About the Choir runic inscription at the end of VII century A.D. from Mongolia

About the Choir runic inscription at the end of VII century A.D. from Mongolia

Igor Kormushin

(53rd Annual Meeting of the PIAC, St. Petersburg 2010)

Since 1929, the Central Museum of Mongolia filed granite statue of an ancient warrior (“stone woman”) with a short, about 80 letters, ancient Turkic runic inscription. The first edition of the inscription was made by S.E. Malov in 1936, according to incomplete and inaccurate drawings and poor photographs which he had received from Mongolian colleagues. It was so unfortunate that nobody paid heed to the inscription what it really deserved. But it became clear only after S. G. Klyashtomy had studied monument de visu, found parts of the text missing in S. E. Malov’s publication (and based on it H.N. Orkun’s publication in 1938), given its historical interpretation, including a dating of the inscription. According to his calculations, the text refers to the years of the Ilterish Kagan governing (682–691), so Choyren inscription appeared to be the oldest extant Turkic runic inscription.

Since then, the inscription was published three times: O.F. Sertkaya (1996), F. S. Barutchu-Ozonder (2006) and K. Suzuki (2009). Not all signs proposed by S.G. Klyashtomy, as previously by S. E. Malov, for reading, proved to be correct. A number of signs they were unable to determine, they were further identified by other scientists, mainly O. F. Sertkaya. But the main S. G. Klyashtomy’s discovery reading the name “Ilterish” and events’ assignment at the time of his reign, i.e. dating of the monument to the end of VII century — was confirmed by all subsequent studies. However, the text of the oldest Turkic inscription still can’t be considered finally established. For two reasons.

First, in some places, inscription’s signs, despite the traces engraved deeply, were smoothen by Gobi winds during 1,300 years. Secondly, in this inscription they twice applied Boustrophedon, in contrast to the inscription in Tonyukuk’s honor, which is close to the oldest Turkic inscription according to the location and characteristic Paleography. That quite confused all researchers in determining the sequence of the text parts and understanding of the specific meaning of the inscription. In my report, I will focus on these issues, citing only a few considerations in defense of any assumptions, but all the textual and Paleography debate I leave for a more detailed publication.