Figure 1.
First of all, I read the word NIK decorated with a tilde and an Orthodox Cross. I believe that it is the name of Saint Nikon of Kievo-Pechersk and Tmutarakan'. The word TMU is also decorated with a tilde (cf. Old Russian tma, t'ma 'darkness'). This word is inscribed near the Scandinavian rune Dagaz 'day' (Rjabchikov 2000: 3, 41, figures 1 - 3; 7, 44, figure 40; 10, 45, figures 54, 56; 12, 46, figure 66; 14, 46, figure 72). They denote the name of Tmutarakan'/Tamatarha '(The transformation from) the Darkness to the Shine (the sun god Tarh)'. Interestingly, an eye is a symbol of the Scythian/Sarmatian god Targitai in a Scythian picture (Rjabchikov 2001), cf. Old Indian tara 'fire; horse; carrying across; saviour; protector; clean; clear' and Russian tarashchit' 'to goggle'. On the other hand, the Proto-Slavs named the area of the Sea of Azov Temarundam matrem maris (Vasmer 1987: 17), cf. Old Indian tamas 'darkness'. This name might be preserved in the Odyssey by Homer: the land of the Cimmerians was covered by mist and cloud; this was the area of the baneful night. The three signs of an eye are depicted on the left part of the amphora's fragment. The motion of the eye (the sun) demonstrates the second part (-tarakan') of the name Tmutarakan'.

In the right part of the amphora's fragment there are the following signs: a "fence", a "triangle" and an Orthodox Cross. The sign "fence" reads stena 'fence, wall', sten' 'shade' (Rjabchikov 2000: 6, 43, figure 33; 7; 9, 44, figure 40), it is a designation of the town Tmutarakan'. The sign "triangle" denotes the beach of the Sea of Azov (Rjabchikov 2000: 19 , 47, figure 89). On the other hand, this "triangle" and a line may be read GI, otherwise Gospodi 'Lord!'; the same word may be presented on another fragment of a Tmutarakan' amphora (Rjabchikov 2000: 41, figure 3). The similar Crosses are presented in the Tmutarakan' graffiti (Rjabchikov 2000: 47, figures 85, 86).

I read the word BOGRD, i.e. Bogoroditsa 'the Mother of God'. The three pairs of the parallel lines may denote the stairs (Old Russian lestvitsa, lestvicha). I suppose that they correspond to the stairs described in the Bible (Genesis 28: 12). According to some fathers of the Church, this stairway represents the Most Holy Mother of God. So it is an information about the Monastery by name of the Most Holy Mother of God founded by Saint Nikon near the town Tmutarakan'.


Rjabchikov, S.V., 2000. Tmutarakanskie graffiti. Krasnodar: Stil.

Rjabchikov, S.V., 2001. The Scythian and Sarmatian Sources of the Russian Mythology and Fairy-Tales. AnthroGlobe Journal.

Vasmer, M., 1987. Etimologichesky slovar' russkogo yazyka. Vol. 4. Moscow: Progress.

Copyright © 2001 by Sergei V. Rjabchikov. All Rights Reserved.

Published 30 August 2001.

Sergei V. Rjabchikov, Krasnodar, RUSSIA.

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