In 1965, an inscription was found on a grave slab near the village of Kjolmen in Bulgaria. The grave was destroyed by tractor-plowing, but artifacts such as metal plates armor, a spear tip, a sword, and broken earthen vases were found. The absence of skeletal remains suggests that the burial rite was cremation. The age of the grave is estimated to be from the 6th century BC based on its content and is believed to be a Thracian burial. See Woudhuizen, F. C. (2000-2001) – The Earliest Inscription of Thrace. The letters and the style of writing are also typical for that period.
The slab is now at the Sofia Archaeological Museum.
The text of the Kjolmen inscription
Numerous scientific publications exist regarding the text in question, and there is a widespread consensus on the sound values assigned to each letter. Nonetheless, some scolars maintain that certain letters might have been inaccurately transcribed. Additionally, the absence of clear word boundaries presents a considerable challenge during the translation process.
Universally accepted reading is:
ΙΛΑΣΝΛΕΤΕΔΝΛΕΔΝΕΝΙΔΑΚΑΤΡΟΣ ΕΒΑ:ΡΟΖΕΣΑΣΝΗΝΕΤΕΣΑΙΓΕΚΟΑ ΝΒΛΑΒΑΗΓΝ
Preparing for the translation
It quickly becomes apparent that some of the letters in the text are incorrect. For instance, the letters in the last row could hardly have a meaning in any language. Nevertheless, given that the text is engraved on a tombstone, it is unlikely to be mere gibberish.
After some time, I was able to translate the entire text by altering the values of just two letters. The order of the letters remained unchanged – I only inserted word separations where necessary.
The reason why I opted to change these two letters is completely justifiable. It is widely known that in other ancient scripts, such as Venetic, Raetian, and Camunic, these pairs of letters are frequently mistaken for one another. As a result, I decided to test this theory with the text in question.
The letters that I changed are L – Y, and G – L. In the picture below, you can see why it is so easy to confuse them.
Image source: Transmission of the alphabet to and within Italy https://tir.univie.ac.at/wiki/Script
Once this was done, I got the following text (the changes are marked in bold):
Original – ΙΛΑΣΝΛΕΤΕΔΝΛΕΔΝΕΝΙΔΑΚΑΤΡΟΣΕΒΑΡΟΖΕΣΑΣΝΗ ΝΕΤΕΣΑΙΓΕΚΟΑ, ΝΒΛΑΒΑΗΓΝ
My text: IYASNYETEDNYEDNENIDAKATROSOEBAROZESASN NETESAILEKOA NBYAVAHLN
In other words, this is the same text as the original, except that all L’s are now Y’s, and all G’s are now L’s! Note that I haven’t changed any of the letters – just the sound values assigned by modern scolars.
Separating the words
Once I began inserting word separations, I was astounded by how effortlessly the text could be read in any of the Slavic languages.
Here is the final result:
IYASNYE TEDNY EDNENI DATATRO SOEBA ROZESA SN NETESA
I LEKO A NBY A VA HLN
Translation: Teodan of the Yaseni. From his daughter Edna with Rozesa and Netesa.
And (may it be) easy (for him) as in heavens, so in earth.
In other words, this could be interpreted as an epitaph for a king of Yaseni tribe, written by a woman name Edna or Edneni, and mentioning two other female names. Another option is that all four individuals were cremated. Of course, this cannot be confirmed.
Here is the translation, word by word:
First line of the text
IYASNYE – “of the Yaseni”. The Yaseni were a medieval Slavic tribe that lived in the area now known as eastern Poland and western Belarus. They were part of the larger group of East Slavic tribes, which also included the Krivichi, Dregovichi, and Radimichi. The Yaseni were mentioned in early chronicles, including the Primary Chronicle, which was compiled in the 12th century. They were known for their skill in archery and horseback riding, and they played a role in the early history of the Kievan Rus, a medieval state that emerged in the 9th century and eventually became the basis for modern-day Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia. The Yaseni were eventually assimilated into other neighboring Slavic tribes, and their distinct identity disappeared over time.
Truth be told, we do not have any historical records of the Yaseni prior to the 12th century. However, it is worth noting that a tribe of Krivi was mentioned in the RG Veda.
TEDNY – Teoda is a well-attested Slavic name, that it could also mean “king, ruler” – from the Gothic masculine form þiudans ‘king’ (derived from an earlier *teuto-nos ‘master of the people’). The name of Illyrian queen Teuta comes from the same root. The suffix Y is matching the previous word, of the Yaseni.
EDNENI – In Bulgarian, the name “Edna” is a feminine form of the word “edno,” which means “one” or “single.”
DATATRO – “Daughter”, from Proto-Slavic: dъťi.
SOEBA – “with”. In Old Church Slavonic, “soeba” (сѡба) is a preposition that can have several meanings depending on the context in which it is used. Some possible meanings include “with,” “in the company of,” “in the possession of,” or “together with.” Vaillant, A. (1950). Grammaire comparée des langues slaves. Tome I: Introduction, phonétique, flexion. Paris: Librairie C. Klincksieck.
ROZESA – A Slavic name Ruzica means “liitle rose”.
SN – The preposition “and” in Old Church Slavonic is usually expressed by the word “sъ” (s with a backslash). This preposition is typically used to indicate association or accompaniment, among other things. For example, “sъ bratom” means “with brother.”
NETESA – A name similar to well-attested Russian name Natasha.
Second line of the text
I – “and” The word “and” in Old Church Slavonic is “и” (pronounced “ee”).
LEKO – “Easy” – 2,500 years later, and the modern Bulgarian the word is exactly the same – “leko”. The Old Church Slavonic word is легъкъ (legŭkŭ).
A – “or, as”. In modern Balkan languages, A (Ah) can sometime mean or/as, usually in the poetic manner.
NBY – “in the sky, heavens”. The word for “sky” or “heavens” in Old Church Slavonic is небо (nebo), from Proto-Slavic “neba”.
A – “or”. In modern Balkan languages, A (Ah) can sometime means OR.
VA – “in”. The word for “in” in Old Church Slavonic is “vъ” (pronounced “vuh”).
HLN – “clay, earth” – In Old Church Slavonic, “hlin” and “hlen” both refer to “clay” or “earth”.
It appears that I am not the first individual to suggest a link between the Kjolmen inscription and the Slavic language. Unfortunately, in my view, their translation attempts were significantly inaccurate. Here is the reference: The Inscription Nr. 6858 from Kjolmen (Bulgaria)
Anyhow, if my translation is correct, the implications of this discovery are enormous, and here are four compelling reasons why:
- If my analysis is correct, this would make the Kjolmen inscription the oldest known inscription in any Slavic language, predating other documented examples by over 1,000 years.
- If the text is indeed easily understood in modern Slavic languages, this would suggest that the Slavic languages have undergone relatively little change over the past 2,500 years, placing them among the oldest languages of Europe.
- If the Kjolmen inscription is indeed written in a Slavic language, it would provide firm evidence of Slavic presence in the Balkans at least 1,000 years prior to the traditionally accepted migration of Slavic peoples in the 6th century. Moreover, if the burrial demonstrates similar customs to those of the Thracians, it could suggest that there was little difference between the two cultures.
- Last but not least, the final phrase of the inscription, “as on heavens so on earth,” bears a striking resemblance to the well-known Christian quote. However, this presents a significant challenge since the Kjolmeni quote dates back to 500-600 years BCE, long before the emergence of Christianity. How can that be explained?
Is the Kjolmen inscription authentic?
Despite the significant implications of this discovery, some individuals may dispute the credibility of the Kjolmen inscription. However, there are several reasons why this is unlikely to be the case:
- The stone slab on which the Kjolmen inscription was found was discovered in 1965 and has been well-documented since then. If someone had a hidden agenda and tampered with the inscription, it is unlikely that they would have waited so long for someone to attempt to translate it to reveal their actions. Additionally, the fact that numerous scholars attempted to translate the text but failed suggests that the inscription has not been intentionally altered, and that previous attempts at translation may have been hindered by a reliance on Ancient Greek lexicon rather than a focus on Slavic language structures.
- The Kjolmen inscription has been dated by numerous scholars based on various factors such as burial offerings and the style of letters used in the inscription. While there may be some variation in the estimated date of the inscription, it is widely accepted that the inscription dates back the 6th century BC, although a few experts suggest that it could be a bit younger, dating it to the 4-5th century BC.
- The presence of certain words in the Kjolmen inscription, such as “data” for daughter, which have only recently been reconstructed as Proto-Slavic, suggest that the inscription is authentic and not a modern forgery. Furthermore, the absence of the soft sign letter in the inscription is consistent with the time period it is believed to date from, as this letter did not yet exist in the Slavic alphabet at that time.
In conclusion, it is highly unlikely that someone in 1965 would have had the knowledge and skill to create such a convincing forgery, especially given the detailed documentation of the discovery and the numerous attempts by scholars to translate the inscription over the years.
While it is true that the authenticity of the Kjolmen inscription has never been seriously disputed, it is always important to maintain a critical and skeptical approach when evaluating historical artifacts and their interpretations. However, the evidence presented thus far, including the detailed documentation of the discovery, the consistent dating by scholars, and the linguistic analysis supporting the Slavic origin of the inscription, strongly suggest that it is an authentic and significant historical artifact – one that could completely rewrite Slavic history as we know it.