Sunday 22 September 2019


Amazing photo. This is not a scene from a film about Vikings. This are barges on the River Emajõgi, 19th century. Emajõgi is a river in Estonia which flows from Lake Võrtsjärv through Tartu County into Lake Peipus

Ladja was an early medieval Slavic heavy cargo ship developed in South Baltic. Norse Vikings acquired the technological knowledge to build these large vessels when Harald Bluetooth made the alliance with the Baltic Slavs, which is why we find the word in Old Norse.

Before mixing with Slavs, Norse viking ships were small, narrow and fast. Ideal for small raiding parties. Only after, when they started building wide and large "ladja" ships, were they able to cary armies including cavalry. And only then were the vikings able to transport enough troops and equipment to Britain to launch the major invasion, which culminated during Canute (Cnut the Great).

This is based on archaeological data. Source for Slavic influence on Viking ship building (and the other way round) is "A comparative analysis of early medieval shipwrecks from the southern shores of the Baltic sea" by George Indruszewski, used to work in Viking Ship Museum, Roskilde, Denmark, now at Roskilde University....

Saturday 21 September 2019

One of a kind centaur

"One of a kind centaur", from Harvard Art Museums: "Exceptional vessels

This quote talks about this artefact: rhyton with a centaur holding a goat, currently in Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology. 

What does this, "one of a kind", image mean? Here is what I think:

Sagittarius 23 November – 21 December 

The hunter, usually represented as a centaur. Marks the beginning of the fur hunting season in continental Europe). You can read more about why Sagittarius is where it is on the solar circle in my post "The hunter".

Capricorn 22 December – 20 January 

The ibex goat. Marks the mating season of Alpine Ibex goats in continental Europe. You can read more about why is Capricorn where it is on the solar circle in my post "Goat".

Now if we look at the Sagittarius and Capricorn zodiac signs together, we see something very interesting: Winter Solstice marks the end of Sagittarius (Centaur) and the beginning of Capricorn (Goat)

Is this what the above image represents, the moment when hunter catches the ibex goat? 

The new solar year starts on that day, and that was a pretty big thing in the past...

This is the same symbolism preserved in the Slovenian legend about Goldhorn. 

In it, a hunter hunts an ibex goat, mortally wounds it, and from goat's blood grows a beautiful alpine rose. 

This is a multi layer legend. To me the most interesting layer to this story is the astrological one. The Zlatorog story describes the succession of three winter astrological signs, Sagittarius, Capricorn and Aquarius. 

Sagittarius 23 November – 21 December (The hunter)
Capricorn 22 December – 20 January (The ibex goat)
Aquarius 21 January – 19 February (The blood)

You can read more about this legend in my post "Zlatorog-Goldhorn".

Interestingly, in Sanskrit tradition, goat was the animal sacrificed instead of a pig, which was in Europe the animal sacrificed during winter solstice celebrations. 

Basically, the goat has to die, in order for spring to arrive...

This was probably the older tradition than the one preserved in Europe today, as it matches the season marker, unlike the pig...

You can read more about sacrificial animals in Indo-European tradition in my post "Sacrificial animals"

So what do you think? Makes sense?

Wednesday 18 September 2019

Sun Bread

The oldest yeast bread, more precisely wild yeast, sourdough bread, was probably invented in Upper Egypt, Nubia, during or even before the 2nd millennium BC.

These are wall paintings depicting offerings to gods

The tomb of Menna (1388–1351 BC), TT69, Theban Necropolis

The Tomb of Nakht (c. 1401 – 1391 BC), TT52, Theban Necropolis

Tomb of Nefertari (c. 1295-1255 BC), QV 66, Valley of the Queens, Thebes West Bank, Thebes

Among the offerings, the most prominent place occupy loaves of bread like this one:

This is the so called "Shamsi Bread" the sun-raised bread ("shamsi" meaning "sun" in Arabic) still made in Upper Egypt today. 

In Upper Egyptian villages bread is baked one a week, or once every two to three days, depending on the family size. It is an arduous job, requiring the entire day to mix the dough, gather the fuel, prepare the oven, and bake the bread.

The flour is first sifted in a large sieve, the coarser grains left to dust the hands and homemade clay bread platters. After washing the hands, a prayer asking God's blessing is usually said to ensure a proper rising, as bread is considered a gift from God (Sun god???).

The flour is mixed with water, a bit of salt and is then worked into a smooth dough.

Then a sourdough starter made from live wild yeast and previous batch of dough is added as a leavening and the dough is then worked again to mix it all together.

About two fists sized lumps of dough are made into balls, dusted in flour, patted out to about 12 cm. loaves, and laid out on the platters to rise in the sun for about 45 minutes.

They may be turned over or shifted to a sunnier spot. The bread needs to rise for 20 minutes if the sun is really hot, or for 40 minutes if it isn't very sunny.

Loaves dry on the outside and develop a thin crust while rising on the inside.

Just before the baking, the loaves are scored for decoration using a large needle or pin and the crust is pulled apart.

Muslims make three crescent-like cuts

Coptic Christians make four corner crescent like cuts.

The oven is lit from the back

And the inside is wiped with a wet cloth, causing the inside of the oven to fill with steam

The bread is then placed inside the hot oven

And the oven is closed.

The bread is baked for 20 minutes.

The bread changes shape depending on how it is scored.

Muslim breads with three crescent scores turn into triangle shaped loaves.

Christian breads with four crescent scores turn into cross shaped loaves

Bread is thick and soft, not at all like the usual Egyptian flatbread.

Still images from "A Cook Abroad Series , Egypt" by Dave Myers and BBC.

Herodotus (484 – 425 BC) mentions this sourdough bread of Luxor, very different from the more familiar pocket bread of Cairo. So we know that this bread was made in the 5th c. BC.  

During the excavations of the Settlement and Cemetery at Giza dated to the reigns of Khafre and Menkaure (mid-4th Dynasty, c. 2472–2442 BC), archaeologists have found bread baking oven.

Inside of the oven, the archaeologists found five partial or nearly complete ceramic vessels. Most of these were shallow baking plates (platters) or trays.

These platters or trays are crudely made, poorly fired, and fragile. Platters are associated with the baking process. In ethnographic studies these platters (called apr.t) have parallels with modern Egyptian vessels used for making ‘eish shams, or sun bread. Peet and Woolley describe a modern baking method by villagers living near Amarna in which they place the dough on unfired platters or plates, and both platter and bread are then baked together in the oven (Peet and Woolley 1923: 64). Also, unfired trays and trays fired at low temperature or partially fired have been discovered in the Elephantine bakery from the First Intermediate Period (2181–2055 BC), T. Rzeuska, personal communication). These trays often break when the bread is taken off.

From "Settlement and Cemetery at Giza: Papers from the 2010 AERA-ARCE Field School" edited by Freya Sadarangani and Alexandra Witsell

So it seems that sun breads were already made in Egypt at the end of the 3rd millennium BC. 

As for decorations, particularly the central circular one and the dots.

A lot of breads deposited in the tombs were found found lying on offering tables when the tombs were opened for the first time.  This is low rectangular table for bread. Deir el-Medina / Tomb of Kha, New Kingdom, XVIII dynasty, Amenhotep II - Amenhotep III (1428-1351 BCE). 

Most of them have the central indentation just like the breads in the tomb wall paintings. 

The triangular bread in the middle of the first row still has visible prick mark decorations

In the end:

This is the Egyptian ideogram of "niwt" meaning a "city", "village" or a general location occupied by people. 

The sign already existed before the unification of the two parts of Egypt and is one of the oldest known hieroglyphs, dating from the pre-dynastic period. 

The accepted explanation is that "this hieroglyph is derived from the graphic renderings of walled enclosure, which were depicted on flattened stones (palettes) found near Abydos in Upper Egypt and dating from the end of the fourth millennium BC..."

But is it possible that this hieroglyph is derived from the sun bread, meaning "any place where bread is made or eaten"? Or was the sun bread decoration derived from the "niwt" symbol?

Monday 16 September 2019

Bridal suicide

A very beautiful, strange and sad ritual wedding song from Galičnik, Macedonia. 

Original song from the Journal of the Ethnographic museum in Belgrade, book 1, published in 1926.Serbian, Cyrilic

It was sang by the groom during the erection of the flag on top of his family house, the day before he goes to pick the bride... 

Originally, according to the ethnographic records from 1926, this flag was some kind of family flag. At 1920's it was more and more replaced by the Serbian flag (when this area became part of Southern Serbia after WW1) and now it's Macedonian flag (as this is now part of Macedonia, since the WW2)...

To me, the strangest thing about this wedding song, is not that groom sings about bridal suicide the day before he goes to pick up the bride 🙂. The strangest thing about this song is that the runaway bride does not jump into Vardar (the biggest river in Macedonia) or any river that flows near Galičnik. She runs 600km away and jumps into Danube...

And she calls the people living along Danube "her brothers", and begs them to instruct her family not to cut wood or cut grass growing along Danube or draw water from Danube...

Did this song actually originate much much further up north, somewhere along Danube? 

I believe that this is quite possible as another song, which is sang by girls during the dressing of the groom goes like this:

Original song from the Journal of the Ethnographic museum in Belgrade, book 6, published in 1931. Serbian, Cyrilic

This songs doesn't talk about going to Skopje, the biggest city in Macedonia, or any other town or village in the ares to get the girl. It talks about going to Budim (the oldest part of today's Hungarian capital Budapest), to get a Budim girl!!! 

This is over 900km up north!!!

So were did the people who originally composed these wedding songs live? And when did they move down to Galičnik?