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A Runic Inscription at Sarykoby (Southeastern Altai)

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This article introduces our reading and interpretation of a recently discovered runic inscription found at the petroglyphic site Sarykoby, in the northern spurs of the Saylyugem Range in the Chuya steppe, southeastern Altai. The inscription belongs to a large composition with unusual representations. It consists of two lines with 2I and 13 characters. After discussing several variants of translation, we have selected the most plausible ones. The translation of the inscription with two variants of the second line is as follows: “I have written on the rock, ah! Oh, please speak! Give me luck (or “Going to battle”) - oh - I have written (this)”. The word su/su in the inscription meaning ‘glory, imperial state, greatness, happiness’, is one of the few Mongolian loans in Old Uyghur and possibly in Old Turkic. The Sarykoby inscription is located in an inconspicuous place, the characters are small, and the carving is shallow. This confirms the common view that many runic inscriptions in the Altai are intimate and were not intended for the public eye. At the same time, the Sarykoby inscription invites the readers to a dialog, and possibly carries a call to prayer or blessing. Its content is religious and philosophic in a sense. Perhaps the author believed that the inscription could confer a blessing upon the readers. This makes it very meaningful and unusual in the corpus of runic inscriptions of the Altai.

About the Authors

M. Erdal
Goethe University
Russian Federation


Senckenberganlage 31, Frankfurt am Main, 60325

G. V. Kubarev
Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography, Siberian Branch, Russian Academy of Sciences
Russian Federation

Senior Researcher.

Pr. Akademika Lavrentieva 17, Novosibirsk, 630090


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For citations:

Erdal M., Kubarev G.V. A Runic Inscription at Sarykoby (Southeastern Altai). Archaeology, Ethnology & Anthropology of Eurasia. 2019;47(4):93-98.

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ISSN 1563-0110 (Print)