Pliska - 100 years of archaeological excavations
R. Rashev, Ya. Dimitrov

III. The legacy of Pliska

    13. Drawings-graffiti

The first examples of these interesting type of pictorial monuments came into light as early as in 1899-1900. They were cut with a sharp point mostly in soft blocks from the fortress walls. In most cases it was made prior to their embedding into the wall, more rarely – afterwards, so that what we see now comes mainly from the exposed inner surfaces of the walls (the Throne Palace). The subject-matter is relatively repetitive. Horses, mounted warriors and mounted hunters, animals and, more rarely – human figures, predominate. Similar drawings are found in the other centres of the First Bulgarian kingdom. [32] Pliska also contains several rare subjects. A triumphal rider-ruler is represented on a stone block [33] Other blocks contain the scenes of a mammals being torn by a prey, of a clash between two riders, of griffins. [34] The origin and the meaning of these graffiti have been variously interpreted. Some think they represent the personal experience of their authors – hunters, warriors, common folk. No doubt some of the drawings have such origin. Others certainly reproduce official images of art – stone reliefs, images on metal and cloth. [35] It is especially probable regarding the images of phantastic animals and the triumphal rider, whose archetype must have been the Madara horseman .

Horn with symbols. ZAladzhov, p. 66

Graffiti from a limestone block. SVaklinov, p. 103

Sketch of an eagle and symbols on a clay vessel.
Procession of gryphons from the western fortress wall.
ZAladzhov, p. 60

Drawings on a brick. SVaklinov, p. 235


32. One part of the Pliska’s drawings were included in: OVCHAROV D. Bulgarski srednovekovni risunki-grafiti. S., 1982.

33. For references on the questions see: GEORGIEV P. Prabulgarska kultova ceremoniya vurhu risunka-grafit s nadpis ot Pliska. – Problemi na prabulgarskata istoriya i kultura. 2. S., 1991, p. 198-208.

34. DONCHEVA-PETKOVA L. Razkopki na zapadnata krepostna stena v Pliska. – Pliska-Preslav 4, 1985, example 28, plus excavations by T. Balabanov (unpublished data).

35. RASHEV R. Za hudozhestvenoto i kulturno-istorichesko znachenie na risunkite-grafiti ot IX-X v. – Problemi na izkustvoto 1991, 1, p. 49-55.