Monthly Archives: November 2015

From knee to knee

In this post I would like to talk about the word “knee” and the special meaning that this word has in Serbian and Irish language and culture. 

The word knee has these meanings in English:

1, The joint or the region of the joint in the middle part of the leg between the thigh and the shank.
2. A piece of timber or metal formed with an angle somewhat in the shape of the human knee when bent. Any knee-shaped item or sharp angle in a line, “the knee of a graph”, an inflection point.

The etymology of the word knee says that the word knee comes from Middle English kne, from Old English cnēo, from Proto-Germanic *knewą, from Proto-Indo-European *ǵnéwo-, a thematic derivative of Proto-Indo-European *ǵónu. Compare Hittite genu, Latin genū, Tocharian A kanweṃ (dual), Tocharian B kenī, Ancient Greek gónu, (knee), gōnía (corner, angle), Old Armenian cunr, Avestan žnum, Sanskrit jānu.

It seems that all Indoeuropean languages have words for knee which come from the root “kn, gn”. Well all except Slavic and Celtic languages where the words for knee come from the root “kln, gln”.

In Celtic languages the words for knee are:

Old Irish: glún
Irish: glúin
Scottish Gaelic: glùin
Breton: glin
Welsh: glin

In Slavic languages the words for knee are:
Old East Slavic: колѣно ‎(kolěno)
Belarusian: кале́на ‎(kaljéna)
Russian: коле́но ‎(koléno)
Ukrainian: колі́но ‎(kolíno)
Old Church Slavonic: колѣно ‎(kolěno)
Bulgarian: коля́но ‎(koljáno)
Macedonian: колено ‎(koleno)
Serbo-Croatian: koljeno, koleno, kaljen, kalino, kolino, golino
Slovene: koléno
Czech: koleno
Polish: kolano
Slovak: koleno
Slovincian: kʉ̀ɵ̯lanɵ
Lower Sorbian: kóleno
Upper Sorbian: koleno
A possible cognates are also:

Lithuanian: kelys, kelénys =  knee
Latvian: celys = knee

But it is not just the root of the Celtic and Slavic words for knee that is the same. In Gaelic and South Slavic languages the word knee has additional meanings appart from the “joint in the middle part of the leg” and “something bent in a shape of a knee”. These meanings are:

Serbian (koleno, koljeno, kaljen, kalino, kolino, golino): generation, step in descent, offspring, family, clan, race, house

Gaelic (glúin): generation, step in descent, step in pedigree

Serbian: Tri kolena = Three generations
Irish: Trí ghlúin daoine = Three generations of people

Serbian: Markovo prvo koleno = The first descendant(s) of Marc
Irish: An chéad ghlúin ó Marc = The first descendant(s) of Marc

Serbian: Oni su braća u trećem kolenu = they are related in the third degree; they are second cousins.
Irish: Is iad an treas glúin iad = they are related in the third degree; they are second cousins.

Serbian:

poklon – bending, bowing, gifting, gift
klanjati se – bend, bow, prostrate, kneel in front of someone
klečati – kneel

pokoljenje = Po + koljeno = generation 
oni su iz istog kolena = They are from the same klan
on je od odlična koljena = He is from a great stock, clan
nakolenče – baby boy which is placed on the brides knees (lap) during the wedding ceremony to ensure that the first child is a boy.

Irish:

bean ghlúine = woman knee = midwife

Again we see strange similarity between the Slavic and Celtic languages and cultures.

What is very interesting about the above meanings of the word for knee in Celtic and Slavic languges is that this can shed a new light on the etymology of the Irish word “clann”.

Serbian: Oni su iz istog “kolena” = They are from the same “clan”

The Irish word “clann” meaning children, family, offspring, followers, plant comes from Middle Irish: clann, Old Irish clann (alternative form cland). The official etymology says that this is a borrowing from Old Welsh plant, from Latin planta meaning plant, shoot, twig, sprout.

This is all great except that we need to explain how the Slavic word koleno with its meanings fit into all this. Is it possible that the Irish words “clan” (children, family, offspring, followers) and “glúin” (generation, step in descent, step in pedigree) and the Serbian word “koleno, koljeno, koleno, kaljen, kalino, kolino, golino” (generation, step in descent, offspring, family, clan, race, house) all come from the same root “kln, gln” meaning knee? In this case “clan” would be just a specialisation of the word “glúin”. We can see that in Serbian we have both koleno and golino, so it is possible that the Irish also retained both “k” and “g” variant of this word.

In Serbian we also have these words: član, čljan, člin, člen, čljen, šljen, Sijan, Síjén, cjen, iklân, ikljen. These are all dialectic versions of the same word  which means “member, part, generation” and are directly linked to the notion of group, family, clan. They all also come from the same “kln” root as “koleno” (knee, bend, generation, step in descent, offspring, family, clan, race, house).

What is interesting is that this link between the knee and the generation, step in descent, offspring, family, clan, race, house can also be found in Sanskrit, Ancient Greek and Latin:

Sanskrit: jānu = knee and janas = race, class of beings
Ancient Greek: γόνυ =  knee and γένος = offspring, descendant, family, clan, nation, race, gender, any type or class
Latin: genu = knee and genus = birth, origin, kind, type, class, species (of animal or plant), race (of people), set, group (with common attributes)

I was just made aware that the same link exists in Basque, Finish and Saami languages too:

Basque: In Basque the word for generation (belaunaldi) is also formed with “knee” (belaun). It can be used directly with “belaun”, too, as in “belaunez belaun” (from generation to generation)

Saami: The word for knee and generation is also the same in all Saami languages, cf. the phrase “Aerpien maahtoe boelveste boelvide” (ancestral knowledge from knee to knee/ from one generation to the next) in South Saami.

Finish: The semantics of ‘generation’ and ‘knee’ are also connected in Finnish (related to Saami). The word for generation, ‘sukupolvi,’ is suku (family) + polvi (knee), and the word for ‘to descend from (genealogically)’ is ‘polveutua,’ a verbalised form of the nominal ‘polvi.’ The verb is strictly used for genealogical descent, not physical descent of any kind.

But this link only becomes visible through Slavic and Celtic words for knee and their meaning.

But where does this link between the knee and generation, step in descent, offspring, family, clan, race, house comes from? 

The English word genuine comes from Latin genuinus ‎(“innate, native, natural”), from gignere, from Old Latin genere ‎(“to beget, produce”), from genus meaning birth, origin, kind, type, class, species (of animal or plant), race (of people), set, group (with common attributes). The related word is gens which means Roman clan, related by birth or marriage and sharing a common name, tribe; people, family. 

The English etymological dictionary says something interesting though about the etymology of the word genus. It says that there is a possibility that the etymology of this word could come “from Latin genu “knee,” from a supposed ancient custom of a father acknowledging paternity of a newborn by placing it on his knee.”

So is this where the link between the knee and the offspring, the next generation, family, clan, race, house comes from? In Irish the word clann doesn’t mean any children. It means paternally acknowledged, legitimate children. Was this custom of acknowledging that the child is yours by placing it on your knee once widespread among the Indoeuropeans? I believe so. During the tribal expansions and wars a lot of men died. This left a surplus of “available” women both from the victorious tribe and from the subdued tribes. Judging by the current paternal genetic map of Evroasia, the victorious warriors used this situation to their advantage, having sex with as many of these women as they could. This was done partially out of lust, but mostly as way of claiming the dead warriors’ property. The one who lay with a women laid a claim to her and her property. The final seal of ownership was stamped by the acknowledgement of the children produced from such unions. And that acknowledgement was done by father placing (laying) the child on his knees.  

My offspring, my next generation, family, clan, race, my “koleno”, “glún”, “clan”, “gens” are the the children that sat on my knees. I acknowledge them and I give them my name. And I take their property as mine too.

Another clue why there is a link between the knee and generation, step in descent, offspring, family, clan, race, house can be found in Serbian saying that the knowledge and tradition are passed “sa kolena na koleno”. This literally means “from knee to knee” but it also means from one generation to the next generation, from grandparents and parents to their grandchildren and children. 

One of my favorite childhood memories involve sitting on my parent’s or my grandparent’s knees and listening to their stories. My mother, a primary school teacher, told me fairy tales and taught me how to read using old battered “Bukvar” (Alphabet primer). My father, technical education teacher, told me stories about strange animals and strange faraway lands and taught me how things are made and how they work. My maternal grandmother, who was a housewife, told me stories about saints and taught me how to say prayers and curses and how to cook jams and preserves. My maternal grandfather, who was a baker, told me stories about the war and taught me how to make bread and cakes and play card games poker and tablić. My paternal grandmother, who was a housewife, told me stories about vampires and karakondžulas and other mythical creatures and taught me everything there is to know about farm animals, how to make cheese and how to feed silkworms. My paternal grandfather told me stories about the wild animals and birds and plants and taught me how to recognize animal tracks, how to make animal traps and how to hunt using a hunting rifle,  how to use farm tools and how to make brandy and wine. 

This is the way the knowledge and tradition was passed in the past. And this is how the family bond was built and preserved. 

After all these years, the stories that I heard while sitting on my parents’ and my grandparents’ knees are still as fresh and as clear as if I heard them yesterday. And the things that I learned from them as a child I still remember today. And when my son was born, I held him on my knees and I told him some of the old stories that were passed down to me through time “from knee to knee”. And I added few new ones of my own. I hope one day he will have children of his own and will sit them on his knees and tell them some of the stories that he heard from me, and a lot of nice stories of his own…

Apples and berries

“An apple a day keeps the doctor away”. This phrase was first recorded in the 1860s, when it is said to be an old saying from Pembrokeshire in Wales. The original phrase was, ‘”Eat an apple on going to bed, and you’ll keep the doctor from earning his bread.” In the 19th century and early 20th, the phrase evolved to “an apple a day, no doctor to pay” and “an apple a days sends the doctor away,” while the phrasing now commonly used was first recorded in 1922.

So what does this phrase actually mean? Well its clear isn’t it. It means that eating an apple a day (one of these fruits on the picture below) is good for your health.

But if you have said “An apple a day keeps the doctor away” before the mid of the 17th century, the meaning of the phrase wouldn’t have been so clear at all. This is because the word apple before the mid 17th century had a quite a different meaning.

The English etymological dictionary says this about the word apple:

apple (n.) – from Old English æppel meaning apple or any kind of fruit; fruit in general. In Middle English and as late as 17c., it was a generic term for all fruit other than berries but including nuts.

The fact that the word apple meant “all fruit other than berries but including nuts” is very interesting and could be the clue to the real etymologies of both the word apple and the word berry. 

Let me explain what I mean:

The English etymological dictionary says that the English word apple comes from Middle English appel, from Old English æppel, from Proto-Germanic *ap(a)laz, from Proto-Indo-European *ab(e)l, *h₂ébl̥, *h₂ebōl.

The words derived from this (obviously still not clear) PIE root are found in Celtic, Germanic, Baltic and Slavic languages and in Italic but not Latin or Ancient Greek:

Balto-Slavic: *āˀbōl

Lithuanian: obuolỹs
Latvian: ābols
Old Prussian: woble, wabelcke

Slavic: *ablo

South Slavic:
Slovene: jablo
West Slavic:
Old Czech: jablo
Old Polish: jabło
Slovak: jablo
Slovincian: jȧ̃blɵ


Other Slavic languges use diminutive of *ablo + ko

Old East Slavic: jablŭko, ablŭko, abloko
Belarusian: jáblyk
Russian: jábloko
Ukrainian: jábluko, jablyka
Old Church Slavonic: ablŭko
Bulgarian: jábǎlka
Macedonian: jábolko, jabolka
Serbo-Croatian: jabuka, jabuko
Slovene: jábolko
Czech: jablko
Polish: jabłko
Slovak: jablko
Upper Sorbian: jabłuko
Lower Sorbian: jabłuko


Celtic: *ablu-

Old Irish: uball
Irish: úll
Manx: ooyl
Scottish Gaelic: ubhal
Welsh: afal

Germanic: *aplaz

Old English: æppel
Scots: aipple
English: apple
Abenaki: aples
Yurok: ˀɹplɹs
Old Frisian: appel
Saterland Frisian: Appel
West Frisian: apel
Old Saxon: appel, appul, apl
Low German: Appel, Äppel
Plautdietsch: Aupel
Old Dutch: *appel
Dutch: appel
Afrikaans: appel
Xhosa i-apile
Unami: apëlìsh
Old High German: apful, aphul, afful
German: Apfel
Luxembourgish: Apel
Vilamovian: epuł
Yiddish: עפּל ‎(epl)
Old Norse: epli
Icelandic: epli
Faroese: epli
Faroese: súrepli
Norwegian: Bokmål: eple, Nynorsk: eple
Swedish: äpple
Old Danish: æplæ
Danish: æble
Gothic: aplus
Crimean Gothic: apel

Italic:

Oscan: Abella (the name of a city in Campania which Vergil calls malifera, i.e. “apple-bearing”) – usually dismissed as a borrowing from a northern language and I would agree that this is true.

So all the Celtic, Germanic, Baltic and Slavic languages have the word for apple which is basically exactly the same. But interestingly, the English etymological dictionary says that “the exact relation and original sense of these words is uncertain”…

So what could have been the original sense of the root word of all these words and what was that root word anyway? Well to figure that out we need to think about why was apple the word that in Middle English meant “all fruit other than berries but including nuts”.

Wiki page about the proposed PIE root for all these words says that there are several indications that the word for “apple” did not belong to the oldest layer of the Indo-European protolanguage because of these reasons:

1. the word is limited to the West Indo-European languages (except for Pashayi wālī, perhaps < Proto-Indic *abalikā-)
2. it contains the phoneme */b/, which had marginal distribution in PIE
3.  it somewhat resembles the South European word for “apple” (PIE or pseudo-PIE *méh₂lom: Latin “mālum” meaning apple, Ancient Greek μῆλον ‎(mêlon) and alternative Doric μᾶλον ‎(mâlon) meaning apple, any fruit from a tree).


Hittite cognate is ‎(šam(a)lu-, “apple”), which renders the original PIE form as *šamlu ‎(“apple”). The original cluster *-ml- remained as such in Anatolian but yielded *-bl- in the other IE languages with otherwise rare/non-existing phoneme */b/. Such a development is not attested anywhere else, however, and with the only sound that *h₂ébōl and ‎(šam(a)lu-, “apple”) have in common being */l/ the connection remains dubious. The Hittite word is furthermore identical to Hattic ‎(šawat, “apple, apple tree”) with the usual Hattic /t/ = Hittite /l/ correspondence, though it could easily be a borrowing from Hattic rather than vice versa.

In the end the wiki page says:

This all points that the word entered the Indo-European speech continuum some time after the dissolution of the parent language most likely as a borrowing from Semitic…

This is actually not “most likely”.  No one really knows where the word apple comes from. That the word apple comes from Semitic languages is just a proposal put forward by Theo Vennemann (1998) in his article Andromeda and the Apples of the Hesperides where Vennemann attempted to link apple to Semitic, particularly, the South-Eastern Semitic languages of Ethiopia. After an introduction, sketching his the theory regarding the languages of prehistoric Europe north of the Pyrenees and the Alps, Vennemann proposed that the reconstructed IE *abal could be cognate with the modern Ethiopic Ge’ez ‚abāl, Tigrè habāl, Tigrinya ‚abal, Amharic abal and Gurage abal, allegedly meaning genitals. According to him, this word was used to mean apple in Semitic and it was borrowed into Germanic with this meaning. The meaning apple was subsequently lost in all Semitic languages except in the named Ethiopic ones where it was replaced, due to “an awkward metaphoric shift”, by a new one – genitals, via the association of the external form of apples with testicles. However Geʻez ʼabāl means “flesh, piece of flesh, member of body, member (of a community), limb, genitals, self, person” (thus Leslau 1989; basically following Dillmann 1865). Neither in Geʻez nor in other Ethiopic languages does it mean “apple”, or indeed any fruit. The semantic development flesh > genitals seems straightforward, so there is no reason to postulate a supposed older meaning “apple”.

I would argue that apple is definitely a very old Indoeuropean word and not the borrowing from Semitic languages. I would agree that the word probably developed when the steppe dwellers from eastern Europe arrive into Central European forests. I also believe that the root meaning of the word apple was “what fell off”. But in order to understand how can word apple be derived from the verb to fall we need to look in more detail at edible plants which grew in Europe at the time when this word probably arose (the end of the 4th – beginning of the 3rd millennium bc, the arrival of the tumulus culture into Europe).   

Although not often thought of as a major center of crop diversity, the European continent harbors rich wild gene pools of many crop species. This is the list of the native European edible plant species. The list includs: many types of Oaks (Quercus), hazelnuts (Corylus), beech nuts (Fagus spp.), chestnuts (Castanea spp.); cereals, particularly oats (Avena) and rye (Secale); food legumes such as pea (Pisum) and lupins (Lupinus); fruit crops, such as apple (Malus), pear (Pyrus), plums and cherries (Prunus), grape vine (Vitis), raspberries and blackberries (Rubus), olive (Olea) and fig (Ficus); vegetables—including lettuce (Lactuca), carrot (Daucus), parsnip (Pastinaca), cabbage and other brassicas (Brassica), beet (Beta), celery, celeriac (Apium), leek (Allium), asparagus (Asparagus), salsify (Tragopogon), and artichoke (Cynara). The wild inventory is also very rich in the assemblage of pot herbs, condiments, and aromatic plants such as: caper (Capparis), mints (Mentha), marjoram (Origanum), lavender (Lavandula), thyme (Thymus), sage (Salvia), rosemary (Rosmarinus), mustards (Sinapis, Brassica), horseradish (Armoracia), water cress (Nasturtium), chives and leek (Allium), fennel (Foeniculum), caraway (Carum), that have their close wild relatives in Europe.

So these are the plants that our European ancestors had at their disposal in Late Neolithic and Early Chalcolithic times when we see the arrival of the first steppe Curgan people into Central Europe. If we look at these edible plants we see that some of them have edible roots and leaves (vegetables), some have edible seeds (cereals) and some have edible fruits and nuts and acorns. The last group of edible plants can be divided into two groups based on what happens with their ripe fruits, nuts or acorns. Basically we can divide these plants based on whether their fruits fall off when they are ripe or whether they stay on branches even when they are ripe.
All nut, oak and beech trees shed their nuts and acorns, meaning that they fall on the ground when ripe. 
Oak:
All heavy fruit trees with heavy fruits like apples, pairs, plums also shed their fruits, meaning that they fall on the ground when ripe. Sour cherries do the same while sweet cherries i am not sure about. 
Apple:
Plum:
All the fruit plants whose fruits stay on the branches even when they are ripe are the fruits we call berries. Here are some examples:

Blackberry:

Strawberry or earth berry as it was known in the past, as its Old English name was eorðberge meaning earth berry:

Blackthorn:

Hawthorn:

So all the nuts and acorns and all the fruits except berries fall off when they are ripe. Compare this with the old meaning of the word apple: “all fruit other than berries but including nuts”. Do you think that this is a coincidence? I don’t think so. I believe that this is the clue which will lead us to the original meaning of the root word from which the word apple developed. And I believe that this root word was Slavic word “pal” which has an English cognate”fall”, as in fall of the branch when ripe. Basically all the fruits, nuts and acorns which fall of the tree when ripe were called “the ones that fall off”. 

In Serbian we have the word “pal” which means fell. From this root we have these derived words:

“spal” (masculine) and “spalo” (neuter) meaning “fell off something”
“opal” (masculine) and “opalo” (neuter which is used for things like fruits, nuts, acorns) meaning “fell off something onto something”, like fruit fell of the tree onto the ground. 
If you add “je”, meaning it is, before “pal” you get “je pal” meaning “it fell”.
If you add “je”, meaning it is, before “opal” you get “it fell off the tree and on the ground”.

In Serbian we also have word “bal” meaning to fell by force. From this root we have these derived words:  

“obal” meaning to knock down, to fell. 

In English this would be “of fall” today’s fall off. Compare opal, obal and of fall with the all the above old words for apple, especially the oldest one. Do you see any similarity? Is it possible that the word for apple comes from the word to fall off? So lets see if this is possible based on old versions of the words for “fall”. 

The English etymological dictionary says this about the word “fall”:

fall (v.) – from Old English feallan (past tense feoll, past participle feallen) “to drop from a height; fail, decay, die,” from Proto-Germanic *fallan (cognates: Old Frisian falla, Old Saxon fallan, Dutch vallen, Old Norse falla, Old High German fallan, German fallen, absent in Gothic), from PIE root  *pōl-, *spōl- ‎(“to fall”). Cognates: Armenian p’ul “downfall,” Lithuanian puola “to fall,” Old Prussian aupallai “finds,” literally “falls upon”), Ancient Greek σφάλλω ‎(sphállō, “bring down, destroy, cause to stumble, deceive”).

This is very interesting for two reasons. Firstly the etymological dictionary shows that the old root for “fall” used to be “pol”. Secondly it doesn’t even mention the Slavic word “pal” as a cognate. Regardless this shows that fall (or the old version pol, pal) could have been the root of the word apple through o (of, od) + po(a)l = from + fell. Basically apple means any fruit, nut or acorn which falls off the tree when its ripe. 

Do you remember the Latin word “mālum” meaning apple and Ancient Greek μῆλον ‎(mêlon) and alternative Doric μᾶλον ‎(mâlon) meaning apple, any fruit from a tree? I believe that they also both come from the same root pal (fell). M, P, B, V, F are interchangeable consonants which all developed from the same undifferentiated MPBVF sound. All these consonants can be produced with you mouth in the same position and by slightly varying the pressure of your lips. This is why they are often change in various languages and dialects. People hear these sounds and reproduce them in different ways. Of course this is not a random change and is usually always the same as we go from one language to another. Like apple (Germanic) ablo (Slavic). It is quite possible that in Ancient Greek and Latin pal, pol (fall, fell) became mal, mel through change P ==> M. So they would also then have the same meaning: fruits that fall off when they are ripe. This same root will explain the Hittite šam(a)lu can also be derived from this root as sa + pal = from + fell meaning: fruits that fall off when they are ripe. 

That it is possible to derive the etymology of the word for fruit from the act of falling off the tree when ripe, action associated with the fruit, can be seen from the etymology for the Latin word “poma” meaning apple which is nominative plural of “pomum” which means any type of fruit (applied to apples, cherries, nuts, berries, figs, dates, etc.) and a fruit tree.

This Latin word is said to be of an uncertain origin. Possibly from an obscure Mediterranean language, or an evolution of Old Latin roots *po-emo ‎(“picked off”), possible variants including *po-omo and *pe-omo.

The descendants are found in all Romanic languages and English where the words mean apple, fruit or tree:

Albanian: pemë
Aromanian: poamã
Catalan: poma
English: pome
French: pomme
Friulian: pome
Italian: pomo
Occitan: poma
Portuguese: pomo, poma
Romanian: poamă
Sicilian: pummu, puma
Spanish: poma
Venetian: pomo

So we see that the same logic was used in Latin for naming apples and all the other tree fruits based on the action related to fruit, this time the action of picking fruit. The only difference is that Latin doesn’t distinguish between the fruit that falls and the fruit that doesn’t.
I believe that the final proof that the word for apple was derived from the word for falling, can be found in Sanskrit:

स्वादुफल svAduphala = svadu + phala = sweet + fruit
फल – प्रभेद phala – prabheda = phala + prabheda = fruit + species
आताफल AtAphala
सेवफल sevaphala – seva (zeva) + phala = enjojment, reverence, worship, dear, precious… + fruit

So the Sanskrit word for fruit “phala” in Serbian literally means fell (feminine). Apple and all the other old Evroasian fruits are feminine words (all end in “a”) in Serbian: jabuka – apple, kruška – pear, šljiva – plum, dunja – quince, trešnja – cherry, višnja – sour cherry, breskva – peach, kajsija – appricot, jagoda – strawbery, kupina – blackbery…. Interesting…So It is possible that this word is truly ancient and that is found in Eastern Indoeuropean languages as well in its oldest form. 

As a final proof that the word apple, meaning fruit which falls off the tree is derived from the word pal meaning to fall is this. In English the word fruit means “the sweet and fleshy product of a tree or other plant that contains seed and can be eaten as food.”  In Serbian and other Slavic languages, the equivalent word is “plod” which comes from pal + od = fell + from = what fell from the plant. So fruit in Serbian is literally what fell off, from…Plod also means fetus. Now remember the word ber meaning to carry to bear and which in Serbian also means to pick up, to pluck. To bear also means to carry children literally to carry fetus, plod, a fruit of man’s loin…In Serbian and other Slavic languages the word for being pregnant is “b(e)remenit”. Look at Sanskrit “bhariman” meaning family. In the old times women gave birth standing up, crouching down or standing on all four like animals do. The lying on your back with your feet in the air birth is a very new invention. So in those olden days, the baby fell out of the woman’s womb, in the same way baby animals fall out of their mother’s wombs and they are picked up by the midwife or a husband or whoever is delivering the baby. Hence pal od = plod..The Serbian word “plodan” means fertile. The  word comes from plod = fruit + gives, has a lot, literally what gives, has a lot fruit and even more literally what gives, has a lot things that fall off…

Now lets have a look again at the old meaning of the word apple: “all fruit other than berries but including nuts”. If apples  are all the fruits that fall when ripe and then you just have to pick them. If apples are all fruits and nuts (and acorns) except berries. If berries are fruits that don’t fall off when they are ripe. If the word apple comes from the word for to fall off (opal, opol, obal). Is it possible then that the word berry comes from the word to pluck off? After all you have to pluck the berries off the branches to eat them because they don’t fall of when they are ripe. Let’s have a look at the word berry. 
English word berry has cognates in all Germanic languages:
Old English: berige
Middle English: beriye, berie
Scots: berie, bery, berrie, berry
English: berry
Old Saxon: beri, winber
Middle Low German: bere
Low German: Beer
Old Dutch: beri
Middle Dutch: bere
Dutch: bère, bèr (dialectal)
Old High German: beri
Middle High German: bere
German: Beere
Old Norse: ber
Icelandic: ber
Faroese: ber
Norwegian: bær
Swedish: bär
Danish: bær
Gothic weinabasi
When it comes to etymology of the word berry and its Germanic cognates
Berry from Old English berie, from Proto-Germanic *basjom which is of unknown origin.

Wiktionary says this:

From Middle English berye, from Old English beriġe, from Proto-Germanic *bazją’ from Proto-Indo-European *bʰes- ‎(“to blow, chew, rub”). For the semantic development, compare Old Church Slavonic гроуша ‎(gruša, “pear”), from гроушити ‎(grušiti, “to break, destroy”); Latin pirum ‎(“pear”), from *peis- ‎(“to stick, pound”).

What wiktionary says is very interesting because again we have the name of the type of fruit being derived from an action performed on that fruit. But “to blow, chew, rub”???? What does blowing and rubbing have to do with berries? And why call only berries the chewy fruits? This makes no sense. What is the main thing that distinguishes berries from apples (other fruits, nuts and acorns)? The fact that they don’t fall off the tree when they are ripe. So if you want to eat apples you wait until they fall off and then you know they are ripe and you can pick them up and eat them. But with berries you have to pluck them from their stems. If you can easily pluck them, they are ripe and can be eaten. So if there was an action that would define berry it is plucking. If there only was a word that means pluck and sounds like berry. Well there is. The English word bear which means to carry, to bear. This word comes from Middle English beren, from Old English beran, from Proto-Germanic *beraną, from Proto-Indo-European *bʰer-. This word has cognates in pretty much all Indoeuropean languages including Slavic languages and the meaning is always the same: to carry, to bear. But in Slavic languages this word has additional meaning: to pick up, to pluck off, to take.  In Serbian we have these words derived from the root “ber”:

berač – fruit or vegetable picker. Implies that the fruits and vegetables are plucked off the plant.
berba – picking of fruits, vegetables and corn (maize). Corn (Maze), unlike other grains which are harvested by cutting, were originally harvested by plucking corn cobs off the plant.
branje, beranje – picking of fruits, vegetables and corn
Branje – (dialectic, Pobori, Montenegro) cooked green leafy vegetables, literally plucked leaves.

Now in Serbian, if someone asks you: “how do I collect the berries” and you want to tell him: “pluck them” you would say “beri” meaning “pluck them”. 

I think that this is very interesting. It means that the word root “ber” had three meanings “to pick up, to pluck off, to take” which have been preserved only in Slavic languages. And that with this meaning the word berry means exactly what it should: the fruits you need to pluck of the plant, because they don’t fall off when they are ripe. Did this meaning once exist in Germanic languages? Or was the word berry in Germanic languages somehow derived from the Slavic variant of the word bear which means not only to carry but also to pick up, pluck, pick off? 

So now we have apples, the fruits, nuts and acorns that fall when ripe and we have a possible etymology for the word apple from the verb to fall. And we have berries which are fruit that don’t fall off when they are ripe, and we have a possible etymology for the word berry from the verb to pluck. 
I think this is very very interesting…What do you think?

Log cabin

When someone says log cabin, people immediately think of Scandinavia, because everyone knows that log cabins were invented by Scandinavians and that Scandinavians are the best at making them. But what if I told you that log cabins were a late cultural import into Scandinavia from the Slavic lands south and east of the Baltic sea?

The origin of these types of buildings can be traced to Pomeranian culture of the the late bronze age and early iron age, which developed from Lusatian culture. One of the best examples of the Pomeranian wooden architecture is the fortified town of Biskupin. Biskupin was an Iron Age fortified settlement in north-central (Wielkopolska) Poland (Kuyavian-Pomeranian Voivodeship). When first discovered it was thought to be early evidence of Slavic settlement but archaeologists later confirmed it belonged to the Biskupin group of the Lusatian culture.

There are two settlement periods at Biskupin, which was located in the middle of a lake but is now situated on a peninsula, that follow each other without hiatus. Both settlements were laid out on a rectangular grid with eleven streets that are three meters wide. The older settlement from early Iron Age was established on a slightly wet island of over 2 hectares and consisted of ca. 100 oak and pine log-houses that are of similar layout and measure ca. 8 x 10 m each.They consisted of two chambers and an open entrance-area.These houses were designed to accommodate 10 to 12 persons. An open hearth was located in the centre of the biggest room. There are no larger houses that could indicate social stratification. Because of the damp, boggy ground the streets were covered with wooden planks. This is the reconstruction of one of the log cabins from Biskupin that can be seen in the Biskupin open air museum.

The settlement was surrounded by a tall wooden wall, or palisade, set on a rampart made up of both wood and earth. The rampart was constructed of oak trunks that form boxes filled with earth. The rampart is more than 450 m long and accompanied by a wooden breakwater in the lake. 6000–8000 m³ of wood have been used in the construction of the rampart.

The settlement at Biskupin belongs to the Hallstatt C and D periods (early Iron Age, 800-650 BC and 650-475 BC). However, dendrochronological analysis provided more accurate dating. It proved that oak wood used in the construction of the settlement was cut down between 747-722 B.C. Over half of the wood used was cut during the winter of 738/737 B.C.

What is very interesting is that the tradition of building dwellings and fortifications from logs was during the early Iron age found only in Pomeranian culture south of Baltic sea and not in Jutland or in Scandinavia.

The tradition of building log cabins was continued by the Central European Celts. This is a reconstruction of a Celtic house in Havranok, Slovakia.

The Havránok hill fort was an important religious, economic, and political center of the Púchov culture (300 BCE – 180 CE), in which the dominant Celtic tribe of Cotini mingled with the older people of the Lusatian (Pomeranian) culture.

In the early medieval period we find that the tradition of building dwellings and fortifications from logs was still exclusively found among Slavs living in the same area of the old Pomeranian Culture, south of Baltic sea, and further east, but not in Jutland and not in Scandinavia. As a matter of fact, the similarity between the Iron age Pomeranian log dwellings and fortifications, and Medieaval Slavic Pomeranian log dwellings and fortifications is so striking, that when Biskupin was originally discovered, it was presumed that it was a Medieval Slavic fort. Only carbon dating showed that Biskupin was in fact 1000 years older.

Here is an example of a typical Medieval Slavic fort: Chotěbuz – Podobora:

Slavs built both square semi-subterranean (sunk in) dwellings with heating devices in a corner and ground dwellings. They also used both log only and log frame with wattle doub construction technique.

Here are the reconstructions of completely sunken and semi sunken Medieval Slavic hut from Slovakia based on the actual discovered huts remains dated to the 6th – 7th century AD:

And this is what these types of houses looked like inside. Please note a built stone oven in the corner:

And here is a reconstruction of a Medieval Slavic surface log cabin, based on archaeological finds from Staré Město (“Old Town”), a town in the Zlín Region of the Czech Republic, again dated to the 6th – 7th century AD.

The same building technique using logs was unknown in Scandinavia until the 11th century, the time of the closest cooperation and intermixing between the Norse and the Slavs. This all indicates that log cabins and fortifications are a Slavic cultural import into Scandinavia.

When looking at the introduction of the joint timber houses in the Germanic areas of the Baltic, we have to look at the Jutland and other Danish areas of the southern Scandinavia separately from the Northern areas of Scandinavia. These two areas were politically and culturally separate and were linked to different Slavic tribal group. The Danes were politically and culturally linked with the Western Slavs (Polabians, Obodrites, Serbs, Poles) and the Norse and Swedes were politically and culturally linked with the Eastern Slavs (Rus). There is no wander then that in these two areas of Scandinavia we find two different types of the joint timber construction techniques.

In the Danish controlled areas, the earliest constructions of lying and crossing logs were found in the fortification rampart of Danevirke in southern Jutland, built in the 8th and 9th centuries. A similar technique has been found in a few houses in Haithabu (Hedeby) near Danevirke in the 9th century and in a well in Kaupang in Norway in the beginning of the 9th century. The type of wood used was oak which was cut lengthwise to get appropriate dimensions. The logs had a rectangular section, and the joints had both an upper and a lower notch that were rectangular. In Wollin and Gdansk (Poland), there were also joint timber houses made of oak wood, mostly built of round logs, but occasionally also of rectangular ones. The woodworking skills needed to build these houses were so advanced that they must have been developed somewhere else and then brought to Jutland. This points to the technological import from the South Baltic Western Slavic territories (today Germany and Poland) where joint timber houses were also constructed from oak wood for millenniums. The same types of rectangular oak profiled log houses were also built by Serbs in the Balkans and are still built today.

Here is an example of the advanced joint timber houses from Serbia. You can see that the oak logs were longitudinally split into beams (thick planks) which are then joined together using deep rectangular joins.

This is another house from Serbia which shows even more complicated rectangular log construction technique. This technique combines the wooden frame made out of thick square profile oak logs and thinner horizontal wooden beams (thick planks). The wooden beams with external joins are inserted into the internal joins on the vertical holding beams.

In the Norse and Swedish controlled areas, the earliest joint timber houses were found in Trondheim, Sigtuna and Olso. They all seem to be built around 1000 AD. Before that time all houses built in these areas of Scandinavia were framework buildings with wattle and daub. The woodworking skills needed to build these houses were also very advanced and again the only explanation for a sudden appearance of such advanced woodworking technology is that it must have been developed somewhere else and then brought to Scandinavia. One of the explanations is that this house building technology was perhaps developed in the Scandinavian countryside before the first towns were built. But we did not find any trace of houses built in this way anywhere in the countryside before they appeared in the above mentioned towns. I would say that this is more likely a sign that people who had long experience of using this technique came and settled in the area and built a town there. And people who did have such know-how at that time were Slavs of the old Russian kingdom. The joint timber houses from Staraya Ladoga, and Novgorod, which were built using the same material (pine logs) and the same design and technology (round joints on one or both sides) were built at least as early as the 8th century AD. As I said already East Slavs south and east of the Baltic sea were building these types of houses, from various types of wood since at least the 6th century AD. Norse had extensive political, economic and cultural contacts with the East Slavs in the old Russia for at least two centuries before the first joint timber houses (log cabins) appeared in Scandinavia. It is quite possible that some of the Slavs from the Old Russia settled in Scandinavia and it is them who brought their traditional home building technology with them.

In the work entitled: “About the Introduction of Joint Timber Building in Scandinavia“, Karin Rosberg from Uppsala university argues this is exactly what happened.

In the intro to the paper Karin says that the issue of the introduction of joint timber building is old in both Norway and Sweden. Former Swedish researchers, such as Boëthius, Erixon, and Lundberg, have been very uncertain about this, and Lundberg believed it was introduced as early as during the Vendel Period, i. e. 550-800 AD. A few decades later, Hauglid in Norway assumed, with some caution, that it was introduced by king Harald Hårdråde in the middle of the 11th century.

She then proceeds to explain where and when the earliest joint timber houses and other structures were built, after which she describes similarities and differences between the Slavic and Scandinavian joint timber techniques for building houses. Finally this is what the author of this work thinks about the reason why the Scandinavians adopted joint timber building so late (1000 AD), even though they were for centuries in contact with Slavs who built the joint timber houses and fortifications?

“As I said before, joint timber building has very good heat qualities, which is needed in the Scandinavian climate. Accordingly, one would expect the Scandinavians to be quick to adopt a solid building technique which would also save much work with wood cutting for heating. And they did so at last, and the heat qualities were certainly an essential reason for joint timber building dominating in Scandinavia for about 900 years. But they did not adopt it until such a long time had passed as 200 years. Why? I suggest the reason for the delay was cultural. The Scandinavians readily adopted foreign dress fashion and consumer goods, but not so readily foreign housing. They probably had much of their identity in the houses, especially in their dwellings. The house shows who is the owner, and for the Vikings an old family was important. So a traditional Viking long house could be associated with an old and impressing family. In addition, for the Vikings their house was a sacred place and had a religious dimension. Such things made the housing more conservative than other cultural features. There are theories, expressed by Rapoport, about socio-cultural factors having a considerable impact on house form, and about house form having a considerable degree of constancy due to culturally linked aspects. These theories point in the same direction as my suggestion. Towards the end of the 10th century, the cultural difference between the Scandinavian and Slavic peoples decreased. (My comment: This happened due to a long period of political cooperation and cultural and physical mixing (intermarrying) between the Scandinavians and the Slavs. This eventually lead to the large Slavic settlement in Scandinavia and equally large Scandinavian settlement in the Slavic countries). Eventually they both—or at least parts of them—converted to Christianity. All this probably made the Scandinavians more ready to adopt the Slavic joint timber house building tradition. “

But once the Scandinavians did start making log cabins, they made them their own, to the point when today everyone thinks that joint timber log cabins are a native Scandinavian tradition. So much so that today even Slavs believe that they borrowed the technology for building their own joint timber log cabins from Scandinavians. Funny how things like this happen.

The below picture shows a typical joint timber log cabin from Scandinavia (Stockholm). Please note that it uses the same horizontal beam joining constriction technique like the first hose from Serbia that I showed above.

If anyone has any additional info on the development of the joint timber log cabins please let me know. 

Gruda Boljevica

In my series of articles about Late Copper – Early Bronze age tumuluses from Montenegro, I already talked about Bjelopavlići tumulus, Mogila na Rake tumulus and Mala and Velika Gruda tumuluses. In this post I will talk about Gruda Boljevića tumulus.

Gruda Boljevića tumulus is one of the most interesting and most important archaeological sites of the Montenegrin Late Copper – Early Bronze age. It is also probably one of the most important archaeological sites found recently in Europe. 

Gruda Boljevića tumulus is located in the fertile Zeta valley in the area of the Montenegrian Capital Podgorica.

Tumuli are well known archaeological features in Montenegro, which is why Gruda Boljevića was also assumed to be a prehistoric grave even before the excavation. The local legend says that two wedding parties met and fought and that the victims of this tragic fight were buried under the Gruda Boljevića tumulus. This type of legends is often linked to ancient burial type archaeological sites in Serbia, Bosnia and Montenegro. I already wrote about this type of sites in my post about wedding party graveyards. So it was assumed that Gruda Boljevića was one of such ancient burial sites. This assumption was confirmed during building of a house south of the tumulus, when one of many medieval stone cist graves,  which were dug into the original bronze age tumulus was discovered. This is the plan of the Gruda Boljevića tumulus with the locations of the medieval graves in and around the tumulus.

The aforementioned legend and knowledge of the existence of the graves, saved the mound from destruction, which was not the case with other mounds which allegedly existed nearby.

The tumulus had an irregular shape and had a diameter of 24 m. It was clearly recognizable between the existing houses in spite of its moderate height of 1.5 m. Its northwestern part was damaged by the building of a local road. Before the survey the mound was covered with grass. The grave pit was dug in gravel subsoil with an east-west orientation was discovered. On its bottom there were just small fragments of human bones and stone flint found. The deceased was obviously laid out in flexed position, but it is not clear whether on their back or on their side. The profiles shows that initial barrow had a diameter of approximately 10 m and a height of 0,8 m, and was made of red soil,with visible layers of clay in spaces of 20 cm. Above this follow layers of clear red soil, then a layer of red grey soil mixed with gravel, then humus. The prehistoric finds are located in the first barrow or on top of it. Approximately 0.4 m above the northern part/edge of the grave pit, objects of attire were placed. Even higher, 0.7 m above the eastern edge of the grave pit a ceramic set was deposited. Such a stratigraphic position is unique and without parallel in this cultural region. The fact that clay inter beds are disrupted exactly above both find concentrations and that personal belonging are normally placed beside the deceased, stimulated us to look for separate explanations for the grave and the finds above it.

Central grave

The grave pit of the central grave was dug more than 1 meter deep into the gravel substrate of the tumulus. This substantially distinguishes it from other “princely” graves from Montenegro. Such grave pits are typical for the Yamnaya culture, which at the end of the 4th and in the first half of the 3rd millennium dominates a significant part of Eastern Europe. For the Gruda Boljevića tumulus the best parallels can be found in the hinterland of the eastern Adriatic, between present day Albania and Hercegovina. Here, the deceased are normally laid down in a contracted position on their back or on their side, and oriented in an east-west direction. Grave goods are few or absent. Barrows are of moderate dimensions, made of soil and frequently surrounded with band of stones or a stone circle. On the basis of the observed larger pebbles and stone zones it is not impossible that Gruda boljeviča was also surrounded with such a construction, but that it was later destroyed by medieval inhumations. It is not possible to determine whether the stone flint from the grave pit is an actual grave good or a chance intrusion from the filling of the pit. Such artefacts are also reported from the covering layers of some other tumuli, e.g. Mala gruda and Piskovë.

Deposition above the central grave

Considering the good preservation and the completeness of the inventory, its concentration in two groups on a uniform level, the reopening of the grave and the displacement of grave goods is not likely. Objects were therefore found in situ. What is unclear, but a crucial question, is the relation of these finds with the grave below them. Two basic assumptions seem possible: they are connected to this grave and lay above it during or some time after burial. They are not connected to this grave and were deposited only after a considerable period of time. Both hypotheses can be supported with certain arguments. Elements of ritual practices are known from some tumuli, like Mala and Velika Gruda for example. In both cases with these rituals only smaller fragments of ceramics can be connected. Whole pots or other finds placed above the grave are known only from a few concurrent sites (Shtoj, Neusiedl). The find from Gruda Boljevića is exeptional by quantity and composition and exceeds all known examples of ritual enclosures. This and the stratigraphic position indicates that items were not placed above the grave during the burial ceremony as assumed by Govedarica and Baković. If really connected to the grave, then they were added after a certain period, interrupting the layers above the grave. Analogies for such complicated activity are however not known. That is why the second explanation of the situation is more probable namely, that the grave pit and the objects above it are not directly connected. In this case the grave pit represents a primary burial, which by its structure and the absence of grave goods fits well among typical Yamnaya culture graves, while the two concentrations of finds above it are the remains of a later, independent deposit. Comparison with inventories of other princely graves shows considerable similarities in the concentration, allocation and orientation of objects. With extreme caution this can be understood as a sign of another grave. In this case, in the centre of Gruda Boljevića two princes were buried, one above another! Of course, this hypothesis also has some open questions and uncertainties. The most essential is the absence of bones. But if bad preservation of the skeleton in the primary grave and in the central grave of Mala Gruda is taken into consideration, we must allow the possibility of the decomposition of the osteological material due to acidic soil. The second possibility is that it was a burial without a corpse, i.e. a cenotaph. In contrast with other rich “princes” buried in stone cists in a contracted position, the distribution of goods in the alleged secondary grave also allow an extended body position. The difference in the heights of the vessels and parts of attire could be caused by the subsidence of the primary grave pit fill or with the intentional deposition above or near the grave. As seen from the profiles, this grave would be dug into the primary barrow, but the building up of the barrow with an additional layer of soil in the context of this burial is also possible. Secondary graves that express chronological and cultural continuity of the tumuli use are quite a frequent feature in Yamna culture. For our case the most important are examples from neighbouring regions (Pazhok, Cerujë, Shtoj). The third event in the construction of the tumulus is the deposition of the pottery vessel found in the eastern part of the tumulus. Because of scarce data it is not possible to say with certainty when that happened; considering its location out of the centre in the layer of red soil (or on the border between the first and second barrow), this was probably the latest prehistoric activity. Also this vessel was found practically whole, but without any additional features or objects.  Therefore it is unclear if it was ritually placed, randomly discarded, or even used as part of a grave ensemble.

The grave goods found in the Gruda Boljevića tumulus show us that people who built this tumulus belong to the same culture, and I believe the same tribe, clan, as the people who built Bjelopavlići tumulusMogila na Rake tumulus and Mala and Velika Gruda tumuluses.

This is the list of all the grave goods found in the Gruda Boljevića tumulus.

The Golden lockrings

This type of jewelry (lockrings made of precious metals) were one of the distinctive elements of the Yamnaya culture and were widespread in Eastern Europe. They are also a typical personal ornament of early Montenegro tumuli. However the lockrings of this particular type with profiled terminals are extremely rare. Apart from Gruda Boljevića, lockrings of this type are known only from Mala nad Velika Gruda tumuluses:

The stone battle axe

In my post about the Irish gold I talked about the mysterious golden cross discs which were found in Ireland and Britain and were all dated to 2400 BC – 2100 BC. I said that it is commonly believed that these ornaments originated in Ireland. In my post about the Mala and Velika Gruda tumuluses I have shown that in fact this type of golden cross discs were made in Montenegro 300 – 400 years before the first such discs appeared in Ireland and Britain. This is the golden cross disc from Mala Gruda tumulus, which was used for making the axe shaft cap:

I also said that there is even older golden cross disc, which was used in the same way like the Mala Gruda one. That other golden cross disc was found in Gruda Boljevića tumulus: 

At the very least these golden cross discs show cultural link between the people who built Mala Gruda and Gruda Boljevića tumuluses. The form and the material from which these discs are made indicates that they are objects with the symbolic status. The way in which the discs are used indicates that they could even have a meaning of insignia. They represent status, and probably also have religious significance and may even be a tribal, clan, family symbol. 

This stone battle axe exceeds ordinary and older examples in elegance and superior craftsmanship. Stone battle axes with elaborate forms and of high quality are popular in the primary regions of the Yamnaya and Catacombe cultures, but because of some closer typological parallels the workshop of the Gruda Boljevića example should be searched for in the region of the western Balkans. The best quality stone battle axes of this type are found in Troy (Hansen 2001, 45, Abb. 35). However all these stone battle axes from the Black Sea and the Eastern Mediterannean have the hammer end with the circular profile and biconnically widenned central part. The stone battle axes which are closest to the the Gruda Boljevića axe are the one axe from Lugansk and the axes of the Mihajlovka type (Gimbutas 1965, Fig. 330:1; Kaiser 1997, 105–108, T. 25: 9).

The curved shape is not usual for stone axes but was more common in metal forms. Typologically it is marked by curved shape, expanded blade, fasetted rectangular hamer end and rounded middle part. There are only few metal axes with similar characteristics: Two much cruder examples from Ljubljansko barje, one example from Vošanovac, and one from Bosanska Rača. (Korošec, Korošec 1969, T. 78: 1; Šinkovec 2014, kat. b. 110; Stojić, Jacanović 2008, 55 sl. 41, 315, T. 139: 1; Čović 1957, 249, sl. 8). Unfortunately all these four axes are only partially preserved.

What is interesting is that the oldest metal axe found so far which was discovered in the Vinča culture site Pločnik and was dated to the period between 5500 BCE and 4700 BCE, is of the same type as the Gruda Boljevića axe type.

 The copper dagger

The simple dagger with a triangular blade is badly preserved and corroded. Still some details are visible, like the imprint of the handle around the upper edge and two holes for attaching the handle with rivets. Those were put very close to each other, which opens up the possibility that one of them is the result of an antique repair. The triangular form is quite common and chronologically and geographically widespread. For a more precise determination, analysis of material should be done. It would answer the question of whether the object is made of copper or early bronze, and point to a direction for its origin.

The axe pendant

The shape and different traces on the trapezoidal, perforated pendant of red stone allow two interpretations of its use: as an amulet or as a whetstone. In favour of the first interpretation speaks the small size, careful production and red colour, and in favour of the second are the traces on the surface and a possible combination with the equally small dagger. Of course, there is also the possibility that it had a double purpose: both as an amulet and as a whetstone.

The pottery set

Three aspects should be taken in consideration when analysing the pottery set from the centre of Gruda Boljevića: ornament, forms, and the combination of objects. Also, it must be emphasized that all three vessels are similar in structure and decoration, therefore allowing the hypothesis of simultaneous production – perhaps even especially for burial purposes.Ornament has a decisive role in the cultural determination of Montenegro tumuli. In it we can recognize the “fashion trends” that reach from the Carpathian basin to the Adriatic, but which is not uniform. Obviously in most cases we cannot speak about imports or direct influences, but more likely about local variations that developed in different regions and cultures. The Montenegro material is usually classified as part of the “Adriatic type of Ljubljana culture”, although it has some peculiar features and shapes, which has caused M. Primas to speak of a “facies Kotor”. In fact the “Adriatic” elements are quite rare in the broader region and are always found in layers of local cultures. Their exposure therefore creates an exaggerated impression of cultural unity. The explanation of this pottery is perhaps hidden in its cult purpose. In contrast with settlement layers, where such sherds are rare, all vessels from princely tumuli are decorated in this style. Are they luxury variants used by the upper class or were they produced as funeral vessels with specific symbolism?

The plate

This is the plate from the Mogila na rake tumulus:

The plate found in Gruda Boljevića is almost identical to the one found in Mogila na rake tumulus except for the motif on the plate:

Plates with a fanshaped extension are prominent ceramic grave goods in Montenegrin tumuli, known from Gruda Boljevića, Mala and Velika Gruda, Mogila na Rake, as well as in a destroyed tumulus Rubeži. They are all richly decorated both outside and on the interior, and differ primarily in the base modelling that can be in the form of a low or high foot, sometimes with apertures.

The funnel

The funnel with a decorated exterior and plain interior is a unique find in the assemblages of Montenegrin tumuli and a rare ceramic form also in the wider region. Similar funnel shaped clay artefacts of a different form and function dating from the 3rd millennium BC and the early 2nd millennium BC are known from the Lower Austria, the southern Russian steppe (Black Sea region) and Hungary. Here are the examples from Unter-Mamau, Austria dated to the second millennium BC (1,2) and Kalmykia, Black Sea region Catacombe culture dated to the mid third millennium BC (3).

Here is an example of such funnel from Somogyvár-Vinkovci Culture from Balatonőszöd-Temetői dűlő in Transdanubia, Hungary, which was dated to 2110 BC.

None of these other known funnels are ornamented like the example from Gruda Boljevića and are all younger than the Montenegrian example.

The jug

Jugs with a long handle that connects the rim and shoulder or belly, are a widespread functional form. It should be noted that among such vessels from the princely tombs of Montenegro we can observe different shapes: the high and elegant pitcher from Gruda Boljevića, the small compact one from Mala Gruda, or the asymmetrical Sutomore example. They are, therefore, a popular and longlasting vessel type, produced by various local workshops. The combination of three vessels from Gruda Boljevića for now represents the largest known set. We can compare the pitcher and plate with sets from Mala Gruda and Mogila na rake. 

It is worth mentioning grave 6/15 from Shtoj with the same combination, but with other forms: a smaller jug and conical bowl. The plate/bowl and pitcher are therefore the basic service used in the funeral cult (and possibly everyday life), which is supplemented with funnel in Gruda Boljevića.

The ceramic pot

The ceramic pot is of a simple spherical shape, but with a typical reinforced rim. From Albania to Dalmatia (and beyond) this detail is often found in settlements and is considered to be the characteristic of the late Eneolithic.The cultural significance of this vessel is very interesting. Unlike ceramics from the centre of the tumulus, which are typical grave goods, this pot is characteristic settlement pottery, which allows us to connect the tumulus phase with the corresponding settlement layers.

 Absolute and relative chronology


Radiocarbon dating was done on fragments of bone from the central grave of Gruda Boljevića. the analysis was conducted by laboratories in Kiel, Germany. The results date the time of burial around 3050 BC (3090 – 3044 cal BC). The high dating of skeleton in the central grave actually confirms the hypothesis of a secondary deposit of the finds above it. The C14 sample dated only the primary tomb, while the complex above it should be compared with the dates obtained by analysing samples from the Velika Gruda tumulus. There the central grave with a similar inventory is dated in the period 2800-2700 BC. The final prehistoric activity at the Boljevića Gruda tumulus is the deposition of a ceramic vessel with a reinforced rim. Such ceramics are known from Odmut (layer VI), where it is dated to 3036 – 2754 cal/1σ, while at the Ljubljana marsh settlements such rims are known from about 2500 BC. Absolute dating of the grave with figurines from the Kuće Rakića tumulus also falls at 2500 BC. The presented dates again confirm the possibility of paralleling Adriatic culture with classical Vučedol and EH II, as proposed by Philippe Della Casa and marked as the 2nd phase of the Late Copper Age. In these nearly 500 years of cultural and sociological development we can distinguish at least three different forms of burial. Somewhat surprisingly, in the settlement layers (usually caves) these differences are not visible. According to existing studies and analogies, this is the time when the Odmut VI, Varvara A1, Ravlića Cave IIIa, Hateljska cave III and Nezir cave IV layers are formed. they are attributed to the developed Eneolithic, while simultaneous graves, due to the considerable social differences and the new economy, are often attributed already to the Early Bronze Age.

You can find additional information and detailed description of the tumulus in the article entitled “Podgorica praistorijske humke i srednjovjekovne nekropole Gruda Boljevića“.

So at the beginning of this post I said that I believe that Gruda Boljevića tumulus is one of the most important archaeological sites found recently in Europe. The reason why I believe that this tumulus is so important, is because it shows that the dolmen building, golden cross disc making culture which developed in Montenegro in the first half of the third millennium BC, has its direct cultural roots in Yamna culture of the Black Sea steppe. Why is this important?  

I have already shown that the golden cross discs which appear in Ireland and Britain around 2500 BC have their predecessors in golden cross discs from Montenegro which were dated to 2700 BC (Mala Gruda) and some time between 3050 BC and 2700 BC (Gruda Boljevića). Considering that these golden cross discs first appear in Montenegro and then in Ireland and Britain and nowhere else in between suggests that this cultural trait could have been a result of a direct cultural transfer between Montenegro and Ireland and Britain. Irish archaeologists are reluctant to say whether this cultural influence was due to trade or missionary contacts, or whether it was a consequence of a migration of a group people into Ireland. This is because Irish archaeologists don’t read pseudo histories like the Irish annals. If they did they would have seen the old Irish annals tell us that right at the time when the metallurgy and the first golden cross discs appear in Ireland, a group of people, a tribe a clan lead by Partholón arrives in Ireland. Partholón and his people are credited with introducing cattle husbandry, plowing, cooking, dwellings, trade, and dividing the island in four and most importantly for this story, they are credited with bringing gold which before them was not used in Ireland. They bring the golden cross discs. But where did Partholón and his people come from? The Irish annals tell us that too. They tell us that Partholón arrived to Ireland from the Balkans via Iberia. The Lebor Gabála Érenn, an 11th-century Christian pseudo-history of Ireland, tells us more. It tells us that Partholón came to the Balkans from the Black Sea steppe, the land where at the beginning of the 3rd millennium BC we find Yamna culture…I will talk about this in detail in one of my next posts. 

Montenegrian archaeologists are still hesitant to say whether Yamna cultural influence on Montenegro was due to trade or missionary contacts, or whether it was a consequence of a migration of a group of Yamna people into Montenegro. If only Montenegrian archaeologists read Irish pseudo histories….