Let us examine the text of the end of the 8th c. A.D. - the beginning of the 9th c. A.D. inscribed on an Oriental coin from the Petershof treasure (Melnikova, Nikitin and Fomin 1984: 42, figure 3a) (see figure 1):
So the three Greek (maybe pre-Cyrillic) letters l, b and i of figure 1 read L(a)bi. This name compares with Russian Laba 'a branch of the river Kuban'. This word was also registered in the Karachay language (Vasmer 1986: 442). On the other hand, this river's name can preserve in the name of the Circassian aul (village) Ulyap (Republic of Adygea, Russia) which is situated not far from the river Laba. Really, the term Ulyap is split into U Lyap, i.e. 'Near the (river) Laba (Lyap)'. Interestingly, the preposition u 'near' is a Slavonic one u with the same meaning. This feature correlates with my hypothesis that the ancient Circassian language is an Indo-European one. What does the name Laba/Lyap mean? It is comparable with Scythian leipo 'farmer', cf. also Russian lapot' 'bast shoe' (< lapa 'foot' in Vasmer 1986: 459). Tleps is the name of a Circassian pagan god, the patron of smiths, it signifies lit. t leps 'this is a farmer, i.e. a Meotian (not a nomad)'. So the river's name signifies '(The river of the) farmers, otherwise of the Meotians'.
Now one can clarify the meaning of the river's name Kuban. I have found its name as Upan. Besides, near the town Tamatarha there was the site Sibensis (Trubachev 1977: 22). I divide the latter name into S Ibensis 'Near the river Kuban'. It is possible that the term Upan may be read U Pan 'Near Pan'. I think that the words Ibensis and Pan/Upan are comparable with Old Indian bhanu 'the sun', Greek ipnos 'oven; hearth', and even Russian banya 'hot baths'. These data check well with the reports about the river Kuban known in the Russian fairy-tales. It is the fiery river Smorodina [*S moro] 'Near the sea; near the death' and the scorching bridge [kalynovyy most] is located there. On the other hand, the name of the native sun deity Sol (cf. the Greek inscription te theo Sol) was registered at the Taman' Peninsula (Trubachev 1977: 23). So the name of the river Kuban was dedicated in my opinion to the solar deity.
Melnikova, E.A., A.B. Nikitin and A.V. Fomin, 1984. Graffiti na kuficheskikh monetakh petergofskogo klada nachala IX v.. In: V.T. Pashuto (ed.) Drevneyshie gosudarstva na territorii SSSR. Materialy i issledovaniya: 1982 god. Moscow: Nauka, pp. 26-47.
Trubachev, O.N., 1977. Lingvisticheskaya periferiya drevneyshego slavyanstva. Indoariytsy v Severnom Prichernomor'e. Voprosy yazykoznaniya, No 6: 13-31.
Vasmer, M., 1986. Etimologichesky slovar' russkogo yazyka. Vol. 2. Moscow: Progress.
Copyright © 1999 by Sergei V. Rjabchikov. All Rights Reserved.
Published 3 November 1999.
Sergei V. Rjabchikov, Krasnodar, RUSSIA.
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