The ‘Rurikid sign’ from the B3 church at Basarabi-Murfatlar
Studia Patzinaka, 4.1, 2007, pp. 29-44
The complex of cave churches situated near the village of Basarabi, in Dobrudja (Romania), not far from Constanţa, was discovered in 1957. Until the last third of the tenth century the entire complex consisted probably of a group of limestone quarries which provided various blocks of chalk used in the construction of the upper part of the Great Stone Wall of Dobrudja, from Constanţa up to Cernavodă. According to I. Barnea, the extraction of stone could have ended under John Tzimiskes (969–976) or Basil the 2nd (976– 1025). The abandoned caves could have been then transformed into a monastery. It so happened that the complex changed into a group of churches and burial chambers, located inside the limestone hill, at different levels, and interconnected through galleries. Most of the chamber-walls are covered with overlapping graffiti, including drawings and inscriptions, thus making possible to discern different periods of the site’s history. The variety of the graffiti is wide: there are Christian symbols, drawings of animals and men, Turkic runes, and Cyrillic inscriptions. Various hypotheses put forth the attribution of some of them to Pechenegs or even to a Scandinavian tradition.