Wednesday, 29 June 2016

I(r)celand

St Brendan and his "team"
Both Ireland and Northern Ireland have bombed out of the EURO 2016. But if you are Irish, there is another Irish team still in competition which you can support: Iceland.

"eee what?" I can hear you say... Let me explain:

If you have watched the EURO 2016, you must have seen Icelandic team and supporters doing their amazing "Viking battle chant". This is a great recording of it performed by the Iceland supporters after Iceland beat England 2:1.



This "Viking battle chant" which has become synonymous with the Icelandic fans at EURO 2016 has become quite a world sensation. But believe or not this chant has nothing to do with the Vikings. It originated in Scotland. Fans of Stjarnan, a Reykjavik based team, fell in love with the chant during a game they played in Motherwell in 2014. The chant has apparently been performed on the terraces at Motherwell Fir Park stadium for years. The Stjarnan supporters adopted the chant as their own and later it was also adopted by the Icelandic national team supporters. They started performing it during the EURO 2016 qualifying campaign and it has since became firmly associated with the Icelandic team. This is a great example of a cultural transfer. 

But this is not the only thing "Vikings" picked up in Scotland and Ireland and took with them to Iceland. 

When the settlement of Iceland got underway some time around 800AD, it seems that there were a lot of Gaelic people among the original settlers. Genetic analysis has shown that a quarter of the men and up to half of the women among the founding population would have been of "Gaelic" origin. 

The study included 181 Icelanders, 233 Scandinavians and 283 "Gaels" from Ireland and Scotland. "Gaelic" was the preferred term in the study, given the fact that the Vikings in 800AD populated both eastern Ireland and also the Western Isles of Scotland. These territories were at that time settled and controlled by the Irish kingdom of Dál Riata




The study showed that between 20 and 25 per cent of Icelandic founding males had Gaelic ancestry, with the remainder having Norse ancestry. These findings match up with earlier study which looked at mitocondrial DNA in the women from the same population groups. The mitocondrial data showed that over a half of Iceland's founding females were of Gaelic ancestry.

What we don't know is who these Gaelic people were and how they ended up in Iceland. 

Even though in some cases, the whole established Viking family groups arrived and settled in Ireland and Scotland, most of the time the Vikings bands were ad hoc armies consisting of young men. It is not inconceivable that these young men who had come over from Scandinavia and lived for a time in the British Isles would have taken local wives, and even entered into alliances with their Gaelic in-laws. When for what ever reason some of these Vikings decided to leave the British isles around 800 AD and settle in Iceland, they took their wives with them. They could have even been joined by some of their Irish male in-laws and their families. 

However some of these Gaelic people who ended up in Iceland might have been taken away against their will as it is known that Vikings engaged in slave trade and took away a significant number of slaves from Gaelic territories in Ireland and Scotland. One of the most comprehensive works on the subject of the Irish in Iceland is Gaelic influence in Iceland by Gísli Sigurdsson. Sigurdsson suggests that slaves may have comprised as much as 30–40% of the population. 


But there is something very interesting about the Viking colonization of Iceland. 

Upon the demise of the Roman Empire and the subsequent spread of Christianity across Europe, monks and holy men increasingly undertook perilous sea voyages to remote uncharted waters. These expeditions could have been pilgrimages of sorts, to test their belief in the Lord.  Well that is one explanation. Another one was that the Irish Christian monks followed their kinsmen to the newly discovered lands....

The most famous of these reputed journeys is that of the legendary St Brendan. 

Saint Brendan of Clonfert (c. 484 – c. 577) called "the Navigator", "the Voyager", "the Anchorite", or "the Bold", is one of the early Irish monastic saints. He was one of the Twelve Apostles of Ireland. He is most famous for his legendary quest to the "Isle of the Blessed," also called Saint Brendan's Island. 

The first mention of Brendan occurs in Adamnan's Vita Sancti Columbae, written between 679 and 704. But the first notice of him as a seafarer appears in the ninth century Martyrology of Tallaght. The earliest full version of "The Voyage of Saint Brendan" was recorded around AD 900. In it we read that on the Kerry coast, he built a currach-like boat of wattle, covered it with hides tanned in oak bark softened with butter, set up a mast and a sail. He and a small group of monks fasted for forty days, and after a prayer upon the shore, embarked on their voyage to find the Isle of the Blessed. On their way they pass by the land where "great demons threw down lumps of fiery slag from an island with rivers of gold fire” and “great crystal pillars." Many now believe these to be references to the volcanic activity around Iceland, and to icebergs.[

While the story is often assumed to be a religious allegory, there has been considerable discussion as to whether the legends are based on actual events. Over the years there have been many interpretations of the possible geographical position of Saint Brendan's Island of the Blessed. Today the most popular theory is that St Brendan actually discovered America, sailing there via Iceland and Greenland. 

 The Voyage of Saint Brendan belongs to the type of Old Irish stories known as "immram" (Irish navigational story). An immram is a story concerning a hero's sea journey to the Otherworld (see Tír na nÓg and Mag Mell). They were all written in the Christian era. No surprise here as the Irish only had oral tradition before the Christian monks started writing it down. 

But how come it was the Irish who in the Early medieval time developed the "Sea navigation stories"? Well because at that time, the Irish ruled the north western seas. They invaded and settled Western Scotland and gave it its name. The name Scotland comes "Scoti" which was the old name for the Irish. They invaded and settled Northern Wales, giving the name to the Llŷn Peninsula which was named after one of the Irish tribes, the Laigin. 


You can't invade, settle and hold the coastal areas unless you are a maritime culture a maritime power. You can't sail the northern seas around the British isles unless you are an accomplished mariner in a very very good boat. And the Irish seem to have in the early Medieval time been accomplished mariners in very good boats. This explains why the maritime voyage stories were at that time very popular in Ireland. 

This forgotten Irish maritime culture was covered in a great TV series and book called "Atlantean Irish" made by Irish film maker Bob Quinn. The films and book proposed that the Irish, or at least some of the Irish, were part of a common 'Atlantean' maritime culture that includes the western seaboard of Europe and North Africa.

Official history tells us that there is no reliable evidence to indicate that Brendan ever reached Iceland, Greenland or America. But it is interesting that the route route Iceland, Greenland, Newfoundland is the exact route which we know Vikings took in 10th century or maybe even in the 9th century when they discovered America

Is it possible that the Viking discovery of Iceland, Greenland and Newfoundland was actually a rediscovery prompted by the stories about St. Brendan's voyage that the Vikings heard from their Irish wives and in-laws before 800 AD? Did Vikings then in the time of need decide to follow the described route and check for themselves what lies out west? 

Let's see. 

Around 800 AD Vikings with their Irish wives, in-laws and slaves sailed from Ireland to Iceland and colonized it. 

But, there is a popular story in Iceland which says that the first humans who set the foot on the shores and volcanic terrain of Iceland were Christian monks from the north-west of Ireland, in the eighth century. The story is based on one written source, the Islendingabok (‘Book of the Islanders’) by  Ari Þorgilsson, written between 1122 and 1133, about 250 years after the first Norse settlements. Even in such established works as The history of Iceland by Gunnar Karlsson the arrival of the monks has become accepted history. Apparently the monks, having initially discovered a stable sea route from Ireland to Iceland, made repeated return journeys over the course of several decades until the arrival of the first Norse settlers. 

There is little to suggest that these monks established any permanent settlements in Iceland. While conclusive archaeological evidence of the presence of monks has been unearthed on the remote Orkney and Shetland Islands, no such proof has ever been found in Iceland and so this story about the Irish monks being the first colonizers of Iceland remains under question. 

But it is interesting that the first mention of St. Brendan as the "Navigator" appears in the 9th century. The same century when the colonization of Iceland begins. The same century when the alleged discovery of Iceland by the Irish monks, which was described in the Icelandic saga, takes place. The first full description of St Brendan's "alleged" voyage to America, via Iceland and Greenland then appears in the manuscript published around 900 AD. And right after that Vikings from Iceland, who came from Ireland following St Brendan's route, sail westward, again following St Brendan's route, and "discover" Greenland and Newfoundland. 

Strange how it all fits together, don't you think?

Whatever about the uncertainties surrounding the Gaelic arrivals of the eighth century, their presence in the ninth century Iceland is beyond question. The presence of Gaelic people among the first arrivals in Iceland is confirmed by numerous written references in both the Book of Settlements and the Book of Icelanders. In the former is found a comprehensive list of 400 names, of which at least 60 are distinctly Gaelic. 

Those of Gaelic origin integrated quickly into what became essentially a Norse culture. So what, beyond genetics, is the legacy of the Gaelic presence in Iceland? 

Well, as I said already the archaeological evidence is pretty slim. The same could also be said in relation to the Icelandic language. According to Sigurdsson, the limited number of borrowed words may be explained by the fact that the "Gaels did not contribute any new work skills or crafts, carrying their own vocabulary into the mainly Norse controlled society", coupled with the fact that "the language of the slaves was probably not widely spoken by their masters". 

But this is a bit dismissive when we know that it is in the Icelandic literature where we find the most important Gaelic legacy in Iceland. 

Icelandic oral and written traditions of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries were completely unique development in the Nordic world. There have been many theories which aimed to explain this phenomenon, but the one accepted by most British and Irish historians, and indeed Sigurdsson himself, says that the influence of the Gaelic presence in Iceland is a more plausible explanation for the emergence of the Icelandic sagas tradition. In the Gaelic world, oral tradition and the writing of the sagas in the vernacular was highly developed. In fact, Iceland and Ireland were the only countries in Western Europe where sagas of this kind were written down. There are undeniably striking resemblances in the literary output of Iceland and Ireland during the 12th and 13th century not just in form but in content too. In both traditions we find leprechaun-like creatures, Gaelic team game of hurling and boy stalwart heroes like Cú Chulainn from Irish sagas, and Starkaðr (Strong man) from the Icelandic Fornaldarsogur sagas, popular in the early fourteenth century. Both characters in their respective sagas at one point lie naked in the snow searching their clothes for lice. 

The Gaelic influence is even more obvious when we look at the Icelandic family sagas. Sigurdsson claims that the sagas that come from the west of Island have a more powerful Gaelic element than others, which could be explained by the stronger Gaelic presence in this area. How come? The western area of Iceland would have been the exact place where a bout coming from Ireland would have landed. And if the Irish settled permanently on Iceland, that would have been the exact place where they would have done so...Interesting...

Anyway, the most prominent example of this trend is the saga of the people of Laxardal (Laxdæla saga). In this tale one of the characters, Hoskuldr, obtains a slave woman from Norway who turns out to be Melkorka, daughter of a prominent Irish king. Retaining her native Gaelic language, she secretly passes it on to her son Ólafr, who later travels to Ireland to renew family ties and, despite his lowly slave origins, marries well. His son Kjartan becomes the main male hero of the Laxdæla saga. Parallels with the character of Cú Chulainn are again in evidence in a number of the family sagas. Some of his boyhood deeds are mirrored by the character of Kafli in the Kjalnesing saga, and the character of Egil in Egil’s saga. Parts of these sagas, particularly in the case of Laxdæla saga, tend to have a more colourful, exaggerated style with greater attention to detail, perhaps reflecting the Gaelic predilection for such literary affectations.

Slaves alone could have hardly been able to exert such cultural influence. This points to these possibilities:

1. The Irish sailors who discovered Iceland during the early medieval time actually settled in the west of Iceland. They eventually mixed with the Norse settlers who came from the East and who settled the eastern coast of Iceland. 
2. The Viking gang that arrived to Iceland from Ireland around 800 AD was a mixed Norse Irish clan with possibly slaves from other Irish clans. Irish practiced slavery long before Norse arrived. Remember how they "obtained" St Patrick from Wales? Were Irish colonies still on Iceland at that time? Were these people joining their kin in Iceland, or reclaiming the ancestral land?

That kind of mix could have exerted the cultural influence we find in the development of the Icelandic sagas. 

So, let me recapitulate:

1. Iceland was discovered and first colonized by the Irish monks.
2. It was then settled by the mix of Norse and Irish
3. These Irish contributed greatly to the genetics and culture of Iceland 

And so, on Sunday, when Iceland go on the pitch to play France, Irish can stand up and proudly shout:

Come on I(r)celand !!!

Monday, 27 June 2016

Na

South Eastern dialect of Serbian has a peculiar grammatical construct. It uses "na" meaning "on" to express belonging, possession. This construct using the word "na" exists (as far as I know) also in neighboring Macedonian and some Bulgarian dialects, all centered around southern Carpathian or Balkan mountains.

South Serbian:

Q: Na koga je ovo kuče - on whom is this hound (whose hound is this)? 

A: To je kuče na petra - this is the hound on Petar (of Peter)

Bulgarian:

A: Tova e kuče na Petar - this is the hound on Petar  (of Peter)

Macedonian:

A: Toa e kuče na Petar - this is the hound on Petar  (of Peter)

This construct defines possession through physical contact which is the oldest known form of possession. What belongs to me is on me, within my boundary, within what i can grab, hold, wear, carry, protect...

Fernand Cormon, Cain, Musée d’Orsay, Paris
What is interesting is that the Irish language has the same construct. On the page about Hiberno-English (English dialect spoken in Ireland which is hugely influenced by the Irish grammar and vocabulary) we read:

There are some language forms in Hiberno-English that stem from the fact that there is no verb "to have" in Irish. Instead, possession is indicated in Irish by using the preposition at, (in Irish, ag.). To be more precise, Irish uses a prepositional pronoun that combines ag "at" and mé "me" to create agam which basically means "at me, on me". This is then reflected in Hiberno-English, where the verb "to have" is used, interchangeably with phrases "with me" or "on me" that derive from "tá … agam". This gives rise to the frequent:

"Do you have the book?" – "I have it with me."
"Have you change for the bus on you?"
"He will not shut up if he has drink taken."

My favorite Irish Gaelic expression using this construct is "Tá áthas orm" meaning "I am happy, I have happiness" but literally meaning "There is happiness on me" :)

So what language did this construct originate in: Irish or these south Slavic dialects? Remember that the Irish language only has this constrict to express possession. And that this part of the Balkans was once "Celtic central" and is the area where we still find "Celtic" village crosses, like this one from Crna Trava:




And how old is this construct? Is it possible that this is a true linguistic fossil, which comes to us from the time before settled communities and static property? 

And does a similar construct exists in any other language? 

Well it seems that it does. In Finnish of all languages. Finnish doesn't have a separate verb for "to have". Instead it uses a different sentence construction, centered around the verb "olla", "to be". It's interesting to note that the "minulla on" literally means"on me there is". 

Very interesting, because it shows the age of this construct. 

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Busy bee


A busy "buzzy" bee busily collecting nectar from flowers. The word "busy" comes from Middle English busi, besy, bisi, from Old English bysiġ, *biesiġ, bisiġ (“busy, occupied, diligent”), from Proto-Germanic *bisigaz (“diligent; zealous; busy”). The etymology of this Proto-Germanic root "*bisigaz" is "unknown"... 

Hmmmm, linguists should leave their libraries and go out more, walk in fields, observe bees busily buzzing around....

Maybe something will click in their heads, who knows... :)

Go out. Enjoy summer. :)

Sunday, 19 June 2016

Gown



Few days ago I came across this Irish word:

gúna - gown, (woman's) dress, frock, robe, gown, From Middle Irish gúna ‎(“gown; outer tunic or dress”), a borrowing from Anglo-Norman gune, goune ‎(“fur-trimmed coat, pelisse”).

The Etymological dictionary of English language says that the Anglo-Norman gune, goune ‎(“fur-trimmed coat, pelisse”) from which the English word gown meaning long, loose outer garment is derived, comes from Old French goune "robe, coat; (nun's) habit, gown," related to Late Latin gunna "leather garment, skin, hide," of unknown origin. Used by St. Boniface (8c.) for a fur garment permitted for old or infirm monks. Klein writes that it is probably "a word adopted from a language of the Apennine or the Balkan Peninsula." OED points to Byzantine Greek gouna, a word for a coarse garment sometimes made of skins, but also notes "some scholars regard it as of Celtic origin."

Now I wonder what this Balkan language, which is a potential source of the word gown could be and is it possible that at the same time the word is of a Celtic origin???

Let's see what we can uncover. Literally.

Petar Skok in his "Etimologijski rjecnik hrvatskoga ili srpskoga jezika" (Etymological dictionary of the Croatian or Serbian language) says that: "the word gunj has these forms: "gunj, gunja, gunjac, gunjina", and that the meaning can be:

A long or short heavy coat with or without sleeves which is worn over all other clothes.

A blanket
A carpet
A horse cover
A heavy shepherd cape
A kind of a women's dress.

The material all these things are made of is either sheepskin, sheep felt, or goat hair.

The word is found in all Slavic languages except  Upper and Lower Lusatian and basically means clothes. 

Russian: "гуня" (gunja) - three qarter length coat, гу́нка (gunka) - diaper

Ukrainian: "гуня" (gunja) - rough homespun unpainted cloth or clothes made from such clothes

Bulgarian: "гу́ня" (gunja) - cloak made from goat's hair

Source: "Этимологический словарь русского языка Макса Фасмера"

Polish: "gunia" - Male outer clothing worn by Carpathian Highlanders

Czech: "houně, huňa" - Apart from cover, cloth (rarely used), houně in Czech means fur blanket. Also, houně is used to describe thick hair. 

Source: "ABZ online slovník českých synonym"

Slovak: "huňa" - smock, "huňatý" - bushy hairy

Source: "Slovar slovaških sopomenk"

Slovenian: "cunja" - rag, "gunj" - woolen clothes

Source: "The Dictionary of Standard Slovenian"

It is found in Albanian as "güne" meaning "cloak" (My comment: but this is most likely a borrowing from Serbian). 

The word is also found in Hungarian as "gúnya", again borrowing from Slavic languages:

"After the Conquest, primarily through constant contact with Slavic peoples, numerous new elements were added to Hungarian costume, as the vocabulary testifies: ruha (clothes), gúnya (garb), kabát (coat), csuha (cowl), nadrág (trousers or breeches), palást (cloak), szoknya (skirt), harisnya (stocking), kapca (foot rag), posztó (broadcloth), etc...."

"Hungarian ethnography and folklore" by Iván balassa - Gyula ortutay

Hrvatski jezični portal (Croatian linguistic portal) says that: "gunj, gunja is a coarse cover made from wool or goats hair, or a home made cloak which is three quarter length". 


"Narodna enciklopedija, Srpsko - Hrvatsko - Slovenačka" (Folk encyclopedia, Serbian, Croatian and Slovenian), which started to be published in 1924 by Professor Stanoje Stanojević, starts its chapter on "gunj" with:

"Gunj is the most important part of the Serbian male attire...".

It then goes on to say: "gunj is made from home made rough woolen cloth, mostly black, but it could be other colors too. Today it could be long, short, with or without sleeves. In the old time it used to be much wider and longer, in order to cover and protect the weapons. In Serbia gunj is worn over all other clothes and no belt is worn over it. In Montenegro, gunj is worn under a waistcoat and a belt is worn over it. In Duvno area of Bosnia, gunj has woolen catkins from the inside and it is smooth on the outside. These catkins show development of the cloth based gunj coats from sheepskin gunj coats. Gunj also always has a cape which is used during bad weather. It is today also worn by women."

This engraving or painting by an unknown artist from 1930's shows the assembly held on the 14th of February 1804, in the small village of Orašac near Aranđelovac, on which the leading Serb leaders decided to begin an uprising against the Turkish rule, choosing Karađorđe Petrović as their leader.


On it you can see several types of "gunj", both short and long, both with or without sleeves. They are all worn as the top layer of clothing and are not buttoned up.


In the book "Zubun: kolekcija Etnografskog muzeja u Beogradu iz XIX i prve polovine XX veka, Etnografski muzej,Beograd" published in 2009 by Menković, Mirjana, we read that:


The important bit here is: "long coats and cloaks are known as veliki gunj (big gunj), gunja, kabanica (cape), japundža....".

Mitar Vlahović in his work "Muška nošnja u Vasojevićima" (Male traditional dress from Vasojevići tribe) (1933) provides an interesting description of japundža (kabanica, gunjina) cloaks. He states that "the japundža cloaks worn by Vasojevići clansmen in Naija area were rather broad at the bottom and floor-length and made from white cloth. They were made hairy on the outside to resist water..." Just like the sheepskin shepherd cloaks, which were worn with the fleece outside when it was raining, the lanolin from the wool making them waterproof. These japundža cloaks were later replaced with Skadar gunjs which were "rather broad and knee length and made from gray or black wool with short sleeves and a large hood for covering the head in bad weather. This gunj was made to be hairy on the outside."

This again shows direct developmental line from sheepskin clothing to sheep wool cloth clothing. 

In Bunjevac dialect of Serbo Croatian, gunj gunja means "do kolena dugački ogrtač, obično krzneni" (long cape, down to the knees, usually made from sheep skin or fur)

In "Народне ношње Срба у XIX и XX веку, Србија и суседне земље. [Књ. 1]" (Folk dress in 19th and 20th century, Serbia and neighboring countries [book 1]) we read that "in Montenegrian highlands, the winter clothing items included gunj (a fur coat) with sleeves..."

So what are we to make of all this? Here is what I think. 


The word "gunj, gunja, gunjina" only exists in Serbian (Serbo - Croatian) language and this is the only "Balkan language" from which this word could have entered medieval Greek and Latin.


I believe that the original meaning of the word "gunj, gunja, gunjina" was not "clothes" but a much more generic "cover". We can see that from the meanings of the word listed in the Petar Skok dictionary:

A long or short heavy coat with or without sleeves which is worn over all other clothes (covers all other clothes)

A blanket (covers the body or a wall)
A carpet (covers the ground)
A horse cover (covers the horses back)
A heavy shepherd cape (covers the shepherd)

Originally this cover was a sheep fleece or a animal fur. Then people discovered how to make yarn and woolen cloth and the same covers started to be made from woolen cloth. But regardless the design and the purpose remained the same: something you throw over, wrap around as a cover.

Based on the fact the "gunj" capes, cloaks made of wool cloth were made to imitate sheep fleece suggests that the original "gunj" was a hunter gatherer cape, cloak made of fur, and later on when sheep and goats were domesticated, "gunj" was a shepherd cape, cloak made from sheep or goat skin (fleece). This is not surprising. Everyone uses the material most readily available. Both hunter gatherers and shepherds used skins of animals that they killed. What shepherds had were goat and sheep skins. Particularly the sheepskins are ideal for making waterproof cloaks and coats, as natural wool contains lanolin which makes it resistant to water and extremely good thermal insulator in wet conditions. A very important thing if you are a shepherd stuck somewhere on the grass covered highlands with your flock in the middle of a storm.


So no wonder we find these types of capes everywhere in Evroasia since prehistory.

Otzi, the Iceman, who lived around 3300 BC, wore a goatskin coat.

Ötzi’s coat was made of the hide of the domestic goat. On the inner side, numerous signs of scraping are visible, probably marks from the process of cleaning the skin. Scientific investigations indicate that the hides were tanned using fat and smoke. Once tanned, the sections were carefully cross-stitched together. The stitching was done with the fibres of animal sinews. The coat was worn with the fur side out. Darker stripes were alternated with lighter ones to produce a striking pattern. The Iceman probably wore the coat with the front open, as there is no fastener, though he could have kept it closed using  his belt. Nothing remains of the sleeves of the coat. It is therefore unclear whether the coat actually had sleeves.

This is a reconstruction of the coat from the Archeoparc at Schnals valley / South Tyrol. The picture was taken by Wolfgang Sauber.



Archaeological evidence of how widespread these sheepskin cloaks and coats were in antiquity can be seen on one of the famous Urumqi mummies, which date from 1800 BCE to the first centuries BCE, and which have have been preserved for more than two millennia in the extremely dry Tarim Basin (Xinjiang). This woman wears a sheepskin coat over a colorful woolen skirt.



By the time of the Persian empire we find kandys (Κάνδυς), also called candys, kantuš or Median robe. This is a type of three-quarter-length Persian coat. It originally described a leather cloak with sleeves worn by men. You can see this type of coat on this detail of a relief from Apadana of Persepolis, dated to 550-330 BC. It is showing two men (left and right) wearing kandys. 



This coat, eventually evolved into a garment worn by Athenian women. 

It is suggested that the term candys/kandys was probably an Iranian word that was appropriated by the Greeks to describe the Persian garment, which in Old Persian would have been called kandu (cloak). Other Old Iranian terms include kanzu-ka (Median), kan-su-ka (Elamite) and gnjwg (Parthian), all of which correspond with the term cloak. The prefix 'kan-', in such languages, means to cover or to throw, as in a coat thrown round the shoulders.


The earliest evidence of the sleeved kandys is found on a 9th-century BC Iranian bronze stand excavated at Teppe Hasanlu, while garments have been found in 4th and 5th century BC Scythian graves showing that the sleeves were so narrow and placed in such a manner that they could not realistically function as sleeves.


"Encyclopedia Iranica, Candys"


The Sogdian, the Choresmian, and the Amyrgian Saka (Saka haumavargā) on the tomb reliefs, as well as the members of Delegation XVII on the Apadāna stairway (Amyrgian Saka), wear a tight-fitting, sleeved coat, cut obliquely at the side to allow ease of movement while riding. It was either made of leather with fur-lined edges or was entirely of fur or skin (similar to the modern pūstīn) and could vary in ornamentation and color. The name of this eastern Iranian coat may have been *gaunaka. Widengren derived the word from Avestan gaona- which means either “color” or “hair.” 





That these sheepskin capes were still worn in Europe during the early iron age, can be seen from the finds associated with a bog body known as "the woman from Huldremose", who lived between 160 BCE to 340 CE, and whose body was found in a marsh in Jutland 19 May 1879. Her costume consisted of two sheepskin coats, a skirt and a scarf, woven from naturally colored wool. Her fur coats were made from the skins of around 14 sheep.






These sheepskin capes and coats continued to be worn by shepherds through iron age and medieval time.

This is a detail from the fresco from the Serbian monastery Sopoćani which was built in the 13th century. The picture shows a shepherd wearing a sheepskin coat and trousers. 


In the Bible, St John the Baptist is described as wearing "clothes made of camel's hair". In Serbian frescoes he is shown wearing something which looks very much like a shepherd's "gunja" made from sheep skin.

Gračanica monastery,  Built by Serbian King Stefan Uroš II Milutin (r. 1282-1321) in 1310. Fresco St. John the Baptist (Sveti Jovan Krstitelj) painted c. 1318.




Pustinja monastery, which according to local legends was built in the 13th century by king Dragutin. However it is possible that the church was originally built in the 11th century and then rebuilt in the 17th century. 



During the Austro-Turkish war (1683-1699) relations between Muslims and Christians in European provinces of Ottoman Empire were radicalized to extreme, resulting in calls of Muslim religious leaders for extermination of local Christians, and also Jews. As a result of oppression, Serbian Christians and their church leaders headed by Serbian Patriarch Arsenije III sided with Austrians in 1689. In the following campaigns, Turkish forces conducted systematic atrocities against Christian population in Serbian regions, resulting in Great Migration  (ethnic cleansing) of 1690.

This is the picture entitled "Seoba Srbalja" (The migration of the Serbs), painted by Paja Jovanović in 1896, which depicts this migration (ethnic cleansing). In the first plan you can see a man wearing a sheepskin shepherd's cape with the fleece turned inside.





By the way, kandys is sometimes compared to the rather later 17th-19th century military pelisse as worn by Hussars, in the sense that it was a sleeved jacket or coat worn cloak-style. 


pelisse was originally a short fur lined or fur trimmed jacket that was usually worn hanging loose over the left shoulder of hussar light cavalry soldiers, ostensibly to prevent sword cuts. 






The style of uniform incorporating the pelisse originated with the Hussar mercenaries of Hungary in the 17th Century. The thing is these Hussars were originally Serbian cavalry men who fled from Serbia after it fell under Turkish rule. And pelisse is nothing else but a short "gunj". So no wonder that Hussars, Serbian cavalry men wear "gunj" type coat, which is, as the Folk encyclopedia, Serbian, Croatian and Slovenian states: "the most important part of the Serbian male attire...".




Painting by Milana Dvornić: "Čoban (pastir) u opakliji okrenutoj za kišovito vrijeme" (Shepherd in opaklija (gunja) turned inside out for wet weather)



Here is a male shepherd's sheepskin "gunj" cape from Pljevlja, Montenegro




Opaklija, gunja, Muzej Žeravica, Novo Miloševo, Serbia


Opaklija, gunja, Muzej Vojvodine, Novi Sad, Serbia


And the same type of sheep skin capes worn by Albanian shepherds:




On this picture entitled "Peasants of Hadad - Transylvania" by Stephen Catterson Smith the Elder (1806–1872), you can see shepherds wearing sheepskin capes, both with the fleece turned inside and outside.




These shepherd's cloaks, made of several sheepskins are still worn by shepherds in Romania. They can be with or without sleeves and  are called sarică or bituşca


In Hungarian this shepherd cloak is called "suba" or "bunda".


This is the other side of the "suba" cloak, which is worn during the nice weather, while the fleece side is worn during the bad rainy or snowy weather, because it is a waterproof due to the lanolin in the raw sheep wool.




This picture by L. Benech done in 1888, shows a shepherd from Bohinj area in Slovenia, with the sheep skin cape. Does anyone know what the name of this type of capes is in Slovenian?


And here is an engraving by Jean-Francois Millet (1814 – 1875) - "Shepherd Tending his Flock", depicting a shepherd from France wearing a sheepskin cape.


This painting by Niko Pirosmani (1862–1918) - "Shepherd in a Sheepskin Coat on a Red Background", depicts a shepherd wearing the same type of sheepskin cape in Georgia



And this photograph taken in Georgia by George Kennan. 1870-1886 - shows a man in the same type of a sheepskin cape and sheep skin hat, holding a rifle


Does anyone know what the name of these sheepskin capes is in Georgian?

The problem with these capes is that they are great if you don't need to move fast and work with your hands. If you do, you need to either take the cape off, have it tied with a clasp or rope around your neck and then move it to your back, in order to free your hands. This will basically choke you, because of the weight of the cloak, cape. The solution for this problem is to cut two openings in the sides of the cape, through which you can stick your hands out when you need to use them. This basically resulted in the development of sheep and goat skin sleeveless coats and waistcoats. 

In Serbia "ćurčija" is a craftsman which makes clothing items from leather and sheepskin. The name comes from the word "ćurak" which means a waistcoat made from sheepskin with wool turned towards the inside. In southern parts of Serbia this type of sheepskin waistcoat is known as "gunj", and sometimes as "kožuh, kožuv" meaning lather coat







And if today you ask people in Serbia what is "gunj" most people will tell you that it is a waistcoat made out of sheepskin with the wool on the inside. 

These types of sheepskin waistcoats were also worn in other Balkan countries. 

These are Montenegrians wearing embroidered "gunj" sheepskin waistcoats taken from the website, "Immigration Archives" - Our Foreign Born Citizens - Immigrant Types.




The same website contains the picture of Romanians wearing the same type of the sheepskin waistcoats, except that in Romania this type of sheepskin waistcoat is called "bondiţa" and not "gunj".


This type of waistcoats can also be made with the wool on the outside, like this "gunj" waistcoat from Lika, Croatia


The same type of sheepskin waistcoat with the wool turned outside was also worn in Albania. This is a picture of an Albanian shepherd, from "The Immigrant Tide, Its Ebb and Flow" by Edward A. Steiner.


And this is another picture of an Albanian shepherd boy from the collection of old photographs from the first photo studio in Albania, Fototeka MARUBI   ( Marubi Photo Collection ), with an archive with 500 000 photos from 1858 until 1959.


I don't know what the name for these waistcoats is in Albanian so I would be very grateful to anyone who can give me that information, so that I can update my post.

And here is a photograph showing the same type of shepherd's sleeveless coat, this one probably made from goat's skin. This Slovenian gunj looks almost identical to the ancient Otzi coat. 5000 years of cultural continuity in the Alps.






And here is painting by Ancely, René (1847 - 1919) - Pyrénées - Pâtres de la Vallée d'Aran, Bagnère de Luchon, showing two shepherds wearing the same type of sheepskin waistcoat with the wool turned outside.


I don't know what the name for these waistcoats is in the local french dialects so I would be very grateful to anyone who can give me that information, so that I can update my post.

The long version of this type of coat is of the exactly the same cut as the coat worn by Otzi, meaning that this clothing item did not change for over 5000 years. The reason for this is that this is a very effective body cover, which is very easy to make by even unskilled persons.

At some stage a short sleeves were added to these sleeveless coats, in order to cover the shoulders. An example of this type of sheepskin coats is this shepherd sheepskin cape, coat from the Landes region of southwest France


Eventually full length sleeves were added and the sheepskin cape developed into a sheepskin coat.

This is "Huňa", gunj from Slovakian highlands:



A Greek shepherd wearing gunja, 19th century


These two pictures depict Romanian peasants, from Tarani-din-Maramures, photo by Kurt Hielscher (1881 - 1948), wearing sheepskin coats with the fleece turned outside.





Here is a picture of a Romanian shepherd, taken by Augustus Sherman from the collection of Portraits from Ellis Island, wearing a full length sleeves sheepskin coat.


Knee length sheepskin cojoc, with dark fur edging, and embroidered decoration from Romania. The word cojoc is a borrowing from Serbian. Original word is kožok, kožuk, kožuh meaning leather coat and is still used interchangeably with gunj in Serbia and other Slavic countries. The root of this word is koža meaning skin and leather. Romanian word for leather and skin is "piele"...


Please note that they still don't have buttons. Once the buttons were added we ended up with the well known sheepskin coat, like this one:


Or like this one worn by a shepherd from Serbia.


Eventually these shepherd capes, cloaks started to be made from rough woolen cloth.

Here is a brilliant picture showing two shepherds from the Landes region wearing both versions of the shepherd cape, the sheepskin one and the woolen cloth one. And did I say that the shepherds from this region minded their sheep on stilts?


I don't know what the name for these shepherd capes are in the local dialects, so I would really appreciate if anyone can let me know, so I can update my post.

In the book "Скривени свет балканских жена : женска одећа за улицу на крају XIX и у XX веку" (The hidden world of the Balkan women: female street clothing from the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century ) by Менковић Мирјана, Бајић Светлана, we can see this picture of a wagon driver from Užice, Serbia, wearing kabanica (gunja) overcoat, 19th century


This is an examples of kabanica (gunjina) cloak from Stari Vlah from the book "Народне ношње Срба у XIX и XX веку, Србија и суседне земље. [Књ. 1]"



And this is a cape, gunja, koporan from Western Serbia


And a cape, gunja, koporan from Knjazevac, Stara Planina, Eastern Serbia


And here is another shepherd from the Landes region of southwest France with a felt cape


These are well known capes which were worn by shepherds, monks and travelers everywhere in Europe. 

The same happened with sleeveless, short sleeves and long sleeves coats, which also started to be made from wool cloth.

This is a picture of the winter clothing, including "gunja" cape from Vranjska Pčinja, Serbia, from the book "Народне ношње Срба у XIX и XX веку. [Књ. 2]" (Serbian folk dress in 19th and 20th century [book 2])




These are examples of "gunj" coat from Srem, Serbia from the book "Народне ношње Срба у XIX и XX веку, Србија и суседне земље. [Књ. 1]"


This is a kabanica, coat with cloak, made from coarse woolen cloth, from Turopolje, Croatia


And one from Hungary worn by a shepherd



This is a long sleeveless "gunj" from Kučevište, Skopska Crna Gora




In this picture from the book "The Land of the Black Mountain" published in 1905 by Gerald Prance and Reginald Wyon Weik, you can see a typical Montenegrian "gunj". You can see that it is worn under a waistcoat in Montenegro

Here is the same male "gunj" felt coat.



Female gunj from Pecurice, Montenegro



And here are two short, "city" gunj coats from Serbia, the blue male one and black female one, which eventually became the main objects with which the word "gunj" was associated.




So this was quite interesting. We can clearly see how winter top cover clothes developed just by looking at all the things named "gunj, gunja, gunjina" in Serbian. These items have been found wherever we find shepherds for at least last 5000 years, but only in Serbian, of all the Balkan languages are they called "gunj, gunja, gunjina". So if there is a Balkan language from which the word "guna" entered medieval Greek and Latin, it must have been Serbian.

But what is the etymology of this word in Serbian? Well I am still not sure.

All I know is that the Serbian word "gunj, gunja,  gunjina" has these interesting potential cognates:

Avestan "gaona" meaning "hair, wool, hair color, color"
Ossetian "хъуын" ‎(qwyn) meaning “hair”
Sanskrit "गुण" ‎(guṇa) meaning “thread, cord”
Khotanese (Eastern Saka) "gguna" meaning "color, hair"

References for the translation of the Avestan word "gaona" as "hair, wool, hair color, color":

"Основы иранского языкознания. Древнеиранские языки.Москва", 1979 г. Изд. "Наука", Глава "Скифо-сарматские наречия", В.И.Абаев, Словарь скифских слов, стр. 290

"Gauna - "fur"-> gun, авест. gaona - "color" , осет. ğun - "fur":
~ σακυνδακη "Scythian clothes" = sak-gun-dak, осет. sag-ğun-dag - "Clothes made from deer skin (fur)", см. aka (осет. sag) - "deer" and tag, dag - "tread" which in Ossetian gives in тканей zæl-dag = "silk", kættag = (из kaen-tag) - "cloth""

"A Dictionary of Tocharian B" by Douglas Q. Adams

"The Tower of Babel, An Etymological Database Project"

"Avestan: Base Form Dictionary" by Jonathan Slocum and Scott L. Harvey

"Hrvatski jezicni portal"

I think that the prefix "kan" ("can") we find in Iranic languages is the same as gunj. The word "gunj", according to its use in Serbian, mean exactly that, cover. So gaona, caona, can...= "gunj"


Is this the origin of the Serbian words "gunj, gunja,  gunjina"? And if so, how did this word enter Serbian? Is this a remnant of the Scythian vocabulary in Serbian language?

Or is there some other root for this word?

Is the root, like "some linguists claim" Celtic?

This is the Brythonic word for woll: "*gwlan" and its descendants:

Middle Breton: glan, gloan
Breton: gloan
Old Cornish: gluan
Middle Cornish: glan, glawn
Cornish: gwlan
Old Welsh: gulan
Middle Welsh: gwlan
Welsh: gwlân

This is the Slavic word for wool: "vьlna" which in some Slavic languages including Serbian morphed into "vuna".

Is it possible that in Serbian we had the following metamorphosis of the word for wool which happened because of the mixing of the Celtic and Slavic languages in the Balkans:

 "gwlan, gwolna. gvuna, guna" - wool, fleece, sheepskin, sheep wool cloth, any cover made from this material

Or is the root Serbian, Slavic?

In Serbian we have these words:

koža - skin (covers the body)
kosa - hair (covers the body)
kora - bark (covers the tree)
krzno (korzno) - fur (covers the body)
kostret - goat's hair

None of the above words have proper etymology. But the root of all these words seems to be the root "ko". So what is the meaning of the root "ko"? Is it possible that it has the same meaning it has today in Serbian: ko, koj, koji = which, who, that, it?


koža = ko + ža = ko + ži + ja = that which  + alive + i am = skin keeps things neatly inside :)
kosa = ko + sa = ko + ža + sa = skin + with = that which comes with skin? (not sure about this one. It could be also ko + sss = that which + the sound that stroking the hair makes sssss)
kora = ko + ra = ko + rapav = that which + rough (rrrr the sound of scratching)
k(o)rzno = ko + krzano = that which + scraped (exactly what we do go get fur, we scrape it off the body)
kostret = ko + str = that which sticks out, pricks (goat's hair is very sharp compared to human and sheep hair)

So was guna originally kuna, kona = ko + na = that which + on, over = what you use to cover things? Or even better ko + unj + na = that which + in + on = what you get in, put on = cover, clothes, exactly what the meaning of the word "gunj" is...
Or does gunj, gunja come from "go (neuter), gu (feminine), ga (masculine)" a South Serbian dialectic variant meaning also which, who, that, it . So in that case go, gu, ga + unj + na = that which + in + on, over = that which is i go in, put on, that which is used as a cover?

Is gunj related to all these words, considering that k and g are interchangeable letters which often morph into each other? We can see this from Slavic cognates: gunja, cunja, houně, huna and we can see this from the Iranian gaona, caona, can. So I think that these words are all related and come from the same, Slavic root. Now what this could mean is that the Iranian words are borrowing, very early borrowing...And that is very very interesting...

But I am still not sure. 

I have been wrecking my brain for a week now to figure this out. What do you think?