PREPRINT (working paper) 4-1998
of The Institute of Mathematics and Informatics
at Bulgarian Academy of Sciences
(first published on December 21, 1998, modified on March 3, 2000)
AN APPROACH TO DATING THE PLISKA ROSETTE
Milosh Sidorov and Emil Kelevedzhiev
An attempt is made to date the Pliska Rosette, an archaeological find that is popular among the Bulgarian historians. Our method is based on an astronomical interpretation of the signs depicted on the Rosette, and using a computer programme to search for a moment in time, when specified constellations of planets really occurred. The relevant historical background and some explanations are also discussed in the paper.
In 1961, a seven-finger bronze medallion was found in Pliska, Bulgaria. This artifact, known also as the Pliska Rosette, has obtained popularity since 1977, when its discovery was first announced by the Bulgarian archaeologist S. Vaklinov . The find is about 5 centimetre wide, but it attracted the attention of scientists not only because of its unusual shape, but also because of the presence of pairs of strange signs or characters on each finger on the upper side of the Rosette (see Fig. 1). In the centre of the reverse side, a symbol, that appears to be a combination of the letters I, Y and I, has been engraved. Its meaning is interpreted as "heaven" or "sky" . The number of endpoints in the ideogram IYI is seven; exactly the same is the number of fingers on the Rosette. Recently, this semantic link, namely the link between the Rosette's seven fingers and their signs, on the one hand, and the seven planets known in the ancient world and their abstract analogue IYI, on the other hand, has been closely studied .
Fig. 1. The Pliska Rosette.
Many attempts have been made to read some message "alphabetically written" or "symbolically rendered" by means of runic letters. One such attempt (unsuccessful in our opinion) was made by E. Sachev, who trust too much that the Chuvashian language can be used as a possible key to decode some Proto-Bulgarian words . Another attempt (not fully successful according to us) was made by P. Dobrev. He based it on the conjecture of V. Beshevliev, who agreed that the Seven planets were involved. It is worth noticing here, that the Sun and the Moon are traditionally considered as belonging to the set of these seven planets. P. Dobrev also used a hypothetical "phonetic" writing and supposed that it was employed by the Proto-Bulgarians [5, 6].
Identification of the Symbols.
Here it is supposed that the signs (two on each finger of the Rosette) are neither letter-like (as is supposed by P. Dobrev ), nor rune-like (as is supposed by St. Mikhailov  and D. Ovcharov ). We suppose that the signs have an astronomical meaning. Some of them symbolise the Seven planets known to the ancients, while the other signs are symbols of some seven of the twelve zodiac constellations. Any researcher who knows even a little about past astrological practices, will find such kind of interpretation quite natural.
V. Beshevliev was the first to assume that the seven rays of the Rosette represented the Seven movable celestial lights known in the past as the "Seven planets". In his book "Proto-Bulgar: Customs and Culture" (1981), he wrote that the seven fingers of the Rosette "could quite possibly mean the Seven main stars known by the ancients: the Sun, the Moon, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus and Saturn" . He added "These stars played an important role in ancient magic and the seven days of the week were named after their names in Assyria, Babylon and Rome, as well as among the ancient Germans. The Rosette was surely a device for the prognostication of the future..." . But, Beshevliev did not try to determine which planet was depicted on each finger. Nor did P. Petrova attempt to identify them in her publication "About the seven-finger Rosette of Pliska" . As we have already noted, P. Dobrev had searched for a reading of the signs of the Rosette with the help of an imaginery (restored by him) pieces of phonetical writing, which was likely to have been in use by the Pre-Christian Bulgarians . The reading proposed by P. Dobrev does not coincide with our interpretation described here. As a matter of fact, regarding the identification of the planets, we used the data, firstly published in the book "Blugarianity: the Religion of the Seven" . Our current work states for the first time an other extra assumption: the symbols accompanying the planets on each of the seven fingers are those of the zodiac constellations.
Fig. 2. The Symbols of the Rosette.
Using the sources available to us, we could not find a correspondence between some of the symbols and their meanings. With regard to the four symbols P1, P2, P6 and P7 (see Fig. 2) we can say for certain that they relate respectively to the Sun, the Moon, Saturn and Venus. Then we can easily determine the assignments to the planets of the remaining three symbols P3, P4 and P5. Taking into consideration some old manuscripts, where the names "red horse" and "black horse" were reserved for the planet Mars and Mercury, respectively [14, 15], we found that the two identical figures P3 and P4 belong to these two planets. Because two different planets have the same signs, we adopted the assumption that the two triangles of these two signs were formerly coloured differently. According to their names, the triangle symbolising Mars was probably coloured in red, while that of Mercury was black. Unfortunately, up to now, the published studies known to us do not support this assumption. The archaeologist J. Gatev from the Archaeological Museum in Sofia gave us an opportunity to examine closely the Rosette. We saw no visible traces of any colouring. We have no information, whether chemical analysis had been made.
The identification of the signs of Mercury and Mars, will become more obvious later in this work, when we consider the signs of zodiac constellations. For now it suffices to say, that our arguments follow from the fact, that the planet Mercury is always visibly close to the Sun, hence this planet can be positioned either in the same constellation in which the Sun is located, or at least in the neighbouring one. Because one of both identical signs P3 or P4 accompanies the sign of the zodiac constellation Sagittarius Z3, and this constellation is not a neighbour of the constellation Pisces, that contains the Sun, we come to the conclusion, that the second sign P3 belongs to the planet Mercury. In this case, the sign P4 remains to be assigned to the planet Mars.
After determining the meanings of six planet symbols, we turn to the seventh symbol P5. For this symbol, there is no other possibility except, that it must refer to Jupiter.
Taking the described identification into consideration, we can assume that the planets are situated on the fingers of the Rosette, as is shown on Fig. 3. It is curious, that except the one case (the exchanged order of Venus and Saturn), the arrangement of the planets on the fingers coincides with the order of the days of the week in most European languages. If we begin a movement starting from the noted by the Sun symbol P1, then going anti-clockwise, we will see successively the signs of the Seven astrological planets, as is shown on Fig. 3.
Fig. 3. The bronze Rosette-Horoscope with symbols of the Seven "planets" and zodiac constellations on its seven fingers.
The Rosette is a horoscope.
We agree with Beshevliev, that the Rosette was used for the "prediction of the future", but we specify: this "prediction" was performed by a horoscope, depicted on the fingers of the Rosette. Namely, a symbol of a constellation was added to each symbol of a planet on each ray. These constellations are the so-called zodiac constellations "dominating" over the planets, while the latter are in their domains. Effortless, we can identify: Z2 = "Aries", Z7 = "Taurus", Z1 = "Pisces", Z3 = "Sagittarius" and Z6 = "Scorpius". Regarding the symbol accompanying the sign of Mercury, we assume that there exists no other assumption except this symbol be the zodiac constellation Aquarius. Our arguments follow from the fact, that Mercury is always visibly close to the Sun and thus, it must be located in the same constellation in which the Sun is, or at least in the neighbouring one. Since Mercury is not in Pisces or Taurus, in which the Sun and Venus are placed, it follows that Mercury must be in Aquarius. And for the symbol Z5, which is depicted on the finger of Jupiter, we find that this sign is graphically very close to the sign meaning Virgo in the modern astronomical notations. Of course, we do not reject any other rendering.
We give a comparative table containing the signs of the planets and zodiac constellations pictured on the Pliska Rosette and their correspondences being used in the modern astronomical and astrological literature (Fig. 4).
Fig. 4. Comparative table of the signs of the planets and zodiac constellations used in the Pliska Rosette and similar signs being used today.
In the modern scientific literature, the term "horoscope" is accepted to have a meaning of a given diagram showing the relative positions of the planets in zodiac constellations. In the past, the horoscopes had a broad use. We mention, that a horoscope was usually composed (i.e. the position of the planets was recorded) at the moment of a birth of an eminent person (e.g. a successor to the throne) or on the day of some important event having a fateful meaning. A quite similar practice exists also today in communities, where persons believe in the power of astrology.
Having a horoscope composed in order to use it for a passed event or for a future one, the ancient astrologists applying their system of esoteric knowledge, tryed to predict events in a person's life or to predict the outcome of various planned actions.
Such a practice also existed also amongst the ancient Bulgarians. As an example, we point out the 35th answer given by the pope Nicklaus I to the queries of Bulgarians (RESPONSA NIKOLAI I PAPAE AD CONSULTA BULGARORUM. ANNO 866): "You said, when you were going to a battle, you got accustomed to observe days and hours and to make... some guesses..." . Hence we conclude, that it was divined not only person's life, but also the future of a group of people, undertaking construction of a building or beginning a war, for example. Sometimes, it was divined the destiny of a whole nation.
In the present work, we do not discuss these old astrological activities in detail, but we will give reasons why we think that the function of the Pliska Rosette was the prediction or guessing the future.
The prophecy was carried out by posing a question: "When the beginning of a given action on a certain day and at a certain hour would lead to successful completion or would be unsuccessful?" This hypothesis about the function of the Rosette is inspired from the information recorded on the finger of the Sun and on that of the Moon. Namely, the Sun is in Pisces, and the Moon is in Aries (these two zodiac constellations are neighbours, Aries being to the east of Pisces). This means that at that momemt, the Moon rises in the morning, and this occurs immediately after the sunrise. Then during the daytime, the Moon, that is very close to the Sun in the sky, would not be seen, because of the sunlight. But, when the Moon will again becomes visible on the west part of the sky after the sunset, then it will be in its young stage, that is immediately after the new moon phase. The religious ideology of the Pre-Christian Bulgarians required that all important actions, i.e. those having a great significance (e.g. battles), to be undertaken in the period of the first part of the Moon phase cycle: from the day of a new moon to the day of a full moon. To confirm this, we can quote historically recorded events:
The Pre-Christian Bulgarians belonged to the nations, that began battles in wars "at an increasing moon or at a full moon, but at a decreasing moon phase they withdrew" . Only such a reason can explain an unexpected finish of the siege of Thessalonike in A. D. 548 and a similar event at Singidunum (today's Belgrade) in A.D. 593. In both cases, the Bulgarian forces were withdrawn from the battle at a moment when their enemies were wondering, how they could surrender. These extraordinary consequences of events remained unexplained by the Byzantines and were seen by them as a true miracle (see "The Miracles of St. Dimitrios of Thessalonike" ). The ancient Bulgarians obeyed strictly the laws of their "cosmological" religion.
It is worth noting, that some reminiscences of "the important function" of the increasing moon phase are preserved in Christianity as a rule for determining the date of Easter. The commonly stated principle asserts that Easter is the first Sunday after the first Full Moon after the Vernal Equinox.We will not specify here the exact rule; moreover, it depends on what Christian denomination we take into consideration.
The Dating of the Pliska Rosette.
A crucial question arises naturally: When was the Rosette made, or more precisely, to what moment in time was it related?
Based on the environment around the location where it was found, i.e. "on the archaeological medium", S. Vaklinov placed it in the 8th - 9th centuries A. D, and this has now been adopted by almost all researchers.
We stress on the fact that after having assured that the Rosette was a horoscope, we can actually restore the exact date of its creation, or at least, the date that was marked. This date can be computed using the locations of the celestial bodies recorded on the Rosette itself.
Chronological investigations, based on the interesting idea of astronomical interpretation of the content of some historical monuments or manuscripts, by using their images or texts, are published, for example in ,  and . There, based on an adequate analysis, a particular configurations of movable celestial bodies were composed, so that the situation was accepted as really existing in a certain moment of the time. Using this method in the cited literature, attempts were made to date old Egypt tombs by examining the artistic drawings in them, as well as to determine the year of writing of the last book of the Bible "Apocalypse". This is possible, because, as we know, the movement of the celestial bodies is characterised by a considerable regularity. A repetition of similar configurations takes place at average intervals of several millennia, so that the methods of modern celestial mechanics together with computer calculations allow obtaining relatively precise results for dating.
In order to establish a date in our case, we assume that according to the analysis we have already made, the Rosette has a relation to the moment of time, when the planets and the Sun were located on the zodiac constellations, as follows:
The Sun in Pisces,
Mercury in Aquarius,
Venus in Taurus,
Mars in Sagittarius,
Jupiter in Virgo,
Saturn in Scorpius.
For our purposes we wrote a special computer program. The embedded algorithms were taken from . The program was initially tested by comparing it with programs published in  and . We made sure of its validity after obtaining a good coincidence of its results and those obtained independently by collaborators of A. T. Fomenko  on dating of another historical event, namely the moment of writing of "Apocalypse", the last book of the Bible. Our results of this dating process are published in  and .
The result of the computer calculations showed that the horoscope depicted on the Pliska Rosette, i.e. the configuration of the celestial bodies given on it, was a reality in the stellar sky during a narrow interval from 29 March 1104 to 13 April 1104 (A. D.) only and at no other time in the whole period from the present days until 6000 B.C. (we have made calculations, that have searched for celestial events in a backward direction along the time line). Moreover, we note that the solution is unique and "very expressive" in the mentioned historical period. It is interesting, if we suppose the locations of the planets to be randomly fabricated, there is a very large probability, such a configuration to be non-existence at any time in the whole historical period of time. Arguments for the last assertion are discussed in  and .
After having discovered the above time interval using our computer program, we made an additional test by the help of the program Skyglobe . This test gave a full confirmation of our results and specified also that the Moon was located in the constellation Aries exactly on 5 April 1104.
We made some other computations at intentionally relaxed conditions for the horoscope depicted on the Rosette. This means, that we ignored the location of the Sun in Pisces and eliminated the requirement that the planet Mercury is located in a certain constellation at all. It is usually assumed this planet is scarcely visible, since it loses itself in the rays of the rising or setting sun. The ancient astronomer or astrologist who composed the horoscope with his naked eye, might be allowed the largest inaccuracy just for Mercury's position. With the above mentioned relaxed assumptions, we obtained the following dates:
March 29, 1104 ... April 23 1104 (A. D.),
April 10, 867 ... May 15, 867 (A. D.),
July 11, 487 ... August 5, 487 (A. D.),
April 5, 250 ... May 10, 250 (A. D.),
May 21, 1279 ... June 5, 1279 (B. C.).
The search was carried out using all the available possibilities in the time interval from our days going back to the first millennium B. C., where the last result was found. It is worth to note, that first period (March 29, 1104 ... April 23 1104) is expanded by 10 days in comparison with the non-relaxed case.
Note: All the dates in the present work are given according to the currently used Gregorian calendar.
We believe the computer calculations described above will give the possibility for future well-based assumptions to answer exactly the question: for what purpose was the Pliska Rosette-Horoscope designed?. From the scientific point of view, the substantial question still remains: what important date does this Rosette-Horoscope record?
The answer should be obtained from future researches into early Bulgarian history.
We are willing to adopt either one of the two dates, placed on the top of the listing of computer dating (1104 or 867) as the most acceptable year for the making of the Rosette. These dates satisfy also the condition stated that the Sun was located in the Pisces constellation. The fact showing that the Sun is in that zodiac constellation suggests to us the importance of the vernal equinox day. This moment was considered "a birthday" of a coming year. According to modern astronomical data, the sunrise on the day of the vernal (spring) equinox has begun its occurrence within the limits of Pisces constellation since the time of 150 B. C., approximately. This will continue in the same limits approximately till 2000 A. D. In many ancient cultures, the calendar year began at the vernal equinox moment. This appeared quite probably also true in the Pre-Christian Bulgarian calendar.
The location of the Sun in Pisces was formally emphasized on the Pliska Rosette and this was done twice: 1) The only Sun's sign was depicted on the outer ring. All the other signs were placed on the inner one; 2) The symbol IYI, which was cut on the reverse side of the Rosette, pointed exactly to the finger of the Sun (see Fig. 3). These peculiarities allow us to suppose that the horoscope was made to be used for a whole year.
If we choose the year 867 from the above computed dates, we might point out the following two dilemmas, which had significance at that time, according to official Bulgarian historiography:
Dilemma 1. Whether to adopt or reject Christianity as a national religion?
Dilemma 2. To which of the great powers, Constantinople or Rome, should the newly established Bulgarian Church join?
In the "standard" textbooks of Bulgarian history it is accepted, that the process of adopting the Christianity was carried out in 864 A. D. During the following year, the prince (knyaz) Boris suppressed a revolt of Bulgarian notables, who were led by Boris's son Vladimir-Rassate and who wished a restoration of the old popular pagan religion. In the next year, an official delegation, representing the Roman Pope, came to the town of Pliska and stayed there from 866 to 870.
However, a stone inscription found in a village of Balshi in today's Albania contradicts the above dating of the events: "Boris, renamed as Mikhail, the ruler of Bulgarians [adopted Christianity] in the years 6374 [=866 A. D.], together with the peoples given him by the God . The same date of converting the Bulgarians to Christianity was supported by the Bertin's manuscripts . Following this date, the revolt of Vladimir-Rasate and the restoration of the popular pagan faith, presenting in fact a "cosmological" religion, is confirmed to be in 866 or in the following year: 867. It is a complete coincidence of the latter year and that one, computed on condition that the Rosette represents a horoscope.
It is most likely that in 867, the Bulgarians consulted the stars for the last time. As we know, the Bulgarian Christian priests strictly prohibited the methods of astrology, i.e. the prediction of the future by observation the positions of the Seven Lights on the stellar sky. We prove this fact by mentioning the words belonging to the eminent Bulgarian theologian, John the Exarch, who was contemporary with and a fellow of St. Clement of Okhrid, of St. Naum of Preslav and Okhrid and of Christ-lover Bulgarian Tzar Simeon (King Simon) the Great. John the Exarch subjected all astrologists to a cutting criticism: "They even consider the celestial lights as a reason for what is occurring in human life, indeed not being under suspicion, how much they are wrong... but they [the lights] cannot affect the person's life in any way, and cannot create neither reasonable and patient, nor foul and ill, or rich and powerful princes and kings, or on the contrary, poor and wretched, rugged and rude men, according to the vain and confused mind, and to the wrong wishes of the astrologists". In order to strengthen this negative attitude to the astrology, the Christian theorist added: "Indeed, all the astrological thoughts and theories are very ridiculous, they are inherent of their exceptional madness" . Thus, this bright picture reflects the brutal collision of both religions: the anthropocentric Christianity and the cosmical paganism.
It is believed, that the march of Christianity halted for many centuries the development of astronomy, a science very closely related to the astrology. The existing fact, that Pre-Christian Bulgarians confessed definitely to a "cosmological" religion, was confirmed by St. Clement of Okhrid, who wrote: "One must blame those, who prayed to the things, created by the God, and call them gods: the Sun, the Moon, the stars, the water and the fire" . The Bulgarian archbishop Theophyllact of Okhrid (1090-1126), who was the successor to the Okhrid's throne of St. Clement, wrote about the Pre-Christian Bulgarians: "They did not know the name of the Christ, served the Scythian madness, as well as the Sun, the Moon, and the other stars..." . In the same historical document, Theophyllact wrote about the dispute of Bulgarian prince (knyaz) Omurtag (Murtagon) or Omvritag, whose name literally means "the Great Pagan" (obtained by translation from West-Iranian) and captured Kinamon, who was a Christian. The latter said: "... you stress the Sun and the Moon and force me to be amazed at their brightness..." .
Another hypothesis about dating, namely that one, which suggests the year 1104, cannot be rejected. Nevertheless, this date is most perfectly obtained according the computational point of view. Thus, the Tabov's hypothesis  about a shortening of the presently generally accepted Bulgarian historical chronology is upheld to a certain extent. That hypothesis is a part of the more general global chronological theory of A. T. Fomenko , which asserts a "layering" of narrative historical texts. The reader might expect to find further suitable interpretations in this direction.
We hope future investigations will provide more detailed explanations of the results given above.
1. S. Vaklinov. Ein Denkmal Runischen Schrifttums Pliskas, In:
STUDIA IN HONOREM VESELIN BESEVLIEV, Sofia, 1978, pp. 245-254.
2. V. Beshevliev. Prabylgarski epigrafski pametnici, Sofia, 1981, p. 23. (in Bulgarian)
3. M. Sidorov. Blygarianstvoto - religijata na Sedemte, Sofia, 1997, pp. 97-104. (in Bulgarian)
4. E. Sachev. Nadpisyt vyrhu bronzovata rozeta ot Pliska, In: VEKOVE, Sofia, 1977, N 6, pp. 78-81. (in Bulgarian)
5. P. Dobrev. Kamennata kniga na prabylgarite, Sofia, 1992, pp. 91-95. (in Bulgarian)
6. Ibid., see also: P. Dobrev. Svetyt na prabylgarite, Sofia, 1994, pp. 104-105. (in Bulgarian)
7. S. Mihajlov. Kym tylkuvaneto na bronzovata sedmolychna rozeta ot Pliska, In: STAROBYLGARISTIKA, Sofia, 1995, N 2, pp. 94-101. (in Bulgarian)
8. D. Ovcharov. Otnovo za bronzovata sedmolychna rozeta ot Pliska, In: STAROBYLGARISTIKA, Sofia, 1995, N 4, pp. 114- 115. (in Bulgarian)
9. V. Beshevliev, Ibid. p. 23.
10. Ibid., p. 23.
11. P. Petrova. Kym vyprosa za sedmolychnata rozeta ot Pliska, In: PRINOSI KYM BYLGARSKATA ARHEOLOGIA, Sofia, 1992, p. 104. (in Bulgarian)
12. P. Dobrev, Ibid. 1992, pp. 91-95.
13. M. Sidorov, Ibid, p. 96.
14. A. T. Fomenko. Novaja Hronologija Grecii. Antichnost v Srednevekovye. Tom I, MGU, Moskva, 1996. (in Russian)
15. E. Kelevedzhiev. Astronomicheska datirovka na istoricheski pametnici. In: Sprisanie za Astronomija "Andromeda", N 23, 1998, pp. 30-33. (in Bulgarian)
16. Fotij patriarhy Konstantinopolski do knjaz Borisy; Papa Nikolaj I do bylgarite, Sofia, 1994, p. 134. (in Bulgarian)
17. De Groot, J. J. M. Die Hunnen der vorchristlichen Zeit, Berlin, 1921, p. 61.
18. GIBI, Vol. III, Sofia, 1960, p. 126. (in Bulgarian)
19. E. Kelevedzhiev. Dating the Apocalypse using Computational Astronomical Methods, Summer School "Application of Informational Technologies to Biblical Studies", Institute of Mathematics and Informatics, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, July 27 - August 7, 1998, Sofia, Bulgaria.
20. P. Escobal. Methods of Astrodynamics, Wiley, New York, 1968.
21. Astronomical Applications Department of the U.S. Naval Observatory; http://aa.usno.navy.mil/aa, 1998.
22. Astronomy Lab, v. 2.03; In: http://www.download.com, 1998.
23. Mark Haney. Skyglobe 3.6, Klass M Software, Ann Arbor, MI, 1989-93.
24. Hristomatija po istorija na Bylgaria, Sofia, 1964, p. 124. (in Bulgarian)
25. Ibid., p. 117.
26. Nikolov, N., Haralambiev V. Zvezdobrojcite na drevnostta, Sofia, 1986, p. 263. (in Bulgarian)
28. GIBI, vol. IX, part 2, Sofia, 1992, p. 263. (in Bulgarian)
29. J. Tabov. Padaneto na stara Bylgaria, Sofia, 1997, pp. 36-90. (in Bulgarian)
Address of the authors:
Milosh Sidorov, Emil Kelevedzhiev,
Institute of Mathematics and Informatics
at Bulgarian Academy of Sciences,
Ak. G. Bonchev Str., bl. 8.,
1113 Sofia, Bulgaria.