Thursday, 8 November 2018

Cross between hockey and murder

The most popular sport in Ireland is Hurling. I don't mean puking. Although that is also quite popular.

Hurling (in Irish Iomànàìocht) is one of the fastest field ball games in the world.

Every team has 15 players: 1 goalkeeper, 6 backs, 2 midfielders and 6 forwards.

They use wooden flat sticks called "hurlies" (in Irish Camàn) which they use to hit a leather ball (in Irish sliotar). 


The players can catch the ball with their hands, carry it for not more than four steps, strike it in the air or on the ground with the hurley.

The objective is to pass the ball through the other team's goal in order to score (a goal is worth 3 points).

The pitch is 130-140 metres long and 80-90 metres wide. The match lasts for 70 minutes.

This game was once described as a "cross between hockey and murder". This is why:




What these guys are trying to do is catch, with their bare hand, a hard leather ball, flying over 100km per hour, while the other guys around them are trying to hit it with a metal reinforced wooden battle axe like sticks. Broken fingers and hands are a common "minor" injury. Broken noses and split heads were also a regular occurrence before a metal helmets with wire face protector were introduced.


Originally players refused to wear the helmets and had to be forced to use them....

The history of hurling is very long, possibly stretching back over three millennia. Or longer. That is if we are to trust the dating in the Irish Annals.

The 13th/14th century tale Cath Mhaigh Tuireadh Chunga (The Second Battle of Moytura) describes a battle between the ancient tribes Tuatha De Danna and the Fir Bolg that took place at Moytura, County Mayo. At some point in the four day of the battle the Fir Bolgs took the time to challenge the Tuatha De Danann to a game of hurling, three times nine Fir Bolgs played against a similar number of Tuatha De Danann, many Tuatha were killed and a rock or cairn was erected on the spot where the hero had perished. The field where these rocks lay (only the foundation now remains) is called "The Field of the Hurlers".

This mythical match supposedly took place during the Bronze Age, in 1072 BC.

As I have shown in my article about the "Partholon and the great flood", and other articles about the early Bronze Age links between the Balkans and Ireland, the Irish Annals were pretty spot on when it came to dating events that happened in the 3rd millennium BC. This can be confirmed by archaeological evidence. So I have no doubts that their dating of the Second Battle of Moytura is also accurate.

Next we have the tale of the Táin Bó Cuailgne preserved in the 12th century manuscript but probably originating in the Irish Iron Age (500 BC – 400 AD). In it we find a description of the hero Cúchulainn playing hurling with his friends at Emain Macha.

Interestingly in the same epic we find a story about how Cúchulainn (whose original name was Setanta) got his nickname Cú Culann (the hound of Culann). Basically Setanta killed the hound belonging to the Culann the blacksmith by striking it with his sliotar (ball) which he hit with his Camàn (stick). To repay the debt to the blacksmith, Setanta offered to replace the hound and become himself Cú Culann (the hound of Culann).

This is not the only time when Cú Chulainn used his hurley to inflict violence on someone. It seems that hurley was used as a very effective weapon. In "Táin Bó Cúalnge Recension 1" we can read another story in which Cú Chulainn "...rose to his feet, and, striking off his opponent's head with his hurley, he began to drive the head like a ball before him across the plain..."

I believe that hurling was once a martial game, designed to develop fighting abilities in the Irish aristocratic youth: speed, precision, hand eye coordination, game sense and core and limb strength, all things necessary to play hurling well. But also all things necessary to survive close quarter combat armed with a sword.

The following sequence of images makes it easy to see how a good hurler could be a very good close combat fighter.





That hurling was indeed part of the martial arts training of the young Irish warriors during the Iron Age and Early medieval time, can be seen from tales which were told about Fionn Mac Cumhail and the Fianna, his legendary warrior band. Early references mention the "Fiancluichi" (Fianna games), a series of violent (stick and ball and other) games for aristocratic (and hence warrior) youths. More info can be found in "Shillelagh: The Irish Fighting Stick" by John W. Hurley.

Hurling, together with some 20 other stick and ball games is discussed in Brehon Law, the native Irish system of law, which developed from customs and which was passed on orally from one generation to the next until it was finally written down in the 7th century AD. The Brehon Law tract called "Meallbreatha" (Judgements related to games) lists rules and regulation related to stick and ball  games most of which resemble hurling.

In "Warriors, Legends and Heroes – the archaeology of hurling, in Archaeology Ireland" by Aidan O’ Sullivan, we read that:

Possible representations of hurling from early medieval time are found on two high crosses from Kells and Monsterboice, which date from 9th/10th centuries AD. On each of these crosses a biblical panel is depicted which illustrates David killing a lion with what appears to be a curved stick and ball. The killing instrument should in fact be a sling, but it appears that a hurley was chosen instead as it may have been more familiar to an Irish audience who used it as weapon.

Kells cross


Monsterboice cross


We also have records that hurling was still played in medieval Ireland.

13th century Statute of Kilkenny forbids hurling due to excessive violence, stating further that the English settlers of the Pale would be better served to practice archery and fencing in order to repel the attacks of the Gaelic Clans.

A 15th-century grave slab from Inishowen, County Donegal of a Scottish gallowglass (mercenary) warrior named Manas Mac Mhoiresdean of Iona, has carvings of a claymore sword, a camàn stick and a sliotar.


Now this slab is very interesting.

The camàn stick engraved on the above slab is much narrower than the modern hurling stick. This is why most people assume the stick is a shinty stick. But this is a photo of an actual hurling stick made of alder-wood, found in a bog at Derries, near Edenderry, Co. Offaly and radiocarbon dated to the 15th-17th century. It is currently held in the Folklife Collection of the National Museum of Ireland. It also is narrow.


The modern wide hurling stick only became standard in the late 19th century, when the rules of the modern game were first codified by the Gaelic Athletic Association.

This image from Folklife Collection book by Art O’Maolfabhail shows a range of hurleys from different parts of the country from the end of the 19th beginning of the 20th century.


In the 1973 book "Caman 2,000 Years of Hurling in Ireland an Attempt to Trace the History and Development of the Stick-and-ball Game in Ireland During the Past 2,000 Years" by Art O Maolfabhail, we can read that prior to this rules codification there were actually two hurling traditions on the island of Ireland. In the north of the country a winter game, very similar to modern Scottish shinty, was played mainly on the ground with a narrow stick and a hard ball. The second form of the game, or Leinster hurling, was played with a broader hurley and a softer ball and was much more like the modern game. Players could pick up the ball, catch and strike it as well as soloing down the field. Although the GAA used both forms as an inspiration for the game it organised in the late nineteenth century, Leinster hurling had more of an influence in the evolution of the game.

So considering that the above slab is from the north of Ireland, the stick was probably used for playing the northern hurling. 

In the post-medieval period hurling continued to prosper. Even the Anglo-Irish gentry were known to have organised big matches which drew large crowds.

In "A history of hurling" by S. J. King  we can read that in 1792, "a hurling match took place in the Phoenix Park’, Dublin in front of a vast 'concourse of spectators', with ‘much agility and athletic contention, until the spectators forced into the playing ground"

In "Flight from Famine: The Coming of the Irish to Canada" by Donald MacKay we can read that in 1827, a game at Callan, Co. Kilkenny was described like this: "It was a good game. The sticks were being brandished like swords. You could hear the sticks striking the ball from one end of the Green to the other"

Finally in 1881 the GAA (Gaelic Athletic Association) was formed, the game was standardised and the rest is, well a history.

In my next post I will talk about other stick and ball games and how they are related to hurling. Spoiler alert, I will try to explain why I believe that they all descend from Iron Age hurling. 


Thursday, 18 October 2018

St Paul among the Slavs

This is a fourth century painting of St. Paul. Paul's dress, the scroll in his hands, and the container with more scrolls at his feet, all identify Paul as a philosopher, a teacher.



During the first half of the first century AD, St Paul traveled all over the Balkans teaching the Gospel of Christ to the local population.

The first place in Europe visited by St Paul and his followers was Filipi, the biggest city in the Roman povince of Macedonia. Christianity was the "city faith" and so it is not a surprise that St Paul preached mainly in cities along major Roman roads. He first followed Via Ignatia, the main road leading West into Europe from Bosphorus. Following this road he arrives to Thesaloniki, a big port where Via Ignatia meets Via Militaris, the main Roman road going north. Following this road St Paul travels through Vardar and Morava valey and visits Skupija (Skopje), Ulpijana (Lipljan), Naisus (Niš), Remizijana (Bela Palanka) and finally he and his followers arrived to Viminacijum (Stari Kostolac) the main city of the Roman Province of Upper Mezia, which lied next to Danube. They then follow river Danube westward and pass through Singidunum (Belgrade).  One part of St Paul's entourage then follows river Danube towards North Western Europe. The other part with St Paul himself, follow river Sava and arrived to Sirmijum (Sremska Mitrovica).


All these Roman towns become major early Christian centres.

After the end of his Balkan travels, in the winter of AD 57–58, St Paul wrote the letter to Romans in which he says this:

"Through mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God; so that from Jerusalem, and round about to Illyricum, I have fully preached the gospel of Christ..."

How far west did St Paul go into Illyricum? Well we don't really know. But we know that he did go through the Roman town of Burnum. 

This is Krka monastery, in northern Dalmatia, today in Croatia.



There is a legend preserved among the Serbs living in the area, that the monastery was built on the spot where apostle Paul preached to the local population while he was traveling through Roman province of Illyricum, which at the time comprised of Dalmatia and Panonia.

Bishop Nikodim Milaš says in his book "Pravoslavna Dalmacija" (Orthodox Dalmatia):

"This legend says that St Paul, traveling from the east to Rome, traveled on the road, which passed by old Roman town of Burnum (...), and that he stopped next to the river Titius (today Krka) and preached the gospel of Christ. The legend specifies the exact place where that happened and that is the same place where today we find the monastery dedicated to Archangel Michael located on the banks of the river Krka. The first person who recorded this legend was famous Dalmatian historian J. Lucije, who in 17th century wrote that ne knew an old epigraph cut into a wooden panel in Slavic tongue, which was kept in the said monastery, and which testified of the St Paul's travles through Dalmatia."

Bishop Nikodim Milaš then goes to say, that based on the testemony of the 18th century monk Gašpara Vinjalić, there once was an old history book in which there were verses in Slavic tongue commemorating the place where St Paul preached, and specifying that this probably happened in 65 AD.

The legend about St Paul spreading gospel in Dalmatia is also mentioned by Italian travelogue writer Alberto Fortis in his book "Traveling through Dalmatia" buplished in 1774, and by Italian historian C. F. Bianchi in his book "Zara cristiana". Bianchi says that "In the church of the Krka monastery, until the end of the 18th century existed an ancient picture depicting St Paul preaching to the Dalmatians. The inscriptions on that picture were in Slavic tongue and the Dalmatians were dressed in the local dress"

This Christianisation of the Balkans performed by St Paul during the first part of the first century was preserved in the local Slavic tradition particularly Serbian tradition.

Now which people did St Paul convert to Christianity in Illyricum? Illyrians of course...But who were Illyrians?


The Russian Primary Chronicle is a history of Kievan Rus' from about 850 to 1110, originally compiled in Kiev about 1113.



In it there is a part that talks about St Paul baptising Slavs. In Illyricum!

"...He traveled among the Moravians, and the Apostle Paul taught there likewise. For in that region is Illyricum, whither Paul first repaired and where the Slavs originally lived. Since Paul is the teacher of the Slavic race, from which we Russians too are sprung, even so the Apostle Paul is the teacher of us Russians, for he preached to the Slavic nation, and appointed Andronicus as Bishop and successor to himself among them. But the Slavs and the Russes are one people, for it is because of the Varangians that the latter became known as Rus’, though originally they were Slavs..."

This is extremely interesting, because of a legend which was preserved among the people from Polesye, the vast marshy woodland area straddling the Belarus–Ukraine border.


This legend goes like this:

"Serb tribes were great enemies of the Romans. Finally a Roman emperor got really angry and sent an army to attack them. The Serbs were driven out of their homeland and came and settled down here, in the Pinsk Marshes, in Polesye..."

Interestingly, this same area is by some historians marked as the birth place of Slavs, from which they spread westward in the 5th century AD. 


So how can we understand all this data put together?

Like this?

1. St Paul comes to Illyricum in the 1st half of the 1st century AD (Letter to Romans). 
2. There he baptises Slavs (Serbs?) who at that time lived in Illyricum, their old country (Russian Primary Chronicle). 
3. Serbs (Slavs?) were great enemies of the Romans. Some of them were (at some stage after the 1st half of the 1st century AD) expelled by the Romans from Illyricum and fled to Polesye (Polesye legend), while others surrendered to the Romans and stayed in Illyricum.
4. Serbs (Slavs?) who fled to Polesye return to the Balkans starting from the 5th century AD.

What do you think?

Are these legends just a product of romantic Slavic nationalism?

Well there is another source that talks about Slavs being baptised by St Paul in Illyricum during the 1st century AD. And this source is anything but Slavic or pro Slavic. 

Illyricum sacrum is a multi-volume historical work written in Latin dealing with history of the Catholic Church in the Balkans. 


The work was published in eight volumes in the period 1751-1819, with the ninth tome printed in the period 1902-1919 as an appendix to Frane Bulić's Bulletino di archeologia e storia dalmata.

The first five volumes (issued 1751-1775) were authored by Daniele Farlati; the volumes 6 (1800) and 7 (1817), were coauthored by Jacopo Coleti, who also published the last volume in 1819.

In "Ilyricum sacrum" Farlati quotes a letter from Pope John X who was Pope in the 10th century, from 914 to 928. In this letter, the Pope identifies Balkan Slavic rulers from his time as descendants of those Illyrians who, even in apostolic times, received Christianity directly from the apostles.

Pope John X, writing about the bishopric in Salona (today's Solin and Split) says in his letter to Tomislav of Croatia and Mihail of Zahumlje (Serbia): "Slavic kingdom which was in the early days of the apostles and the universal church mentioned as the cradle of the apostolic church which received the meat and milk of faith..." ("...Sclavianorum regna in primitiis Apostolorum et universalis ecclesiae esse commemorata, quum a cunabulis escam praedicationis apostolicae ecclesiae perceperunt cum lacte fidei...") (Ilyricum sacrum 11.94)

What Slavic Kingdom in Dalmatia in the 1st Century AD?!

Pope John X was definitely not a friend of the Slavs or Slavic culture. The letter he wrote to the Slavic rulers of Illyricum contained an order that a Slavic language be banned from churches and replaced by Latin. He had no reason to invent the link between the 10th century AD Serbs and Croats and the 1st century AD Illyrians. So the only reason why Pope John X would have said something like that was because this was at his time a common undisputed knowledge...

Now what do you think about all this?



Monday, 1 October 2018

Church on a threshing floor

Židovar is an archeological site near Vršac, Northern Serbia. The earliest archeological finds from the site date from the early Bronze Age and the latest ones date from the 1st half of the 1st century AD.



The site is located on the 5000 square meters flat top of a 40 meter tall hill overlooking today dry Karaš river valley.

Originally it was thought that the name Židovar comes from Židov (Jew) making Židovar the place of the Jews.

However recent archaeological excavation results point at another possible etymology. It turns out that the top of the hill was used as "gumno" (a threshing floor). 




Threshing floor is the place where wheat (žito in Serbian) is threshed. Threshing is the process of separating the stalks of hay from the mixture of grains and scaly husks. Hay is put into haystacks and the grain and chaff mixture is then separated through process of winnowing. Threshing is the last part of the harvest (žetva in Serbian). So Židovar could actually be corruption of Žitovar, (the place of grain) or Žetvar (the place of harvest, threshing floor).

At its heyday, during the period between the 3rd and 1st century BC, a Celtic oppidium stood on top of the hill protected with walls and ditches. This was the period when Scordisci federation ruled much of the today's Serbia.

During the excavations of the youngest archaeological layers in Židovar conducted in 1990's, archaeologists discovered a hoard of jewellery.



The hoard consisted of:


Amber beads

Bear teeth pendants


As well as 163 silver items:

Fibulae "Jarak" type



Rings




Bird shape pendants


Other pendants

Chains


Rasors



And finally three boxes



All this jewellery was identified as Celtic. 

Some of the the items are indeed undoubtedly Celtic, like fibulae and silver pendants.  But there is a question mark over the identification of other items as Celtic. For instance what makes amber beads and bear teeth pendants Celtic? Or for instance the rings? What makes these rings Celtic? Or the razors? What makes a razor Celtic? Even bigger question mark is over the identification of the silver boxes as Celtic.  Archaeologists interpreted this cross as a Celtic solar cross dedicated to Taranis and classified them as Celtic jewellery boxes.  But there is no such thing as Celtic cross. There is of course Taranis wheel and examples of this votive wheel were found in the Balkan Celtic settlements. Like this one:


So if these silver boxes were not made by Celts then who made them, when, and why do they have cross on their tops?

One of the people who questioned the identification of these boxes as Celtic was Professor Dr Đorđe Janković from Belgrade University, who died in 2016. He argued that although most of the objects from the hoard were indeed made by Celts some time during 2nd - 1st century BC, the silver boxes, were made much later, during the 1st century AD.

And he suggested that the correct dating of these silver boxes is crucially important for understanding the true importance of the Zidovar archaeological site.

As you can see from the above pictures, the silver boxes were all the same: round with a filigree cross on the top. Two boxes were found intact. And inside of one of the boxes, archaeologists found something very surprising: two bronze rings, one smaller than the other.


Most people ignored this find. But some asked this question: why would someone use such an expensive beautifully decorated silver box to store two plain cheep bronze rings? It made no sense unless these rings had some other, non material value.

And then someone looked at the rings closer and saw they had three symbols engraved on them: fish, good shepherd and palm branch!

Professor Dr Đorđe Janković argued that these symbols made absolutely no sense in Celtic world of the 2nd and 1st century BC. But they made a lot of sense in Christian world of the 1st century AD. These were all early Christian symbols. Which means that these were rings worn by Christians. And the fact that the rings were different sizes suggested that they were possibly wedding rings. A pair of Christian wedding rings, with Christian symbols, kept together in a silver jewellery box with a christian cross on it's top. 

The jewellery hoard was found in a large building with whitewashed walls, dated to the 1st century AD. Because of this Professor Dr Đorđe Janković asked whether this building was an early Christian church: Is it possible that at the end of its existence, in the first half of the 1st century AD, Židovar was a Christian centre with a Christian church where Christian rituals, such as weddings were performed? 

All the early churches were basically just private houses used for worship. Remember we are talking about the time before Christianity became official religion of the Roman Empire. Like the officially oldest discovered Christian church "the Dura-Europos church". In the Wiki article about the oldest church in the world we can read this: "The Dura-Europos church (also known as the Dura-Europos house church) is the earliest identified Christian house church. It is located in Dura-Europos in Syria. It is one of the earliest known Christian churches, and was apparently a normal domestic house converted for worship some time between 233 and 256..."

So it is perfectly possible that the building in which the Christian rings were found could have been a "private house used for Christian worship" or early church. 

If so, this would be the oldest Christian church discovered in Europe and if not the oldest, then one of the oldest Christian churches discovered in the world...

And that would make Židovar one of the most important archaeological sites in the world...

Interesting don't you think?

Friday, 21 September 2018

Equilibrium

Libra (♎) is the seventh astrological sign in the Zodiac. Under the tropical zodiac, Sun transits this area on average between (northern autumnal equinox) September 22 (23) and October 23.



The ruling planet of Libra is Venus. Libra is the only zodiac constellation in the sky represented by an inanimate object.

The Libra sign follows the Virgo sign.


We could almost say that Virgo (Lady) "holds" Libra (Scales) in her hands.




Libra is also another Zodiac sign which can help us understand the true nature of the Zodiac. Which is that the Zodiac is Solar and not Stellar system of signs.

I have already written several article explaining how zodiac sings mark periods of time when important natural events happen during Solar year. These events are linked to the climatic changes in temperate zones of Evroasia and occur every year at more or less the same time. And are not in any way affected by any other star except our own, our Sun.

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 temperate zones of Evroasia.  

Aries -  Ram marks the wild European sheep lambing period 
Taurus - Bull marks the wild European cattle calving period
Pisces - Fish marks the spring run of the European Atlantic salmon
Capricorn - Goat marks the Alpine wild goat mating season
Sagittarius - Hunter marks the beginning of the fur hunting season (end of agricultural work and end of autumn moulting (fur change))

You can read more about this in my posts "Ram and Bull", "Fishes", "Goat", "Hunter"

These events occur every year at the same time, during the time period marked by the images of these animals. And these events are not in any way affected by any star. And they are not in any way influenced by the precession. 

But what about Libra? How does it fit into this fixed Solar zodiac?

Well the part of the Solar year marked by the Libra zodiac sign start the day after the Autumn Equinox. Autumn Equinox marks the moment when day and night are of the equal length. 




The day after the Autumn Equinox, night becomes longer than day. This is the moment when the feminine principles (dark, cold, wet), the Yin principles of Mother Earth, finally overpower the masculine principles (bright, hot, dry), the Yang principles of Father Sun. 



I talked about this in my post "Yin and Yang". 

From that day the scales tip and Mother Earth, The Lady, The Virgo, becomes dominant force in the Sun - Earth system. 


This event, the tipping of the equilibrium of day and night in favour of night, occurs every Solar year at the same time (22nd of September). And this event is not affected by stars and is not influenced by precession. It is firmly fixed on the Solar circle. 

And this is why we find the Zodiac sign Libra where it is. To mark this event. 

So what do you think of all this?

Saturday, 15 September 2018

Sacrificial animals


On this picture you see "badnjak" (Serbian Yule log, a young oak sapling which is ritually cut on Christmas Eve morning and is then ritually brought into the house on Christmas Eve) and "pečenica" a pig on a spit which is ritually slaughtered on Christmas Eve, roasted and then brought into the house with badnjak.

In Serbian ritual tradition there is a very specific rule which specifies which animal should be sacrificed for which religious holiday. 

Christmas - pig is slaughtered, roasted and eaten by the family (always)
St George's day - sheep is slaughtered, roasted and eaten by the family (always)
St Elijah's day - bull is slaughtered, roasted and eaten by the family (only in exceptional circumstances of devastating draughts. Normally it is a cockerel which is slaughtered, roasted and eaten by the family)


Two things are interesting here. 


Roman tradition preserves both the archaic religious function of the pig as a fertility symbol and its place in the hierarchy of sacrificial animals. The sequence of sacrificial animals in archaic Roman tradition was given by the formula su-oue-taurilia ‘pig-sheep-bull’, in order of increasing importance. In the text of Cato discussing the sacrifice of unweaned animals ( suouetaurilia lactentia ), the sequence is porcus-agnus-uitulus ‘piglet-lamb-calf. This sequence of sacred sacrificial animals must reflect the significance and relative weighting of each animal in the economy. Interestingly, an analogous enumeration of sacred sacrificial animals in Sanskrit tradition does not mention pigs at all; their place is taken by goats (Dumezil 1966:238, 530). It is important that in cultures with developed swineherding that is dominant over sheepherding (as in many ancient Indo-European cultures, in particular early Slavic culture), the pig stands before the sheep in such listings (for East Slavic fairytales see Ivanov and Toporov 1974:39).

It can be concluded that the Romans preserved the ancient Indo-European practice whereby pigs, although they had an important economic function, were nonetheless ranked last in the hierarchy of relative economic weight, behind horses, bulls, and sheep. Of the Indo-European cultures known to us from archeological data, the Scytho-Sarmatian tribes of the northern Black Sea area in the first millennium B.C. are among the groups in which pigs in fact are the least important element in the livestock (Calkin 1966:74).

This is the important bit:

The sequence of sacrificial animals in archaic Roman tradition was given by the formula su-oue-taurilia ‘pig-sheep-bull’, in order of increasing importance.

Second have a look at this diagram linking Serbian sacrificial animals to the stages of the Sun god marked on the Solar circle:

You can see that Serbs strictly follow the above Archaic Roman (Indoeuropean) rule of more important animal being sacrificed to more important aspect of the sun god:

Pig - Baby sun
Sheep - Young sun
Bull - Old sun

Now here is something even more interesting. In the above excerpt the second highlighted part says:

Interestingly, an analogous enumeration of sacred sacrificial animals in Sanskrit tradition does not mention pigs at all; their place is taken by goats

You can see how in Serbian tradition the order of the sacrificial animals is tightly tied to the solar wheel. Now have a look at this:

Goat marks the beginning of the solar year, Ram follows then Bull...

Interesting don't you think?


Saturday, 8 September 2018

Mountain Serbs of Montenegro

Anthropologist Chris Boehm spent 3 years, between 1963 and 1966, doing fieldwork in Montenegro in Gornja Morača region. He called the people that he encountered there "Mountain Serbs of Montenegro".


At the time Chris was there in the mid 1960's, Gornja Morača Tribe numbering 1800 people lived isolated at the headwaters of the Morača River seven hours by foot from the nearest road.


Firewood had to be brought from far away on foot. This was usually women's job.


The Gornja Morača area is a karst country. Arable land is scarce and fields are small. In the 60's these fields were still worked in the same way they had been worked since medieval time.


At home babies slept swaddled in wooden cots. 


Life in villages in Gornja Morača in 1960's involved a lot of hard work outside of the house done by both men and women. If a mother had to go out and do some work, like get water from a well o firewood from a forest (or both) the baby was carried around on their mother's back.


People from Gornja Morača kept small flocks of sheep. The flocks grazed on high mountain pastures which were exposed to extreme weather conditions year round. 


The sheep were of the type Pivska pramenka, a long tailed coarse wool, typical mountain breed, well adapted to severe conditions of rearing


Every household usually had few cows too, of the buša type, a small tough mountain breed, which was used as a working animal.


Horses were used for transport. They belonged to a local hilly horse breed, tough animals used to hard mountain terrain and harsh climate. 


106 years old man from Gornja Morača in front of his house. He insisted on changing into his "burial clothes", traditional local dress, before being interviewed by the anthropologist


In 1960's, a typical house from Gornja Morača was a single room stone hut covered with wooden slates. 


The centre of the house was open hearth like this one used for heating and cooking.


When the walls of a new house were built Gornja Morača, just before the roof work began, a lamb was sacrificed on top of the wall to ensure that the house would stand for a long time.


Local church was the focal point of the Gornja Morača community. All important tribal events took place on the plateau in front of the church. Kolo (traditional circle dance) was often part of the event.


Tribal graveyard is located on a hill top overlooked by high mountain peaks. The ancient oak in the middle of the graveyard is considered sacred. Cutting it or any part of it is considered sacrilegious. Even collecting naturally fallen branches is forbidden.


The graveyard is very old and has many ancient tombstones of unknown age.


It is the isolated communities like this one that have preserved some of the oldest cultural traits in Europe. No wonder considering that they were literally living hidden from the rest of the world in the land above the clouds...