Tag Archives: history

History

English word “history” means “the aggregate of past events”. What does this “aggregate of past events” actually mean? It basically means a story about what happened….

This is famous gusle player and epic poems singer Rajko Ivković. Born in 1880, in the village Gradovi on mountain Rudnik in Serbia. Survived 3 wars. Had many stories to tell. 

According to the official etymology the word “history” comes from Middle English, from Old French “estoire, estorie” ‎which means “chronicle, history, story”, from Latin “historia” which means “account, story”, from Ancient Greek “ἱστορία” ‎(historía) which means “learning through research, narration of what is learned”, from “ἱστορέω” ‎(historéō) which means “to learn through research, to inquire”, from “ἵστωρ” ‎(hístōr) which means “the one who knows, the expert”. Proposed PIE root is “*widstōr” ‎which is supposed to mean “knower, wise man”, from Proto-Indo-European “*weyd-” meaning “‎to see”.

Now how does one become an expert? By doing something for a long time and building the knowledge through experience. 

“*widstōr” ‎is supposed to mean “knower, wise man”…But “widstōr” literally means “someone who has seen a lot”…

A wise man is man with long experience. An old man usually. A man with life long experience. Who has seen a lot in his life and has learned a lot from what he has seen. He had to. He survived to tell tale…

In Slavic languages the word “vid” means to see. 
In Slavic languages the word “ved, dialectic vid” means to tell, story, knowledge, expertise.  

In Slavic languages we have another word “star”. According to the official etymology this word comes from Proto Slavic “*starъ” (star) which means old. Now proposed further root is Proto-Balto-Slavic “*staʔros” meaning old, from PIE “*steh₂-ro-” from “*stati” meaning to remain, to stay, to survive…Which is what old (star) people are good at doing. They are good at surviving. This is how they got to be old. 

So you find a wise old man (vid star) and listen to his stories. And hopefully you will learn something from them which will help you to one day become a wise old man who will have a lot of stories to tell. 

Now how do you know who is a wise old man? Basically in the past, any old man was a wise old man. 

In Slavic languages we have a word “je” which means “is”. According to the official etymology this word is a shortened from “jȅst” meaning “to be”. The official etymology then goes to say that this Slavic root comes from Proto-Slavic “*estь” which means “to be”, from PIE “*h₁es-” which means “to be”. 

Now in South Slavic languages the word “je” means “is” but also “it is”. As “it is” the word “je” is short of “jes” (pronounced yes) meaning “it is”. So the word “jest” comes from “je(s)” + “to” = “(it) is” + “that” and means “to be”. You can see that the root is the word “je(s)” meaning “is”, “it is”. 

Anyway…

If you are looking for an old man, you would look for someone who “is old”, which in Slavic languages would be “je star”…

Now let’s look again at the Ancient Greek root of the word “history”: “ἵστωρ” ‎(hístōr) which means “the one who knows, the expert”. Looks suspiciously like “jestar” = “je star” = “is old” = “wise”. 

Now let’s look again at the Ancient Greek word derived from this ancient “root”: “ἱστορέω” ‎(historéō) which means “to learn through research, to inquire”. After a lot of research, inquiring, you eventually, if you have learned anything, get old. In Slavic languages “got old” is “je ostario”…

If the old man was unlucky enough to live during the “heroic” times of war, but was lucky enough to survive the war and come home as a victor, he would have had a lot of interesting “heroic” stories to tell. These stories about heroic deeds, which returning heroes would tell to their compatriots were eventually turned into heroic poems or stories by bards, who then passed them on from generation to generation. Until eventually one day someone wrote down these heroic poems or stories and they became histories, the stories of old told by those who survived long enough to become old, to become “ἵστωρ” “jestar”, the wise old man…

What remains

This is 7,000-year-old skeleton found during excavations in Molavi Street in the south of Tehran, Iran.

So 7000 years ago, there was a person living in the area of today’s Tehran. Then he died and was buried, and the only thing that today remains of this person are his bones, his skeleton.

This is a carcass of a dead animal. Scavengers have almost stripped all the flesh and soft tissue and soon only bones will remain…

These skeletons are in English known as “remains”. In Serbian they are known as “ostaci” meaning “remains”.

In my previous post “The one who stayed” I talked about the etymology of the PIE root “*gʰóstis” which means at the same time foreigner, guest and enemy. I proposed that this root is actually a construct “ko, go” + “osta” = “who, which” + “stays, remains”.

It just occurred to me. Is it possible that the Serbian word “kost” meaning “bone” comes from the same root “osta” meaning “stay, remain”? The word “kost” would then be a construct “ko,go” + (je) + “osta” = what + (is) + left (after the soft body tissue is stripped off by scavengers, worms, bacteria)…Just like skeletons (bones) on the above pictures. Kost (bone) is what stays, remains (ko, go + osta).

Also if you kill an animal, roast it and eat it, you will be able to eat everything but the bones. They will be the ones that stay, remain, “ko + je + osta” = kost…

If you put yourself in the shoes of our ancestors who developed the original language which we today call Proto Indo European. They would have seen bones remaining after meals, after wild animal kills, after burials…Wouldn’t it have been logical for them to have started using the expression “that which remains” for that which remains from the dead animal or human: ko je osta = kost = bone?

If we look at the official etymology of the Serbian word “kost” we see that it comes from Proto-Slavic “*kostь“, from Proto-Indo-European “h₃ost, h₃ésth₁“.

The fact that we have two alternative PIE roots shows that we are not really sure about the root. The thing is that these two roots are actually both constructs. The first one “h₃ost” comes from ko, go + osta = what stays, remains. The second one “h₃ésth₁” comes from koje + osta = ko + je + osta = what + is + remaining, the remains

Here are all the cognates derived from these PIE roots. You can see that all of them can be built using root “osta” meaning “stay, remain”.

Albanian: asht, ahstë — osta = remain
Hittite: ḫastāi — ko, go + osta + je = that which + remain + is 
Luwian: ḫāš — ko, go + os(ta) = that which + remain
Old Armenian: ոսկր ‎(oskr) — osta ko,ga = ost(k)ga = os(k)ga = remanin + that which
Armenian: ոսկոր ‎(oskor) — osta ko,ga = ost(k)ga = os(k)ga = remanin + that which
Old Irish: asna (< *h₂estnijo) -- ko, go + ostane = that which + remani
Irish: easna — ko, go + ostane = that which + remani
Scottish Gaelic: asna — ko, go + ostane = that which + remani
Welsh: asgwrn (< *astkornu), ais (< *astū < *h₂estōn), asen (< *astonion) -- ostane + on = remain + he, it
Ancient Greek: ὀστέον ‎(ostéon) — osta + je + ono = remain + is + it
Greek: οστό ‎(ostó) — ostao = remains
Latin: os — same like Luvian, shortened osta = remain
Sanskrit: अस्थि ‎(ásthi) — ostaje = osta + je = remain + is
Hindi: अस्थि ‎(ásthi) — ostaje = osta + je = remain + is
Telugu: అస్థి ‎(asthi) — ostaje = osta + je = remain + is
Urdu: استھ ‎(ásthi) — ostaje = osta + je = remain + is
Avestan: asti — ostaje = osta + je = remains + is
Kurdish: hestî — ko, go + ostaje = ko, go + osta + je = that which + remain + is
Persian: است ‎(ast), استخوان ‎(ostoxân) — osta = remain
Kamviri: âṭi — ostaje = osta + je = remain + is
Tocharian B: āy (plural āsta) — osta =  remain

This PIE root etymology fits perfectly with the etymology of the PIE root “*gʰóstis”. Actually these two etymologies support each other, by confirming the original proposed logic behind the development of the PIE root “*gʰóstis” actually makes a lot of sense, because it also explains the development of the PIE root(s) “h₃ost, h₃ésth₁”…

This is quite remarkable don’t you think? 

Banya

In my post “Fulacht fiadh – sweat lodge” I proposed that fulachta fiadh could have been seasonal temporary campaign camps built by Fianna hunting bands, and that they consisted of wigwam type shelters which could have been used as both lodgings and steam rooms.

At the end of that article I said that, there is a place in Europe where we still find a particular type of temporary shelters which are built by soldiers, hunters and travelers on campaigns, which are very similar in construction to wigwams or inipis, which are heated by fire heated stones, and which are used as sweat and steam rooms…

That place is Western Russia, Ukraine, Belarus where the same type of temporary travel “sweat lodges” are still made today and are known as “походная баня” (pokhodnaya banya) meaning “hiking bathhouse”.

This is a type of temporary sweat lodges, very popular among the Russian military, mountaineers, hunters and other people who travel for extended periods in harsh environments. It consists of a stone oven set up in a small makeshift tent. Hiking banyas are usually made near a lakeshore or riverbank where many big, round stones are available to build the banya’s oven and there is plenty of cool water available for bathing. Large stones are made into a dome-shaped circular oven, one meter in diameter and a half to one meter in height so that there is space left on the inside to make a large fire. Firewood is burned for several hours in this improvised stove until the stones on the surface of the pile become so hot that water poured on them turns into steam. Around the pile, a space is tarped to form a small tent and the banya is ready when it becomes very hot inside. Fresh twig tips can be cut from nearby birch or oak trees and a bath broom called venik can be made and used for sprinkling the hot oven stones with water and for massage.

Bathers using banya can take turns cooling off in the ice-cold river or lake water.

Here are some examples of makeshift “hiking banya” sweat lodges. You can see that all they are basically a very flimsy makeshift huts built over a stone oven.

These Russian videos shows how to make banja stone oven from stones found on a beach:

How to make banja video 1
How to make banja video 2
How to make banja video 3 (and how to use it)
How to make banja video 4

On this great web page you can see pohodnaja banya made in the old style with the cover made from evergreen branches:

Couple of things to note. As you can see from the above pictures the “hiking banya” sweat lodges are extremely easy to make and a single person can put one together in less than an hour. Once you have the frame in place you can use whatever you have at hand as the cover: hides, blankets, tarp, plastic sheet or evergreen or broad leaf branches. Once you make the oven that is. This oven is basically a corbelled roof dry stone dome.

If you want to heat large number of stones, this is the most efficient way to do it. Because the fire is burning inside the stone oven, under the stone dome, and because the hot gases produced by the combustion rise, there is no heat waste. Almost all the heat produced by burning wood inside this type of oven gets absorbed by the stones and then is radiated out long after the fire has gone out. A stone oven heated by the burning fire for 3 hours will radiate heat for 12 hours after the fire is note out. This is incredibly efficient way of heating. Compare this with a hearth which becomes stone cold as soon as the fire is out. Also because the fire is completely contained inside the oven there is no danger that it can spread to its surrounding. This allows these ovens to be positioned next to the walls of the huts even if these walls are made of flammable material like wood.

Now imagine if you wanted to make a permanent banya. A village banya. You would instead of a makeshift shelter make a more permanent shelter, a wooden hut maybe, a log cabin. In my post about log cabins i explained that it was Central European Slavs who inherited the tradition of building log cabins from Central European Celts. The Slavs then passed this building tradition to the Scandinavians during the middle ages. So if Slavs wanted to make a permanent banya, they made a log cabin like this one:

And then inside they built a corner stone stove, just like the one from pohodnaya banya. Like this one.

And this is exactly what the oldest and the most traditional type of banya known to have been used in Slavic countries looked like. The original village banyas were detached, low-lying wooden structures (log cabins) heated by a corner stove which was made of large round stones. Once the stones are heated, the fire was put out, the ashes were removed and smoke was let out before the bathing began.  Hence the soot covered blackened interior and the term “black bathhouses” (“chernaia banya” or “Баня по-черному”).

Here is the black bathhouse while the stove is being heated. You can see the smoke bellowing out through the open door.

And here is the interior of the black bathhouse. It’s black 🙂

After the hut was aired, the door was closed. The super heated stones would radiate the heat and the inside of the hut would soon reach temperatures as high as the 90 degrees Celsius. People would come in and would sit naked on benches in the dry heat (sauna) or would splash water on stones creating steam (steam room). They even took stones from the top of the stove and used them to heat water in large wooden throughs which were then used for bathing…

The banya tradition is extremely old in Slavic lands. No one really knows how old. But if we are to believe Radzivill Chronicle, preserved as a 15th-century copy of a 13th-century original, banya was in wide use in Kieavan Rus in the 10th century AD. In this manuscript we find the story of Princess Olga’s revenge for the murder of her husband, Prince Igor. Prince Igor was killed by the Slavic tribe of Drevlians in 945 AD. The leader of the Drevlians had hopes of marrying the widow Olga and sent messengers to discuss the idea. 

“When the Drevlians arrived, Olga commanded that a bath should be made ready for them and said, ‘Wash yourselves and come to me.’ The bath-house was heated and the unsuspecting Drevlians entered and began to wash themselves. Olga’s men closed the bath-house behind them and Olga gave orders to set it on fire from the doors, so that the Drevlians were all burned to death.”

Now a lot of people would here say that banya was probably brought to the Slavic land by the Scandinavian Rus. After all banya is a type of sauna and “everyone knows” that sauna is a Finish invention which was then adopted by the Scandinavians, who then brought this custom with them when they invaded the the Slavic land. Right? I would dare say wrong…

The sauna in Finland is an old phenomenon but it is difficult to trace its roots. Finnish bathing habits were poorly documented until the 16th century. This is substantially later than the above mention of banyas in the Kievan Russ. Did Fins use saunas earlier than the 16th century? Maybe. How much earlier? As early as the 10th century? Maybe but we have no written records of it. However we do have written records that Slavs used banyas much much earlier than the time when first Scandinavians arrived into Central Europe.

An early description of the banya comes from the East Slavic Primary Chronicle of 1113. According to the Chronicle, or as it was called by its authors, The Tale of Bygone Years, the Apostle Andrew visited the territories that were later to become Russia and Ukraine during his visit to the Greek colonies on the Black Sea. The belief was held that Andrew crossed through East Slavic lands from the mouth of the Dnieper River, past the hills on which Kiev would later be founded, and went as far north as the ancient city of Novgorod. He had this to say about the Slavic bathing customs:

“Wondrous to relate,” said he, “I saw the land of the Slavs, and while I was among them, I noticed their wooden bathhouses. They warm them to extreme heat, then undress, and after anointing themselves with tallow, they take young reeds and lash their bodies. They actually lash themselves so violently that they barely escape alive. Then they drench themselves with cold water, and thus are revived. They think nothing of doing this every day, and actually inflict such voluntary torture on themselves. They make of the act not a mere washing but a veritable torment.”

If this source is to be trusted, Slavs used banyas every day in the first century AD. Now some people will say this is just a fairy tale, but this fairy tale is supported by archaeological evidence.

This is the map of the Prague-Penkov-Kolochin group of archaeological cultures identified with early Slavic populations in the 6th and 7th centuries. Please note that they cover the whole area between the Balkan and Baltic and that they are centered around Carpathian mountains, a land of forests, rivers and lakes, containing all the material one needs for making log cabins with stone ovens….

These cultures are descendants of the Kiev culture, an archaeological culture dating from about the 3rd to 5th centuries, named after Kiev, the capital of Ukraine. It is widely considered to be the first identifiable Slavic archaeological culture. It was contemporaneous to (and located mostly just to the north of) the Chernyakhov culture which was a mixed Slavic and Gothic culture.

The settlements of these Early Slavic cultures were no larger than 0.5 to 2 hectares. Settlements were often temporary, perhaps a reflection of the itinerant form agriculture they practiced. Settlements were often located on river terraces. The largest proportion of settlement features were the sunken buildings, called “grubenhäuser” in German, or “poluzemlianki” in Russian. They were erected over a rectangular pit and varied from four to twenty square meters of floor area, which could accommodate a typical nuclear family. Each house contained a stone or clay oven in one of the corners, a defining feature of the dwellings throughout Eastern Europe. On average, each settlement consisted of fifty to seventy individuals.

In the article entitled: “Prague type culture houses, aspects of form, function and meaning” published by Martin Kuna, Nad’a Profantová we can see drawings of the actual Prague culture archaeological sites showing houses with corner stone ovens still standing intact…

On this web page “Как жили и чем питались наши предки” you can see reconstructions of these Slavic houses with stone ovens. Here are two examples of the interiors of these Slavic sunken houses.

They look very much like interiors of black banyas don’t you think? Actually they look exactly like like black banyas. Black banyas are just houses used for bathing, bath houses, as opposed to houses used for living. But the construction was identical. The stone ovens are not just amazingly efficient heaters. They are fully functional cooking stoves. You can bake or roast inside the oven, just like inside a pizza oven.

A pot or a cauldron of water placed on top of the oven will quickly boil and can be used for efficient cooking. Here is a cauldron placed on top of a stone oven inside a black banya used for heating water for washing.

What is a house?

A house is permanent dry warm shelter.
Banya hut is just such shelter. The construction of black banya huts is identical to the construction of the early Slavic houses. They are both half sunken log cabins.
A house has a heating and cooking facilities.
Banya oven is just such facility. Identical ovens were found in every early Slavic house.
A house has place where people can sit during the day and sleep during the night.
Banya has benches built along the walls are just such places. They are used by bathers for sitting or reclining.
Identical benches were built in early Slavic houses for sitting during the day and sleeping during the night.
Basically there is no difference between earlySlavic banyas and early Slavic houses. They are one and the same.

If we look at the Wiki article about Finish saunas we will see that:

“…the ancestral type of finish sauna is the so called “savusauna” (smoke sauna). This is a special type of sauna without a chimney. Wood is burned in a particularly large stove and the smoke fills the room. When the sauna is hot enough, the fire is allowed to die and the smoke is ventilated out. The residual heat of the stove is enough for the duration of the sauna.”

“…One reason the sauna culture has always flourished in Finland has been because of the versatility of the sauna. When people were moving, the first thing they did was build a sauna. You could live in it, make food in the stove, take care of your personal hygiene, get warm, and, give birth in an almost sterile environment due to constant smoking of the interior of the black sauna and a very high temperature.”

Basically Finish saunas are black banyas, which are nothing else then the traditional Early Slavic houses. Now you could say that maybe Fins also had the same traditional houses. But the thing is that during the late iron age, early medieval time, semi sunken log huts with corner stone ovens (black banya, smoke sauna) were exclusively built by Slavs. They were so characteristic for the Slavic culture, that a discovery of these corner stone ovens in an archaeological site immediately classifies the site as a Slavic settlement…So the sentence “When people were moving, the first thing they did was build a sauna.” should actually be “When Slavic people moved into a new area, the first thing they did was build a house, which was of identical construction as a black banya or smoke sauna and which could have been used for living or bathing.”

The article about Finish saunas continues to say that “smoke saunas are still extant not only in Finland but also in Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia”. All countries which have been hugely influenced by the neighboring Slavs and their culture.

Now remember “inipi”, the Native American sweat lodge? The translation of Inipi is actually not “sweat lodge”. The actual translation is “The way we live” or “We live” or “A house, and a sweat lodge and a birthing place and a spiritual place and….”.

For Early Slavs, banya was truly “the way they lived”. It was a house, a sweat lodge, a birthing place and a spiritual place, considering that a corner stone oven was the most sacred place for every Slav, the place where the spirits of the ancestors lived and protected the house and its inhabitants….

Still think that sauna was a Finish invention? When even the word sauna is not of Finish origin. In the Wiki article about sauna we can read that “Originally borrowing from the early Proto-Germanic *stakna- whose descendants include English stack, the word sauna is an ancient Finnish word referring to the traditional Finnish bath and to the bathhouse itself. In Baltic-Finnic languages other than Finnish, sauna does not necessarily mean a building or space built for bathing. It can also mean a small cabin or cottage, such as a cabin for a fisherman.” 
The word stack probably originally referred to the stone oven, basically a stack made of stones, which was something completely new and previously unseen by the Germanic and Finish people who used central open hearths, which as I already said are very inefficient heating systems. Those Germanic speaking people, probably Norse, who adopted the Slavic custom of building cornet stone ovens (stack of stones) continued to call every house that had these stone ovens “a stack”…They then passed this custom to Fins…And for the name being used for “a small cabin or cottage, such as a cabin for a fisherman” this is a perfect description of an early small Slavic house with the corner stone oven…

Let me present the chronology here:

The Russian chronicles say that Slavs used banya sweat and steam lodges every day in the 1st century AD.

Archaeological evidence shows that Slavs built “black banya” type objects in the 3rd century AD. We don’t know if these objects were used only as houses or if they were also used as sweat or steam lodges, but we can deduce from the ethnographic data that they were probably used as both.

Kievan Russ, a loose federation of Slavic and Norse Germanic tribes which existed in Central and Eastern Europe from the late 9th to the mid-13th century, under the reign of the Rurik dynasty. During this time Slavs continued to live in the same “black banya” type houses and to use “black banyas” as sweat and steam lodges.

The word Sauna is of Germanic origin.

The first mention of Finish Saunas dates to 16th century AD.

But was it Slavs who invented banya or did they borrow it from someone else? Is it possible that Slavic Banya is a cultural continuation of fulacht fiadh?

Budi

I give you this as my Christmas present. Read it and think about it. I hope it will make your life better and happier. 
These are stećak standing stones from The Balkans. They are found in Croatia, Bosnia, Montenegro and Serbia. 

And this is an an “alleged” inscription from one of stećak standing stones from Hercegovina. I have found it on the Wikipedia web page about medieval standing stones epitaphs. The reason why I said “alleged” is because I have no way of verifying whether it really is or isn’t genuine medieval tombstone inscription. So all I can do is trust the source (for now) and then go and check it later.  

But the reason why I am writing this post is actually the content of the message. Here it is:

Here I lie on my own noble land. My name is Vlk (Wolf) the son of Hum. Take what I am going to tell you, but don’t trust me.  You are you and I am I so our truths don’t have to be the same. When you are like me, take stock of your life just like I did. 

Don’t hope that what is yet to come is going to last for ever, but also don’t feel regret for what has passed. Most people have small knowledge and big expectations. They will therefore always accuse yesterday for what is going to happen to them tomorrow. You should love the moment you are in and the lips that kiss you. 

Later on your bones will, like mine now, peacefully sleep under a heavy stone. Don’t knock down my tombstone, let it stand as it stands now. If you don’t understand what I am telling you now, maybe some son of your son will understand me one day. 

I lied here on an accursed day in the year 1209.

Talking about Buddhist mindfulness…Be in now. That is all there is… 

The man lying under the stone was not a Buddhist. He was just “budan”. In Serbian the word “budi” is an imperative of “to be”. It is a command or a suggestion to live in now, to exist in the present. And the word “budan” means “awaken”, the one who “is” here and now….

So the man whose epitaph “allegedly” this is, understood the big secret of now. But when did he get this understanding? On his death bed? Or was he lucky to gain this understanding earlier? Maybe this is a message, genuine or not, that is intended to wake us up before we reach that moment of no return and help us live the rest of our lives “awake”, which is the only way to truly live…

If you don’t understand what I mean, maybe you should read this book: “The power of now” by Eckhart Tolle. It is the best explanation of what mindfulness is I have ever come across. Maybe then you will understand. But if you don’t, don’t throw the book away. Give it to your children and maybe some child of your child will understand it one day…

And take what I just wrote in this post, but don’t trust. See for yourself…

Here is the original in Serbian:

A se lezim rad na svojini plemenitoj. Ime mi Vlk ot Humske zemje sin. Ono tsto tcu ti rejti ti privati al nejmoj mi vjerovati. Tij si ti, ja sam ja pa nam ni istine ne moraju biti iste. Kad budnes ko ja svedi svoj ratcun tko tsto svedoh ja svoj.

Ne najdaj se da tce biti vjetcno ono tsto tce tek dojti, al ni ne zali za onijem tsto je projslo. Vetcina ljudi ima malo znanje a velka otcekivanja. Oni tce zato uvijek optuzivati jutce za ono tsto tce im se dejsiti sijutra. Ti voli trenutak u tkome jesi i usne koje te jube.

Kasnje tce ti kostji ko sada moje mirno snivati ispod terzka kamena. Ne prevali mi biljega mojega, pusti ga da stoji kako stoji. Ako me ne razumijes sada ti mozda me razumjedne tvojega sina neki sin.

V proklet dan legoh v godini 1209.

Goat

In my post “Ram and Bull” i asked this question:
Have you ever wondered why Aries (Ram) and Taurus (Bull) astrological signs are where they are on a solar circle?” 
Most people would answer this question by: “Because the constellations in the sky at that time look like ram and bull“!
But it turned out that these two astrological signs mark the lambing season of wild European sheep and the calving season of wild European cattle. These were extremely important events which occurred every year at the same time. 
In my post “Fishes” I wrote about another zodiac sign which was originally used to mark another extremely important seasonal event in Europe. This sign is Pisces (fishes) and was originally used to mark the beginning of the Salmon fishing season in continental Europe.
In this post I will continue my exploration of the possibility that original zodiac signs were markers for important cyclical natural events which occurred every year at the same time in Europe. 
I have to give special thanks to my friend Chilam Balam who, after reading my posts about Aries, Taurus and Pisces, told me to look at the behavior of Ibex mountain goats…And here is what I have discovered:
This is Alpine ibex, also known as the steinbock or bouquetin. 
Alpine ibex is a species of wild goat that lives in the mountains of the European Alps. It is a sexually dimorphic species with large males who carry large, curved horns and saller females with small horns which are not curved. The coat colour is typically brownish grey. 
Alpine ibex is an excellent climber. Its preferred habitat is the rocky region along the snow line above alpine forests, where it occupies steep, rough terrain at elevations of 1,800 to 3,300 metres. For most of the year, males and females occupy different habitat. Females rely on steep terrain more so than males. Males use lowland meadows during the spring, which is when snow melts and green grass appears. They then climb to alpine meadows during the summer. When winter arrives, both sexes move to steep rocky slopes that amass little snow and spend the winter there.
100 000 years ago, the Alpine Ibex lived in all the rocky regions of Central Europe. It was also a source of inspiration for the people who drew the Paleolithic caves in which they lived as it appears in the mural paintings of the Lascaux cave and Chauvet cave.
The Chauvet-Pont-d’Arc Cave in the Ardèche department of southern France is a cave that contains the earliest known and best preserved figurative cave paintings in the world, as well as other evidence of Upper Paleolithic life. As recently as spring 2016, an additional 88 radiocarbon dates indicate two periods of habitation. One from 37,000 to 35,000 years ago and another from 31,000 to 28,000. Here is the representation of ibex goat from Chauvet cave:
Lascaux (Lascaux Caves) is the setting of a complex of caves in southwestern France famous for its Paleolithic cave paintings. The original caves are located near the village of Montignac, in the department of Dordogne. They contain some of the best-known Upper Paleolithic art. These paintings are estimated to be circa 17,300 years old. Here is the representation of ibex goat from Lascaux cave:
This is Bezoar ibex, a cousin of Alpine ibex. It is found in the mountains of Asia Minor and across the Middle East. It is also found on some Aegean Islands and in Crete. 
Why am I talking about Ibex wild goats? Because they have a very very interesting mating habits. 
As I said already, when winter arrives, both sexes of the Alpine Ibex move to steep rocky slopes that amass little snow. Once they are all together on high rocky mountain slopes, the are finally in position to start mating. During this time, male herds break up into smaller groups that search for females. The rut takes place in two phases. In the first phase, the male groups interact with the females who are all in oestrous. The higher the male’s rank, the closer he can get to a female. Males perform courtship displays. In the second phase of the rut, one male separates from his group to follow an individual female. He displays to her and guards her from other males. Before copulation, the female moves her tail and courtship becomes more intensive. They copulate and then he rejoins his group and reverts to the first phase.
Now here is the important bit:
Alpine ibex mating season starts in December, and ends in January typically lasting around six weeks. 
Bezoar Ibex mating season starts in November and ends in January. 
Right in the middle of the mating periods of both Alpine and Bezoar ibex is Winter Solstice, 21st of December. And the day after the winter solstice is the beginning of the Capricorn (goat) period, which last from December 22 – January 20…
Do you think that this is a coincidence? Do you think that our henge building ancestors, who used Winter solstice to mark the beginning of the solar year, didn’t notice that just before the Winter solstice mountain goats gather together and start their mating rituals? Don’t you think that they would then use the symbol of a goat to mark this important cyclical yearly event? 
I think that this is absolutely amazing. So far I have shown that four zodiac signs, Aries (ram), Taurus (bull), Pisces (fishes) and Capricorn (goat) mark important cyclical natural events related to animals who live in Europe. These events occur every year at the same time, during the time period marked by the images of these animals. And there is at least another one, that I know at the moment. I will write about it soon. 
Knowing all this there is no doubt in my mind any more that Chaldeans, who are currently credited with the invention of the zodiac, actually based their star zodiac on circular solar calendar which came to Mesopotamia from Europe. 
But the discovery of the true meaning of Capricorn is particularly important. This is the key that unlocks the mystery of the association of goats with Christmas and Winter solstice…Now it all makes sense. I will dedicate next few post to this subject. Until then, stay happy. 

Trom

In Serbian and Croatian we have adjective “trom” which means:

moving with difficulty
sluggish
slow

It is implied that the slowness and sluggishness comes from heaviness. The word has an opposite meaning to words meaning springiness, lightness of movement, lightness.

In Makedonian we have word “tromav” which means cumbersome, clumsu. 

This word is, as far as i am aware, found only in these South Slavic languages.

And in Celtic languages.

Irish “trom”

of great weight, of high specific gravity, of heavy texture, stodgy, hard to digest, dense, thick, abundant, of great force or intensity, laborious, burdensome, grievous, severe, harsh, tyrannous
unsparing, sultry, oppressive, weighty, profound, important (heavy), dull, tedious, laboured, drowsy, deep, slumberous, oppressed, sad

Old Irish “trom”

heavy (weight), heavy, severe, grievous, difficult, sad, sorrowful, great, vast, powerful, mighty

Scottish Gaelic “trom”

heavy, hard, difficult, weighty, serious, depressed, melancholy, addicted (heavily into something), pregnant (with child)

Manx “trome”

heavy, substantial, dense, difficult, emphatic, intense, pregnant

Welsh “trwm”

literally and figuratively heavy

Apparently all these Celtic words come from Proto Celtic root “trummos” meaning heavy. 

Where does the Serbian word comes from then? 

I personally believe that it is a borrowing from Celtic languages. But how come we find this word only in Celtic languages and in Serbian (Croatian)? When was this word borrowed into Serbian (Croatian) and where? 

Fulacht fiadh – acorn leaching pit?

I finished my post in which I presented all the pros (none) and cons (many) on the subject “Fulacht fiadh – a cooking pit?” with this paragraph:

“So I think that we can safely say that fulachta fiadh were not used in the way the mainstream archaeology suggest they were used:  for cooking large amounts of meat in troughs full of water heated by hot stones. The Bronze Age people who built fulachta fiadh had much more efficient ways of cooking large quantities of meat at their disposal.” 

But what about the troughs? Every fulachta fiadh had a trough, so they must have been used for something. But if not for cooking, what were they used for?

In my next few posts I will like to propose what the troughs could have been used for. 

In this post I would like to propose that one of the possible efficient (very important) uses of the Fulacht fiadh’s troughs could have been acorn leaching. 

In my two posts about Irish bullaun stones: “bullaun stones” and “new material about bullaun stones” I presented my theory that Bullaun stones from Ireland and the similar stones with large deep cup marks, were made to be used as mortars for grinding probably originally acorns, and then wild grain, grain, tubers and even ore…

These articles are part of the series of articles about the human use of acorns as food through history, in which I presented the evidence that acorns were a staple human starch food since Paleolithic times. 

You can find these articles here:

Oaks“, “Acorns in archaeology“, “How did oaks repopulate Europe“, “Eating acorns“, “Christmas trees from garden of Eden“, “Acorns in ancient texts“. 

But in order to eat acorns, they first have to be leached. 

So what is acorn leaching?

There were two distinct types of oaks and acorns:

The white oaks whose acorns mature in 6 months and taste sweet or slightly bitter; The inside of the acorn shell is hairless. The bark is light in colour, gray to light gray. The leaves mostly lack a bristle on their lobe tips, which are usually rounded.

The red and black oaks whose acorns mature in 18 months and taste bitter to very bitter. The inside of the acorn’s shell can be hairless but is in most cases woolly. The bark darker in colour. Its leaves typically have sharp lobe tips, with bristles at the lobe tip.

The acorn bitterness is caused by tannin or tanic acid. The concentration of tannin varies from species to species. This is why acorns from some oaks can be eaten raw and some are so bitter that they are inedible unless the tannins are removed. This process of removing tannins from acorns is called leaching. The tannins leached out of the acorns “tan”, color the water.  

These are the same tannins used in tanning leather…

Now there are many different ways in which you can leach acorns.  In my post about eating acorns I wrote about the discovery and development of the acorn processing techniques and tools. 

Most acorn leaching techniques involved soaking acorns in water as water dissolves tannin.

There are basically two main types of water leaching: active and passive. 

Passive techniques involve storing whole shelled or unshelled acorns in baskets which are either submerged in running water or in waterlogged pits. Water slowly leaches tannin and eventually after several days, weeks (running water) or months, years (waterlogged pits) the acorns become edible. This technique requires very little work but takes time and ties the people to the location of the leaching baskets or pits. 
Active leaching involves basically shelling and crushing acorns  and then washing them in cold or hot water. This technique requires a lot of human work but is much quicker. Acorns leached like this become edible after several days to several hours depending on the temperature of the water used for leaching. So you could store your acorns dry into baskets, which is good if you want to carry them around from place to place, and then leach them when you need them. 

It is this second type of water leaching, the active leaching, that I believe the fulacht fiadh’s troughs could have been used for. 

So to do this type of quick leaching you need to first shell the acorns. You can then crush them, because the smaller the pieces, the larger the contact surface area between the acorns and water, and the faster extraction of tannins, but you don’t have to. Sometimes is more practical to leach acorns whole, as it is easier to store whole leached acorns than acorn mush….

Anyway, once the acorns are shelled (and optionally crushed) they can be leached by getting them into contact with water. This is done by submerging the acorns into a container containing fresh water in proportion 1 part acorn 3 parts water or more water. The acorns will sink to the bottom and start leaching straight away turning the water dark. You wait for a while for tannin to dissolve in water and then you pour out or scoop out the tanned water. You then pour in new fresh water and repeat the procedure until the water stops turning dark or until acorns stop tasting biter. Simple. If you can get large enough watertight containers near running water… Like large pots, pits, sand beds, or wood or stone lined troughs. 

The cold water leaching process takes from from 8 hours to several days depending on the tannin content in acorns. You can speed up the leaching process by using hot water. Acorns submerged in hot water leach a lot faster, taking only two to three hours to lose their bitterness. What is interesting is that from the ethnographic data collected among the Native American tribes, we know that they used heated stones for heating water for acorn leaching. The stones used for water heating were carefully chosen so that they don’t fracture during the continuous heating and cooling. The best stones for this purpose are basalt stones as the don’t shatter under thermal pressure. 

There are couple of things that need to know when using water for acorn leaching:

You have to use either only cold water or only hot water for leaching. If you mix cold and hot water or if you put acorns into cold water and then heat the water, the tannin in the acorns will be bound to the acorn meat permanently and you will not be able to remove it. The temperature of water with which you leach the acorns is very important. Heating water over 73 degrees Celsius precooks the starch in the acorn. Cold processing and low temperatures under 65 degrees Celsius  does not cook the starch. Acorn meal that was leached in cold water thickens when cooked, hot-water leached acorn meal does not thicken when cooked.  Also, when you leach the acorns in very hot water you also boil off the oil with the tannins, reducing  acorn meal nutrition. So ideally you would want to leach acorns in water which is hot but not very hot. 

This brings me back to what I said about why I believed that pit meat boiling was extremely unlikely usage for fulacht fiadh. Fulacht fiadh have much larger surface area compared to their dept and “the heat loss due to evaporation of water from a surface of an open tank is totally dominant at higher water temperatures“. What this means is that at boiling temperature, it becomes extremely difficult to keep the water in the shallow trough with the large surface boiling using heated stones for long enough to actually cook meat. But the heat loss trough the surface is much smaller on lower temperatures and these temperatures can be maintained relatively easily using heated stones. Which means that fulacht fiadh could be efficiently used for hot water acorn leaching. 

So how would the hot water acorn leaching be done in fulacht fiadh? First you would fill the trough with clean water. You would then heat the water using heated stones until it is hot but not boiling. You would then pour in whole or crashed acorns. You would occasionally add new heated stones to keep the water temperature high. You would also steer the water with a stick to help the leaching process. You would also from time to time scoop out some of the tanned hot water and replace it with some clean cold, followed by adding heated stones to keep the water hot. 

This leaching procedure is very efficient not just because we are using hot water, but also because we are using stones heated in ashes for heating the water. Every time we drop a heated stone into the trough, hot wood ash which was stuck to the surface of the stone gets washed off the stone and dissolved in water. And believe or not we know that in addition to using hot water to speed up the process of dissolving the tannin, some cultures also used wood ash to induce chemical reactions which transform tannic acid into harmless chemicals. Early ethnobotanist Huron Smith (1923, pg 66) documented the Menominee method of processing various oak acorn species: “The hulls were flailed off after parching, and the acorn was boiled till almost cooked. The water was then thrown away. Then to fresh water, two cups of wood ash were added. The acorns were put into a net and were pulled out of the water after boiling in this. The third time, they were simmered to clear them of lye water. Then they are ground into meal with mortar and pestle, then sifted in a birch-bark sifter.

So it seems that acorn leaching is one of the possible uses for fulchta fiadh. Well at least for those fulacha fiadh which were cut into bedrock or into a clay rich soil next to a clean streams. However, as I already said in my post “Fulacht fiadh – a cooking pit?“, one of the key feature of the most fulacht fiadh sites is elevated soil acidity. Basically most fulacht fiadh were located in marshy boggy areas where a hole dug into the ground would quickly fill with water. Acidic marshy water. A very very bad water for cooking food. And a very very bad water for leaching (extracting acid from) acorns. So even though fulachta fiadh could functionally have been efficiently used for acorn leaching, only the ones not located in marshy pit bogs could in reality have been used for this purpose. 

I will continue exploring the possible uses of fulachta fiadh in my next few posts. 

Dreamtime

In my post about the Montenegrian tumuluses, I argued that the Irish annals contained true historical accounts about the migration of the Partholon and his people from the sea of Azov, via Anatolia, Montenegro, Sicily, Iberia into Ireland which happened in the mid 3rd millennium BC. The Irish annals were originally oral histories which were only written down in the medieval time. And so the main complaint that I got about my Partholon theory was that it is impossible that oral histories can be preserved for so long.

Well we now seem to have proof that some oral histories could be as much as 45,000 years old if not even older…

In a genetic study in 2011, researchers found evidence that the ancestors of the Aboriginal population split off from the ancestors of the European and Asian populations between 65,000 and 75,000 years ago. These Aboriginal ancestors migrated into South Asia and then into Australia, where they stayed, with the result that, outside of Africa, the Aboriginal peoples have occupied the same territory continuously longer than any other human populations. These findings suggest that modern Aboriginal peoples are the direct descendants of migrants who left Africa up to 75,000 years ago.[2][3] The same genetic study of 2011 found evidence that Aboriginal peoples carry some of the genes associated with the Denisovan (a species of human related to but distinct from Neanderthals) peoples of Asia. Examining DNA from a finger bone excavated in Siberia, researchers concluded that the Denisovans migrated from Siberia to tropical parts of Asia and that they interbred with modern humans in South-East Asia at some stage before 45,000 years ago, before Australia separated from Papua New Guinea. [4] They contributed DNA to Aboriginal Australians along with present-day New Guineans and an indigenous tribe in the Philippines known as Mamanwa. This study makes Aboriginal Australians one of the oldest living populations in the world and possibly the oldest outside of Africa, confirming they may also have the oldest continuous culture on the planet.[7]

Now when did these ancestors of the Aboriginal Australians move into Australia is uncertain. But it is possible that this happened sometime between 45,000 and 40.000 years ago. This is supported by the archaeological finds of human remains near Lake Mungo.

Lake Mungo is a dry lake located in south-eastern Australia,in the south-western portion of New South Wales. It is at the Lake Mungo where a so called “Mungo Man and Mungo Lady” remains were found. Mungo Lady is particularly interesting. Mungo Lady, a partially cremated female body, was discovered in 1969 by Dr Jim Bowler from the Australian National University (ANU). Mungo Lady was only partially cremated before the remainder of her bones were crushed. She was initially estimated to be 25,000 years old, although a more recent multi-university study in 2003 determined that she was probably closer to 40,000 years old.

Mungo Man was also discovered by Dr Bowler, on 26 February 1974. The remains were covered with red ochre, in what is the earliest known incidence of such a burial practice. Red ochre is commonly used in burials for ritualistic purposes. The site was dating using OSL dating, or luminescence dating. The site is dated to be 60,000 years ago. If the fossils are actually from 60,000 years old, the fossils would be that of archaic Homo sapiens.

The different years for which artifacts and the remains were found puts into debate the actual time in which Australia was inhabited. If it was inhabited 60 thousand years or over, it puts in question the theory that all civilizations derived from Africa. If, however, Mungo Man and Mungo Lady truly are evidence that Australia has only been inhabited for about 50,000 years, the theory of Africa is stronger than ever. This would put Mungo Man and Mungo Lady’s civilization in the same time frame as other cultures that were just beginning to settle outside of Africa.[5]

But regardless, it seems that at some stage between 65,000 and 40,000 years ago the Aboriginal Australians crossed into Australia, and have been isolated there from the rest of the world until the first Chinese and European explorers reached the continent not more than 500 years ago.

During that time they have been carefully preserving their beliefs through a complex set of rituals and stories which are today known as “Dreamtime”. But it seems that the “Dreamtime” stories are not just mythologies, but are a mix of mythological stories and actual histories accumulated and preserved over who knows how many thousands of years.

The term Dreamtime is based on a rendition of the indigenous (Arandic) word “alcheringa”, used by the Aranda (Arunta, Arrernte) people of Central Australia. The word actually has a meaning closer to “eternal, uncreated” or “so old that it seems that it has been here forever”. In “Dreamtime” an individual’s entire ancestry exists as one, culminating in the idea that all worldly knowledge is accumulated through one’s ancestors. This is extremely good description of the accumulated  memories which were passed through direct contact from generation to generation through stories and rituals. 

And as I said, some of the Dreamtime memories could turn out to be actual ancient histories.  

The flood

“In the beginning, as far back as we remember, our home islands were not islands at all as they are today. They were part of a peninsula that jutted out from the mainland and we roamed freely throughout the land without having to get in a boat like we do today. Then Garnguur, the seagull woman, took her raft and dragged it back and forth across the neck of the peninsula letting the sea pour in and making our homes into islands.”


This is a paraphrase of an Aboriginal story about the origin of the Wellesley Islands, a group of islands off the coast of north Queensland in the southern Gulf of Carpentaria:

This story has parallels along every part of the coast of Australia. Along the coast, Aboriginal stories written down early in colonial times talk about the ancient time when these areas were dry, a time when people hunted kangaroo and emu there, before the water rose and flooded them, never again to recede.

In a recent paper [8] presented at an indigenous language conference in Japan, Nick Reid, Associate Professor, School of Behavioural, Cognitive and Social Sciences, University of New England and Patrick D. Nunn, Assistant Director, Sustainability Research Centre; Professor of Geography, University of the Sunshine Coast analysed 18 stories from around Australia’s coast.

They found that all stories tell tales of coastal flooding and argued that these stories recall coastal inundation as sea levels started to rise after the last Ice Age.

During the coldest time of the last ice age about 20,000 years ago, the sea level around Australia stood about 120 metres below its present level. When the ice started to melt, a few thousand years later, huge masses of ice that had built up on the land, particularly in the northern hemisphere, began melting. Water poured into the world’s oceans, raising their levels in ways that are now well understood. By about 13,000 years ago, sea level had risen to around 70 metres below its present level. One thousand years later, it had risen to about 50 metres below present. These dates give us a ballpark for how old the Aborinial stories of flooding may be. Could they have reached us from 13,000 years ago?

I already mentioned the story about the Wellesley Islands. The local tribes from the Cairns area claim that they once lived “where the Great Barrier Reef now stands”. Their story states that the Fitzroy Island was once part of the mainland. 

And that the offshore Green Island was four times larger. 

The story describes several named landmarks with remembered historical-cultural associations that are now underwater.

During the last ice age this whole area which today lies between the Great Barrier reef and the Australian coast, would have comprised broad floodplains and undulating hills with a range of subsistence possibilities, bordered in most parts by steep cliffs plunging down to the narrow shore.

The Great Barrier reef has an average depth of 35 meters in its inshore waters, while on outer reefs, continental slopes extend down to depths of more than 2000 meters. Based on these depths, the above stories about the flooding of the reef might date from as much as 12,000 years ago. A more conservative interpretation, based on a sea level just 30 meters lower than today, would place the age of this story at around 10,000 years ago.

Similar stories come from Spencer Gulf in southern Australia. 

Those from the Narrangga people of Yorke Peninsula recall the time when there was no Spencer Gulf, only “marshy country reaching into the interior” lying just above the ocean surface and dotted with “freshwater lagoons” where birds and other animals flocked.

One day the sea came in, perhaps through the breaching of a natural barrier, and the area has since been submerged. If these stories refer to flooding across the outermost lip of Spencer Gulf, which today lies around 50 metres below present sea level, then they may have originated 12,000 years ago. Even if they refer to inundation of the central part of the Gulf, they are likely to be more than 9,000 years old.

How sea levels changed after the ice ages around Australia is now well known. So if these stories are accepted as authentic and based on observations of coastal flooding, it is clear that they must be of extraordinary antiquity.

But believe or not these are not the oldest Dreamtime stories which could be actual ancient histories. 

The palms

This is Central Australian Cabbage Palm (Livistona mariae). 

How the only native palm tree in Australia got to an isolated Palm Valley in the center of the country has long been a mystery.

Recent research findings seem to back up Aboriginal legend on origin of these palms. Several years ago Tasmanian ecologist David Bowman from University of Tasmania, did DNA tests on palm seeds from the outback and near Darwin. The results led him to conclude the seeds were carried to the Central Desert by humans at some stage between 15,000 and 30,000 years ago. What is interesting is that after he published his findings, Professor Bowman read an Aboriginal legend recorded in 1894 by pioneering German anthropologist and missionary Carl Strehlow, which was only recently translated, describing the “gods from the north” bringing the seeds to Palm Valley.

Professor Bowman said he was amazed. 

“We’re talking about a verbal tradition which had been transmitted through generations possibly for possibly 30,000 years,” he said.

“Just an amazing coincidence that we’d independently concluded that the seeds had been transported and then subsequently we discover an Aboriginal legend is exactly what we found scientifically.

“The concordance of the findings of a scientific study and an ancient myth is a striking example of how traditional ecological knowledge can inform and enhance scientific research.

“It suggests that Aboriginal oral traditions may have endured for up to 30,000 years, and lends further weight to the idea that some Aboriginal myths pertaining to gigantic animals may be authentic records of extinct megafauna.”

This is amazing. A 30,000 years old oral history??? But this is nothing compared to the Dreamtime story which explains the origin of the black swans. 

The swans

The Dreamtime story of the black swans tells how two brothers were turned into white swans so they could help an attack party during a raid for weapons. It is said that Wurrunna used a large gubbera, or crystal stone to transform the men. After the raid, eaglehawks attacked the white swans and tore feathers from the birds. Crows who were enemies of the eaglehawks came to the aid of the brothers and gave the black swans their own black feathers. The black swan red beak is said to be the blood of the attacked brothers, which stayed there forever.

This is truly an amazing story. Evidence suggests that swans evolved in Europe or western Eurasia during the Miocene (23.03 to 5.332 million years ago), spreading all over the Northern Hemisphere until the Pliocene (5.333 million to 2.58 million years ago). 

The swans are generally found in temperate environments, rarely occurring in the tropics. 

Four (or five) species occur in the Northern Hemisphere (all white).

One species is found in Australia and New Zealand (black).

And one species is distributed in southern South America (white with black neck).

The swans are absent from tropical Asia, Central America, northern South America and the entirety of Africa. This is the map that shows the natural distribution of swans in the world. 

Now you can see that there we have black swans in Australia ans white swans in the Central and Northern Asia. But no swans of any kind in the huge area between China and Australia. As we have seen from the evidence found in the lake Mungo site, Aboriginal Australians have crossed into Australia at least 40,000 years ago. We have also seen that the scientists believe that the mixing between the Denisovans and modern humans, which produced the ancestors of today’s Aboriginal Australians, happened in the tropical parts of Asia at some stage before 45,000 years ago. 

Now there are no swans in tropical South East Asia, and the only swans that live in Australia are black swans. This means that the only swans Aboriginal Australians could have seen for over 45,000 years have been black swans. So where and more importantly when did they last see a white swan? Well somewhere on their way from Africa to South East Asia, at some stage between 75,000 and 45,000 years ago. This means that this Dreemtime story is more than 45,000 years old and could be as much as 60,000 years old….

How’s this for the resilience of the oral tradition? What is measly 5000 years, which is how old I believe the story of Partholon’s migration from the Irish Annals is, compared to the age of the Australian Dreamtime stories?

Why and how did Australian Aboriginal cultures achieve transmission of information about real events from such deep time? Professors Nick Reid and Patrick D. Nunn who wrote about the Aboriginal Australian flood myths suggested that: 

The isolation of Australia is likely to be part of the answer. But it could also be due to the practice and nature of contemporary Aboriginal storytelling. This is characterised by a conservative and explicit approach to “the law”, value given to preserving information, and kin-based systems for tracking knowledge accuracy. This could have built the inter-generational scaffolding needed to transmit stories over vast periods.

And this is exactly the kind of environment that was found in Ireland. A close knit clan based community living for a long time in a relative isolation at the edge of Europe. No wonder that the Irish managed to preserve such old myths, legends, beliefs and histories  in Europe. 

I also believe that some European myths are much much older and come to us from Mesolithic and maybe even Paleolithic times. But more about this later…Until then stay happy and sweet dreams…

References:

1. “Outback palms were planted”, David Bowman, University of Tasmania
2. “An Aboriginal Australian Genome Reveals Separate Human Dispersals into Asia”, Rasmussen, Morten; et al.
3. “The first Aboriginal genome sequence confirms Australia’s native people left Africa 75,000 years ago.”. Australian Geographic. 23 September 2011.
4. “First Aboriginal genome sequenced”, Callaway, Ewen. Nature.
5. “Pleistocene human remains from Australia: A living site and human cremation from Lake Mungo, western New South Wales”, J. M. Bowlerab, Rhys Jonesab, Harry Allenab & A. G. Thorneab, World Archaeology

6. ” Ducks, Geese and Swans. Bird Families of the World. “, Kear, Janet, ed
7. “DNA confirms Aboriginal culture is one of the Earth’s oldest”. Australian Geographic.
8. “Ancient Aboriginal stories preserve history of a rise in sea level“, Nick Reid and Patrick D. Nunn

Children playing

Irish: “Tá na páistí ag súgradh sa tsráid”
English: The children are playing in the street.

In the above Irish sentence the word “súgradh” (pronounced “sugra“) means “(act of) playing, sporting; amusement, flirting, having fun. This is a verbal noun of a verb that has no finite or participial forms. The Irish “súgradh” comes from the Old Irish “súgrad” with the same meaning. The etymology of this word is unknown. This word has no cognates outside of Gaelic (that I know of)…

Now in Serbian we have the word “igra” meaning “play, game”. The verb “igrat”, “igrati” means “to play, to dance, to have fun”. This word comes from the Proto-Slavic jьgra and has cognates in all Slavic languages: 

Belarusian: ігра ‎(ihra)
Russian: игра ‎(igra)
Ukrainian: гра ‎(hra)
Bulgarian: игра ‎(igra)
Macedonian: игра ‎(igra)
Serbo-Croatian: игра (igra)
Slovene: igra
Old Czech: jhra
Czech: hra
Polabian: jagréića
Old Polish: igra
Polish: gra
Slovak: hra, ihra
Slovincian: gra
Upper Sorbian: jhra, hra
Lower Sorbian: gra, igra

The etymology of this word is unknown. This word has no cognates outside of Slavic languages (that I know of)…

Now are these two words related? I think so because in some dialects of Serbian we have another version of the word “igra”: “sigra”. This word also means “play, game”. And the verb derived from this word is “sigrat”, “sigrati” meaning “to play, to dance, to have fun”.

So we have:

Slavic wide: “igra”, “igrat”
Serbian only: “sigra”, “sigrat”
Irish: “súgradh”

All meaning 

“play, game” and “to play, to dance, to have fun”

What do you think? Coincidence?

According to the latest archaeological data, Balkans and particularly the territory of today’s Serbia was a mayor Celtic (Gaulic) stronghold between the 4th and the 1st century bc. I wrote about this in my post “Bran – Vran“. The genetic data from the Balkans is showing that the descendants of these Celts are still living in the Balkans, Slavicised and mixed with many other people into Serbians. Maybe this is why it is in the Serbian language that we find words like “sigra” which is the link between the Irish “súgradh” and the Slavic “igra”…

Curing = Smoking

There is a Serbian proverb which says: “Ko se dima ne nadimi, taj se vatre ne nagreje”. It means: “Who doesn’t get smoked, doesn’t get warm”. The proverb simply states the fact that from the moment people started using fires inside roofed dwellings, the inside of these dwellings looked, pretty much permanently, like this:

Or like this:
The above two pictures were taken recently in Croatia, inside of two traditional houses with a built in hearths used for traditional cooking. Nice and cosy and smoky. 
The problem is that until very recently, houses had hearths and or stoves but didn’t have chimneys.
This is a hearth in a reconstructed Iron Age round house.

This is a 19th century Serbian house from Dinara region:

This is a hearth in a 20th century house in Montenegro.

The smoke created by burning of wood or peat inside of the hearth or the oven had no other way of escaping except through the pores and openings in the roof or through the door. This would have filled the inside of the houses with smoke and would have made the houses from the outside look like they were on fire. You can see the smoke escaping through the roof and the door.
If you for instance approached an Iron Age roundhouse village, or any other village with thatched houses, you would have seen something like this:
Iron age village from “The Romano-British Peasant

The fire in the Neolithic, Bronze and Iron Age and Medieval houses was pretty much never extinguished. It was constantly smouldering. Preserving of the house fire was one of the most important duties of the housewife. This means that the house was always smoky. Interestingly, the smoke permeating the roof actually protected the roof from rotting as it killed bacteria and moulds. A big problem in these archaeological parks today is that because there is no permanently smoking fire, the roofs rot away very quickly.

During the winter, I would guess, the house doors were shut, so even more smoke gathered inside of the house and slowly drifted upwards towards the roof. And up there, under the roof, on the supporting beams, people hang fish, meat and skins. Why? Well in the same way the smoke killed bacteria and molds in the thatch, it did the same with the bacteria and moulds in meat turning it into smoked meat.

 
This type of meat curing, preservation is still used today. This is a picture of an inside of the typical private smoke house from the Balkans. The meat is first covered in salt and left to absorb salt from 10 – 20 days and it is only then smoked. This makes the final product much more resistant to bacteria and therefore more durable.

The smoke from the hearths and ovens would also have helped preserve animal skins and turn them into smoked skins (buckskin, leather).

Buckskin is the soft, pliable, porous preserved hide of an animal which is used for making clothes and bedding. In order to make Buckskin from a raw hide, you first need to scrape the hide to remove any flesh remains. Then you need to tan the hide using any emulsified fat, such as egg yolks or the animal’s brain mixed into water. After this you need to stretch and dry the hide which involves continuous pulling and stretching of the hide in all directions, which lubricates the fibers of the hide with the oil of the dressing, and ensures that the fibers stay lubricated. Finally, the dry skin which should now be totally supple and soft, has to be smoked, in order to make it washable and resistant to water.

You can see how this all fits inside of a typical Iron Age roundhouse on this picture:

So it turns out that, probably by chance, people realized that smoking meat and skins preserves them, protects them from rotting. No wonder then that smoke has been used to preserve and flavour food and treat leather since a very long time ago. How long time ago is long time ago? No one knows really, but I would venture to say that the intentional use of smoking for preserving food and skin was probably already used in late Paleolithic, early Mesolithic period of human history.

And here is where we come to linguistics. In English, the word for preserving meat and skin using smoking is “curing”.

When we look up the word “cure” in the English Etymological Dictionary it tell us this:

A process of preservation, as by smoking. In reference to fish, pork, etc., first recorded 1743.”

So what was the process of curing meat using smoke called before 1743 I don’t know. I would be grateful if someone would clarify this for me. Before 1743, the word “curing” was used with the meaning: 

“Act of healing or state of being healed; restoration to health from disease, or to soundness after injury, a method, device or medication that restores good health. first recorded in late 14c.” 

The English word “cure” comes from Old French “curer” meaning “care, cure, healing, cure of souls”, which comes from Latin “cura” ((archaic) coira, coera) meaning “care, concern, thought; trouble, solicitude; anxiety, grief, sorrow, attention, management, administration, charge, care, command, office, guardianship, medical attendance, healing, rearing, culture, care, an attendant, guardian, observer”

But where does this Latin word come from? Well, the English Etymological dictionary says: “a noun of unknown origin“…

Let’s see if we can find the origin of this mysterious word. 

The original meaning of the verb “to care” was “to care for”,  basically “to keep alive”, “to preserve”. We take care of someone or something that is dear to us, precious to us, and which is not able to take care of itself, like a child, a sick or wounded person, a young domestic animal. So what does “caring for” something or someone involve? Well basically it means keeping this something or someone dry, warm, feeding it, cleaning it, sheltering it from wind and rain, protecting it, making sure that nothing bad is done to it and that it doesn’t do anything bad to itself and its surrounding (like wreck the place if what you care for are children or young animals). Basically “caring for” means keeping alive. The “caring for” something or someone is a full time job and requires staying in and around the shelter, house all the time. And this is why the “caring for” was always the job of women. They “cared for” children, sick and wounded and young animals. Men “took care of” jobs that needed to be done, flocks, crops, land, and later towns, states…but with male duties the original meaning of “care for” was gradually lost and was turned into passive “worry” or active “manage”…And this is what we are left with today pretty much. We “care” for so many things, we even occasionally “take care of” as thing or two, but we rarely “care for” anyone or anything. 

Anyway, in the past, apart from caring for children, sick and wounded and young animals, women cared for another very important thing: fire. Fire in the house hearth was one of the most precious things which had to be constantly cared for, and never ever be allowed to die. This behaviour has been recorded by ethnographers everywhere in Evroasia even in the 20th century, and it comes to us straight from the Paleolithic, and maybe even Mesolithic times, when people didn’t know how to make fire. Fire had to be found, a natural fire from a thunder strike or a forest fire, and then carefully preserved by caring for it. The caring for fire was so important that it was elevated to a level of a religious duty. Every household would care for their own house fire, but temples would would also care for the village or town fire which also should never have been allowed to die. Even after people discovered reliable ways of making fire, this belief in sacredness of fire and caring for fire remained in beliefs related to heath fire. 

So how do you care for fire? Well in exactly the same way you care for children, sick and wounded and the young animals. Basically caring for fire means keeping fire dry, warm, feeding it wood, cleaning it from ash, sheltering it from wind and rain, protecting it, making sure that nothing bad is done to it and that it doesn’t do anything bad to itself and its surrounding (like burn the place down). The most important part of caring for fire is feeding it wood, basically keeping the fire alive, keeping it burning. 

In Slavic languages we have a word “kur” which means “to burn, to smoke, to heat”:

Proto-Slavic kur – to burn, to smoke, to heat.
Church-Slavonic: коурити, коурити (kouriti), krada – fireplace, hearth
Russian: кури́ть ‎(kurítʹ) – to smoke (tobacco etc.), to burn, produce smoke by burning something, to distil, куре́ние ‎(kurénije) – smoking, incense
Ukrainian: кури́ти (kuriti) – to burn, produce smoke by burning something
Bulgarian: ку́рна (kurna) – to light up
Serbian, Croatian, Bosnian: ку́рити (kuriti) – to burn, to heat, to kindle, to persuade
Slovenian: kúriti – to burn, heat up
Czech: kouřit – to burn, produce smoke by burning something
Slovakian: kúriť – to burn, produce smoke by burning something
Polish: kurzyć, kurzę – to burn, produce smoke by burning something
Lusatian: kurić, kuriś – to burn, produce smoke by burning something

This word has cognates in:

Lithuanian: kùrti – to kindle, light up, heat up (kuriti, goreti – “to burn” in Slavic languages); kuriù – to heat up (kuri, gori u- “burns in” in Slavic languages); karštas – hot (gori šta – “which burns” in Slavic languages); krosnis – oven
Latvian: kurt – heat (kuri, gori tu (to)- “burns there  (that) in Slavic languages)
Finish: hurja – fierce, fiery (kuri, gori – burns in Slavic languages)
Gothic: haúri – coal (kuri, gori – burns in Slavic languages)
Old Norse: hyrr – fire (kuri, gori – burns in Slavic languages)
Norman, Old French, Middle French: cuire, cuyre – to cook (kuri, gori – burns in Slavic languages)

Latin: cremo – I consume or destroy by fire, burn, I burn something to ashes; cremate, I make a burnt offering (kurim, gorim – I burn in Slavic languages); carbo – charcoal, coal (gorivo – fuel in Slavic languages)
Sanskrit: कृष्ण ‎(kṛṣṇa) – burnt, black

The above Slavic word “kur” to burn is another variant of the Slavic word “gor” meaning to burn, about which I already wrote in my post about warmth, fire, sun. Like the word “kur” the root “gor” also has cognates in other Indoeuropean languages, but it seems to be best preserved in Slavic languages and Irish.

Here is just an example group from this cluster from Serbian and Irish:
Irish:

goraim -, I heat, warm, burn; bask; hatch.
gorim – warm

gor – warmth

garadh – warm 
goradh –  act of burning; blushing; heat; déan do ghoradh, take a shin heat, incubation, keeping warm
garamhail – useful, profitable, neighborly; warm, snug, friendly;
gorai – place where chicks come out of eggs
gríos – embers, hot ashes; heat; fire; pimples, blotches, spots or rash on the skin;
gríosach – aighe, pl. -acha, f., fire, burning embers; ashes containing small coals of fire; glowing
griosagh – fire

Serbian: 

gori – burns; goreti = gori ti = it burns, to burn
gorim – I am burning
gori – burns
grejan, grijan – heated, warm
gorionik – burner, torch
gorešnjak – big heat, hot weather
gorotina – what burns, burned place
gariti – to burn, to rush, to go fast
nagariti – put branches into the fire, feed the fire
garište – place where the fire used to burn
zgarište – something burned down

zgoreljak – something burned

So we have the Indoeuropean root word “cur, gor” meaning “to burn, to make and keep warm”. Compare this to the Latin word “cur, coir” meaning to “care for” Is it possible that these two words are connected? And is it possible then that the verb “to cure” meaning “to preserve by smoking” is related to the word “kur, gor” meaning “to burn, to smoke”? I think so. What do you think?