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Copyright © 1999 by Sergei V. Rjabchikov. All Rights Reserved.


by Sergei V. Rjabchikov

Earlier I have researched some graffiti on the Oriental silver coins from the Petershof treasure dated to the end of the 8th c. A.D. - the beginning of the 9th c. A.D. (see my articles The Interpretation of the Ancient Slavonic Records and The Interpretation of the Rivers' Names Laba and Kuban). Let us examine several graffiti on the coins of the same treasure.

1. On two coins (Melnikova, Nikitin and Fomin 1984: 44, figures 8a and 9a) the text, l-n, is written down (see figure 1):

Figure 1.
It reads lan. The other side of one of these coins contains the graffito, too (Melnikova, Nikitin and Fomin 1984: 44, figure 9a); see figure 2.

Figure 2.
This record reads npu, i.e. napu that means 'for a mercenary' in Old Church Slavonic. I think that a Russian Prince payed his warriors known as druzhina 'Prince's armed force' in Old Russian. Therefore there are grounds to assume that the word lan is the Prince's name. Actually, the Russian troops under the leadership of Prince Bravlin from the New Town attacked the towns of the Crimia in the end of the 8th century (Klyuchevsky 1987: 145; Metropolitan Makary 1994: 313). According to the Life of the Saint Stephan of Surozh, this Prince suddenly fell ill (he was punished by God), then he was baptized and recovered. I split the name Bravlin into two parts, brav and lin. The word brav is the form of the Past tense or the participle associated with Old Church Slavonic brati 'to fight; to wage war; to join battle', Russian brat' 'to take', and Old Indian bharati 'he takes away' (1). The form lin is lan indeed, cf. Russian lan 'field; ploughed field', Czech lan 'large field', and even German Land 'land', Lehn 'estate'. The name Brav lan means '(The Prince) conquering the field/land'. The variant of his name, Lan, means 'The land'. These names correlate with the Old Russian names Vsevolod '(A person) owning all (the people and the lands)' and Gleb 'The clod of the soil (Glyba)' (Uspensky 1962: 608-10). The Russian Prince Bravlin (Brav lan, Lan) came from the New Town. The latter name is a variant of the name of the town of Tmutarakan' (Bogoslovsky 1998: 23-4). I think that the Prince Lan informed the name of the town of Tmutarakan' as The town of Lan to the Greek inhabitants of the Crimea. The Greek interpreter translated it as The new town, cf. Old Russian lani 'of last year'.

On two coins (Melnikova, Nikitin and Fomin 1984: 44, figures 10a and 11a) the letters g of the ancient Scythian/Slavonic alphabet, so-called cherty i rezy (Rjabchikov 1998a: 5-6; 1998b: 23), are written down (see figure 3):

Figure 3.
It is possible that this letter denotes 'three' as in the Byzantine and Old Russian writing systems the letter g denotes the number three. On several coins (Melnikova, Nikitin and Fomin 1984: 43, figures 4a, 5a, 6a and 7a) the letters n '50' are written down. Maybe these coins were the earnings of the warriors.

On a coin (Melnikova, Nikitin and Fomin 1984: 45, figure 12a) the letter r is depicted together with the picture of a wall of a fortress (see figure 4).

Figure 4.
I believe that the letter r reads ar. It is a version of Russian yary, yarostny 'furious', cf. also Old Indian ar 'to go; to come (upon)'; arjati 'to gain'; rana 'battle', rtis 'attack'. The name Ar correlated with the Old Russian names Yaroslav 'The furious glory' and Yaropolk 'The furious troops' might be a variant of the name Brav lan.

The texts presented in figures 5 - 8 (Melnikova, Nikitin and Fomin 1984: 45, figure 14a; 46, figures 18a, 19a; a private collection) are in my view the Sindian writing. It is not the Khazar writing, though such a hypothesis is offered by E.A. Melnikova, A.B. Nikitin and A.V. Fomin (1984: 36-8). Figures 5 and 6 represent the signs on both sides of the half of a coin.

Using the readings of the signs of the Linear B (A) as well as the related signs of the the Proto-Palestinian, Proto-Sinaian and Proto-Byblian Inscriptions and of the Maikop slab (Rjabchikov 1998a: 23) one can decode these records. It is known that the Sindians (Meotians) spoke an Indo-European language (Trubachev 1978) and was closely connected with Scythians and Sarmatians (Sauromatae).

Figure 5.
This text (see figure 5) reads ka-pa or ka-fa (k-p/f), cf. Greek Koufes, Kofen, Italian Cuphis, Copa 'the river Kuban'. Interestingly, one coin (Melnikova, Nikitin and Fomin 1984: 35; 46, fig. 15a) contains the Arabic letter kaf. This reading also may denote the name of the river Kuban.

Figure 6.
The text on the other side of the coin (see figure 6) may be read either ka-si < Scythian -xa- 'people' (cf. also the terms kazak 'Cossack' and kasag/kasog 'Circassian') or si-ga 'the land Zihia' (cf. Greek Zygopolis, Zihia 'Zihia').

The sign on a coin (Melnikova, Nikitin and Fomin 1984: 46, fig. 18a) is presented in figure 7.

Figure 7.
This sign reads ra, and it corresponds to the letter r. I think that it denotes the name Ar, a variant of the name of Prince Brav lan. Perhaps this coin was a payment or a tribute for this Prince. So one can suppose that this Prince controlled the Meotian (Sindian) tribes. According to the Circassian folklore (Mizhaev 1992), an old woman, Barambuh, turned into a golden helmet and helped to the evil ghosts to kill the hero Sosruko. Maybe in the initial version of the legend a ghost (woman) incarnated herself into an enemy Prince. In this case, the name Barambuh reads Bara M(ai) Bug '(The Prince) conquering the Meotian shore of the sea of Azov' (2) and it is a variant of the name Brav lan.

The picture of one side of a coin dated to the 3rd c. B.C. (a private collection) from the ancient town Panticapeum at the Crimea (now here is the town Kerch) - the capital of the Bosporan kingdom - is presented in figure 8.

Figure 8.
The three letters Pan is the standard abridgement of the word Pantikapaion 'the town Panticapeum'. The two signs from the top may represent a bow and an arrow. Is this interpretation correct? On the other hand, both signs read as two Sindian ones ma-i, i.e. mai. This word plus tai (Plural in Scythian) is Maitai 'Meotian'. I think that this form mai corresponds to the Indo-European root *mei- denoting ideas "agreement" and "consent". Perhaps the word mai is the reflex of the name of the Indo-Aryan sun god Mitra (Toporov 1992: 154). Interestingly, Circassian adyge 'Circassian' means lit. 'solar'.

The two signs on a coin (Melnikova, Nikitin and Fomin 1984: 46, fig. 19a) are presented in figure 9.

Figure 9.
They read so-ra (s-r). The first sign corresponds to the letter s of the cherty i rezy writing. The word sora compares with Old Indian sarva 'whole' (it means 'the whole coin', cf. Russian tsely 'whole') and Sindian *sol 'solar', *sar-i 'woman' (3).

The three signs of the same writing system (it is a version of the ancient Scythian script known as cherty i rezy writing system among the Slavs) and 3 rounds are depicted together on the inner side of a Sindian cup of the 2nd c. B.C. - 4th c. A.D. (a private collection), see figure 10.

Figure 10.
I read the signs (letters) as sur(a), cf. Old Indian surya 'the sun', Surya 'the sun god'. The rounds symbolize the motion of the sun. In the centre of the bottom of the vessel there is the coloured round (a sign of the sun) from which 35 lines (solar rays) are passed. I believe that it is the description of the end of a year. Really, 11 months lasting 30 twenty-four hours each plus 1 month lasting 35 twenty-four hours add up to 365 twenty-four hours or a year.

The parallel from the Circassian folklore is as follows (Kaloev, Mizhaev and Salakaya 1992: 200). The sun hero (god) Sosruko has got the fairytale horse (avsurg) Thozhey. The word avsurg means in my opinion 'the solar horse' (an Indo-Aryan symbol) and consists of two words, av surg, cf. Old Indian acvah 'horse' and surya 'the sun'.

Such a cup might be used for the libations to the deities, cf. the plot depicted on a Scythian golden plaque: the sun goddess Tabiti is looking at a mirror, and a Scythian is drinking the wine from a cup (Galanina, Domansky and Smirnova 1981: 51, photo). The Circassian fairytale hero Sosruko gives the drink sana to other heroes (Kaloev, Mizhaev and Salakaya 1992: 200). On the other hand, Scythian sana- means 'wine', Old Indian sana- - 'intoxicating drink from hemp', Indo-Aryan (Crimian) kim-sana- - 'winy' (Trubachev 1981: 10).


1. See (Vasmer 1986: 159).

2. See (Trubachev 1977: 19-21).

3. See (Trubachev 1977: 22-3).


Bogoslovsky, O.V., 1998. Iz istorii khristianstva na Tamanskom poluostrove. In: A.I. Afanasieva (ed.) Sbornik. 20 let muzeya M.Y. Lermontova v Tamani. Taman' arkheologicheskaya (II razdel). Taman': Tamansky myzeyny komplex, pp. 10-28.

Galanina L.K., Y.V. Domansky and G.I. Smirnova, 1981. Skify. Putevoditel' po vystavke otdela istorii pervobytnoy kul'tury Gosudarstvennogo Ermitazha. Leningrad: Iskusstvo.

Kaloev, B.A., M.I. Mizhaev and S.H. Salakaya, 1992. Narty. In: S.A. Tokarev (ed.) Mify narodov mira. Vol. 2. Moscow: Sovetskaya Entsiklopediya, pp. 199-201.

Klyuchevsky, V.O., 1987. Sochineniya v devyati tomakh. Vol. 1. Moscow: Mysl'.

Makary (Bulgakov), Metropolitan of Moscow and Kolomna, 1994. Istoriya Russkoy Tserkvi. Vol. 1. Moscow: The Spaso-Preobrazhensky Valaamsky Monastery.

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.

Mizhaev M.I., 1992. Sosruko. In: S.A. Tokarev (ed.) Mify narodov mira. Vol. 2. Moscow: Sovetskaya Entsiklopediya, p. 464.

Rjabchikov, S.V., 1998a. Drevnie texty slavyan i adygov. Krasnodar: Torgovo-promyshlennaya palata Krasnodarskogo kraya.

Rjabchikov, S.V., 1998b. Tainstvennaya Tmutarakan'. Krasnodar: Torgovo-promyshlennaya palata Krasnodarskogo kraya.

Toporov V.N., 1992. Mitra. In: S.A. Tokarev (ed.) Mify narodov mira. Vol. 2. Moscow: Sovetskaya Entsiklopediya, pp. 154-7.

Trubachev, O.N., 1977. Lingvisticheskaya periferiya drevneyshego slavyanstva. Indoariytsy v Severnom Prichernomor'e. Voprosy yazykoznaniya, No 6: 13-31.

Trubachev, O.N., 1978. Nekotorye dannye ob indoariyskom yazykovom substrate Severnogo Kavkaza v antichnoe vremya. Vestnik drevney istorii, No 4: 34-42.

Trubachev, O.N., 1981. Indoarica v Severnom Prichernomor'e. Istochniki. Interpretatsiya. Rekonstruktsiya. Voprosy yazykoznaniya, No 2: 3-21.

Uspensky, L.V., 1962. Slovo o slovakh. Ty i tvoe imya. Leningrad: Lenizdat.

Vasmer, M., 1986. Etimologichesky slovar' russkogo yazyka. Vol. 1. Moscow: Progress.

Copyright © 1999 by Sergei V. Rjabchikov. All Rights Reserved.

Published 10 November 1999.

Sergei V. Rjabchikov, Krasnodar, RUSSIA.

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Rjabchikov, Sergei V., 1999. The Interpretation of the Several Graffiti on the Coins of the Petershof Treasure. "THE SLAVONIC ANTIQUITY" Home Page (http://slavonicweb.chat.ru/sl9.htm).


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