Ancient Cow Bone Sheds More Light on Slav Alphabet History

The rare cow bone discovered in the Czech Republic in 2017 dated back to the 7th centuryA broken bovine rib bone dating back to the seventh century was found in 2017 in the southern Czech Republic. After it was examined by an international team of Czech, Australian, Swizz, and Austrian scientists, they concluded that the common assumption about the Slav alphabet might have been wrong all along.

How a Cow Bone Contributed to Slav History

Up until scientists found the infamous cow bone, historians believed that the oldest Slavic alphabet was invented in the ninth century by the Byzantine monk St Cyril and his brother St Methodius. Their creation is better known as the Glagolitic. The brothers came to former Great Moravia on a mission to spread the alphabet in 863. That mission covered the Balkans and parts of Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Czech Republic, Austria, Hungary, and Slovakia. With the discovery of the cow bone, scientists came up with a new theory based on the Germanic runes inscribed on the 7th-century find.

Since the bone was found on Slavic land, the team believes that its inscribed German runes are actually the oldest evidence of Slavs using an alphabet. The research team used radiocarbon and genetic testing to examine the artifact. They found that the bone belonged to domesticated cattle from around the year 600 AD.

The seven symbols from the Elder Futhark runes discovered on the cow bone
Could the Bone Have Been a Teaching Tool?

One of the researchers, Rober Nedoma, from the University of Vienna, studied the inscription and found that it belonged to German-speaking inhabitants of central Europe from the second to the seventh century. Their alphabet consisted of the so-called Elder Futhark runes, which were a match to those used on the cow bone.

The Elder Futhark alphabet contained 24 signs, with the last seven symbols inscribed on the seventh-century cow rib. Scientists suggest that the bone may have originally contained the entire runic alphabet and argue it may have been used as a teaching tool instead of a message board. They hope to find more evidence to support their theory about the origin of the Slav alphabet.