According to a story from the Sofia News Agency of Bulgaria (so, um, take it for what it’s worth), Europe’s Oldest Script Found in Bulgaria:

Ancient tablets found in South Bulgaria are written in the oldest European script found ever, German scientists say.
The tablets, unearthed near the Southern town of Kardzhali, are over 35-centuries old, and bear the ancient script of the Cretan (Minoan) civilization, according to scientists from the University of Heidelberg, who examined the foundings. This is the Cretan writing, also known as Linear A script, which dates back to XV-XIV century B.C.

The story goes on to quote a Bulgarian archeologist as saying the discovery “throws a completely different light on Bulgaria’s history.” Me, I’ll wait to hear it from more scientific sources, but it’s certainly intriguing if true. (Via Uncle Jazzbeau.)


  1. Keep us posted if you find a more scientific source!

  2. Anywhere some ancient scribbles are found, there’s always the enthusiasts who want to link those squiggles to some other script. If you really try, and bias your copying efforts sufficiently, you could for example even find similarities between the Easter Island Rongorongo script and the graphics on the Indus valley seals. I’m not impressed so far of what I’ve seen along those lines, but will follow the debate on early “writing” in Bulgaria with great interest.

  3. Writing began among the proto-Finns of Kerala, as everyone knows.
    I just saw a copy of the book which claimed that the Athabascans, Navahos, et al are descended from Tanggut refugees from the Mongol conquest of Hsi-Hsia. Can’t afford to buy it, alas, and didn’t write down the title/author.

  4. Oh god…
    SIOUX (by a different tribal name) gradually migrated far northwest so thoroughly Algonquinized that they kept speaking Algonquin even after close interaction with Xiong-nu changed their lifestyle and name.
    They did not adopt Mongolian speech because their own was already highly or higher developed. Moving beyond forests, Sioux adopted Xiong-nu nomadism. Fell’s “Siberic” would be Mongolian Turkish of prairie Sioux. J.E. Edkins had identified the Algonquin Dakota dialect Mongol at the turn of the 19th century.
    My head hurts…

  5. I think we have a champion.

  6. I thought Bulgarian already had the oldest writing system? Old European is actually more interesting than Linear A, if you’re into the mysterious and unexplained.
    I’m going to do my Sergeant Schultz impression on the Tangut-Sioux connexion, but I don’t believe anyone can be champion other than Edo Nyland.

  7. Am I missing something? This doesn’t seem like a very big deal. The Black Sea was a Greek lake for many 1000s of years, why couldn’t a few minoan tablets turn up? I’m not sure why this changes our understanding of “Bulgarian” history in any way. No one is trying to claim any cultural connection between the Minoans 3500 years ago and the modern Slav/Turks who currently inhabit the same territory, are they?

  8. You’re getting the timeline and writing systems mixed up. The Greeks didn’t start colonizing the Black Sea coast until the middle of the first millennium BC, by which time Linear A was long forgotten — and it wasn’t used by Greeks anyway, it was used by Cretans, and it died out by the mid-second millennium BC. So it would be remarkable if it turned up in Bulgaria… but by the same token that is, as anders said, unlikely.

  9. Couldn’t the thing just have been traded around as a piece of art or a luxury item until it finally wound up in Bulgaria? Think of all the hokey Chinesy crap that people decorate with these days.

  10. Yes, if it actually is Linear A, that would be my guess as to how it got there.

  11. I guess I was thinking of Linear B. Still, I can’t see how it would be that farfetched for a seafaring, literate civilization on Crete to have established some trade routes and contact as far as the Black Sea. It may be unlikely but it doesn’t strike me as ridiculous.

  12. The author of the above link, prof. emeritus of history at Wake Forest, has another theory:
    In 1975, Dr. Cyclone Covey published a book entitlied “Calalus a Roman Jewish Colony in
    America from the Time of Charlemagne Through Alfred the Great”.

    I now have found at least four different self-published books about the Chinese discovery of America, not counting the recent Menzies book (very doubtful, but not self-published).

  13. Aput – In fact some of the symbols on the page you link to do look superfically like some of the Cretan Linear scripts.
    What Anders said.

  14. By the way, I meant of course “Bulgaria” had the oldest script, not “Bulgarian”. Merely that Old European has been found there.
    That Wake Forest place seems to be a real university. I mean, one with buildings. They can’t really have him in an actual history department, with students, can they?

  15. Emeritus. I’d like to know more about Cyclone’s career.

  16. I did a bit of poking around Wake Forest’s site and found the homepage of one Tim Covey, a quirky IT database admin type who includes a link to Cyclone Covey’s treatise referenced above. The name Cyclone Covey also turns up as a prize-winning debater in the years 1998-2000, so there may be another one who went more round-the-bend than the emeritus. Or it could be a clever spoof concocted by an IT guy.
    However, Cyclone’s treatise web page does give the correct fax number for WFU’s history department, and Cyclone’s web page does turn up in a listing of WF student, faculty, and staff web pages, even though I couldn’t find his name is nowhere to be found on the History Dept.’s web directory. The real Cyclone Covey did publish not just the 1975 vanity press work on a Roman Jewish colony in America, but also a 1983 translation of the explorer Cabeza de Vaca’s journals published by the reputable New Mexico U. Press. The latter is a widely used textbook still in print.

  17. ho ho, I go beyond the black stump for a few months and look what turns up. If it’s true, this is sooo cool. Doesn’t matter how they got there, one of the biggest problems in working out linear A has been not having enough stuff of it to do any of the normal decipherment techniques (hence more fodder for idiots; less evidence > more speculation > more speculators).

  18. If anyone’s curious, as I was, about Claire’s striking phrase “beyond the black stump,” you can find its meaning and a story (whether true or not I don’t know) about its origin here.

  19. Vassil K. says

    the following page –
    contains some pictures from news articles of these fragments with (possibly) Linear A script from the Eastern Rhodopes.

  20. Kroraina by the way is the reconstructed name of the ancient Silk Road city of Loulan in Western China.
    So was Linear A an early written form of Tokharian? Don’t tell me, let me guess…

  21. This is not linear A, its a cousin language. Commonly known as the Futhark. The Futhark, Linear A, Etruscan, Indus Harappa, and Proto Canaanite look far to similar to be able to say they are not related to each other. So the Script in Bulgaria is not linear A its ancient Nordic Germanic. Especially since the architecture was Nordic long houses. The Europeans where among 6 ancient civilizations that where highly advanced.

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