Sunday 1 December 2019


Pausanias was a Greek traveler and geographer of the second-century AD, who lived in the time of Roman emperors Hadrian, Antoninus Pius, and Marcus Aurelius. He wrote "Description of Greece" in ten books, each dedicated to some portion of Greece

One of the books was about Arcadia (Greek: Ἀρκαδία), a region in the central Peloponnese, the old and mysterious place where Pelasgians, the followers of Pelasgus, started human civilisation.

Pausanius tells us that it was Pelasgus who "invented huts that humans should not shiver, or be soaked by rain, or oppressed by heat. He also invented coats of sheep-skins, such as poor folk still wear in Euboea and Phocis." 

I talked about the history of these sheep skin coats in my post "Gown"

Pausanius also tells us that Pelasgus "introduced as food the nuts of trees, not those of all trees but only the acorns of the edible oak." He notes that still in his own time, the Arcadians were fond of acorns.  

This is one of the Arcadian coins with the depiction of an acorn:

You can read more about depictions of acorn eating in ancient texts in my post "Acorns in ancient texts".

This is very interesting because acorns were the first starch food eaten by people, before they switched to grains...

When people lived in the "Garden of Eden" which is in the Old Testament described like this

I wrote about this in my post "Garden of Eden"

In my article about Garden of Eden, I proposed that the name "Eden" comes from PIE root for eating, which would make "Garden of Eden" "Garden of edible tree fruits" like acorns, nuts, apples, pears, cherries... 

In my article "Eat to break fast" about Eid ul-Fitr, Muslim holiday feast that marks the end of Ramadan, the Islamic holy month of fasting, I talked about the fact that the Arabic word Eid (festivity) could come from PIE root for eating...

The time when people lived in the Garden of Eden was to the Greeks known as the "Golden Age", which Ovid describes in Metamorphoses 1. 88 like this:

"The Golden Age (Aetas Aurea) was that first age [of mankind] which unconstrained, with heart and soul, obedient to no law, gave honour to good faith and righteousness. No punishment they knew, no fear; they read no penalties engraved on plates of bronze; no suppliant throng with dread beheld their judge; no judges had they then, but lived secure. No pine had yet, on its high mountain felled, descended to the sea to find strange lands afar; men knew no shores except their own. No battlements their cities yet embraced, no trumpets straight, no horns of sinuous brass, no sword, no helmet then--no need of arms; the world untroubled lived in leisured ease. Tellus (Earth) [Gaia] willingly, untouched, not wounded yet by hoe or plough, gave all her bounteous store; men were content with nature's food unforced, and gathered strawberries on the mountainside and cherries and the clutching bramble's fruit, and acorns fallen from Jove's [Zeus'] spreading tree. Springtime it was, always, for ever spring; the gentle zephyrs with their breathing balm caressed the flowers that sprang without a seed; anon the earth untilled brought forth her fruits, the unhallowed fields lay gold with heavy grain, and streams of milk and springs of nectar flowed and yellow honey dripped from boughs of green..."

And interestingly, the tradition arose in Greece that the site of the original Golden Age had been Arcadia, an impoverished rural area of Greece where the herdsmen still lived on acorns...

For those with dirty minds, you would fit right into Ancient Greece. The word for acorn in Ancient Greek was βάλανος (Balanos). The same word also meant glans penis (dick head)... 

Now here is something that has been bugging me for a while. The main thing Pelasgos did was to introduce acorn into human diet. Is it possible that Pelasgians just means acorn eaters??? I will try to explain why

Slavs living in the Balkans have been eating acorns until the mid 20th c. Most only during "hungry years", but some mountain populations regularly, to supplement their poor diet.

To ensure the supply of edible acorns, sweat oak forests were planted and maintained on village boundaries. Edible acorns were called "sladun" (sweat) "medun" (honney) "granica" (food)

These "sacred" oak forests were called "gaj" (cultivated forest), "zabran" (forbidden forest), "lug" (light forest) and for us particularly interesting "zabel, zabela" (???) name used in Serbia and Macedonia

In the book "Leskovački zbornik" (History of Leskovac) we find that certain forests in the area are caled zabel.

In another book called "Uzroci nestajanja šuma u Srbiji u XIX veku" (The reason for disapearence of forests in Serbia in the 19th century) we find that oak forests are called zabel, zabran in the south of Serbia. 

Another book "Скопље и његова околина" (Skoplje and its surrounding) we find that zabel is "родовскa својнa" (clan property), basically a clan, village forests which is not allowed to be cut, because it is used for the collection of acorns for human and animal consumption.

The book "Istorija seljackog društva. Deo III" (The history of the agricultural society part 3) talks about the evolution of the clan oak forests to village oak forests (zabel, zabran), and how they are used by the villagers.

In the book "Narodna književnost Srba na Kosovu", (Folk literature of the Serbs in Kosovo) we find that zabel is also called zabe and that it is a general word for a clan forest. 

In the magazine "Brastvo, broj 7" (Brotherhood) we find that zabran is called zabel and zabeo.

In "Antropogeografski i etnografski spisi" we find that the names for communal forests are branjevina, braničište, branište, zabran, zabel. 

In the book "Задужбине Косова" (Legats of Kosovo), we find that in Metohija, part of Old Serbia, the common name for protected oak forests among the Serbs was zabel and among Ghog Alabanians Gogaj. 

These were ancient oak forests left to grow between village lands or specifically planted on the boundaries of the village lands and which were forbidden to be cut. These oak forests were not just source of acorns, but also a natural habitat for wild boar, deer, rabit...important sources of meet. Every autumn villagers would go into the village oak forest and collect acorn, which was used both as animal feed and for human consumption. Each familly would collect over 1000 kilos of acorn every year which is a very significan amount of food. 

There is no etymology for "zabel". One possibility is that it comes from the fact that the sacred oaks were in Serbia marked with crosses. Like this one

These marks, and the trees on which they are made are called "zapis"

These kind of marks are also called "beleg", because of the lighter colour of the scar tissue, so it is possible that the zabel comes from za + bel = for + white, marked trees, but this is unlikely...

Ancient Greek word Balanos which means both acorn and oak comes from PIE root *gʷelh₂ (acorn) which in Greek became bel, bal. Is it possible that somehow in the Balkan mountains this word was used to build zabel = za + bel, bal = for oaks, for acorn???

Pelasgos is said to mean "Ancient", but wiktionary says that it is "likely of Pre-Greek origin" and of unknown meaning. As cognates we find Akkadian Pilistu, Palastu and Hebrew Pəlíštim (Philestines, Palestinians) 

Based on the latest genetic studies we know that Philestines came to Middle East from Europe. Based on ethnographic studies we know that in the middle east we have a sharp division on people who eat acorns: Palestinians and people who don't: Jews...

Now if we look at Pelasgos, Pilistu, Palastu, Pəlíštim, we can see that all of these names for acorns eaters start with "pel, pal". Is it possible that these names come from (pal) bal, (bel) bel + jes(t) = acorn + eat? 

"ἐσθίω" is the Ancient Greek for I eat...

"Coincidentally" in South Slavic languages where "zabel" = "za" + "bel" = "for" + "acorns" means "cultivated oak forest" we find that "jesti" means "to eat". So beljest = bel + jest = acorn + he eats = acorns eater = Belest

And interestingly, Pelasgoi was also spelled Pelastoi...Was it Pel+jest+toj (pronounced pelyestoy) = acorn+eat+they = acorn eaters?

This is very possible, as the so-called Harris Papyrus, a biography of Ramses III written under his son and successor Ramses IV, tells us that the pharaoh defeated the "Peleset" – as the Egyptians called the Philistines and other Sea Peoples early in his reign (around 1190 B.C.E.) and brought them back as captives to his lands...

Another interesting thing: in Macedonia where we find "zabel" cultivated oak forests, lowland people use "acorn eaters" as a derogatory term for hillbillies who eat acorns because their land is poor and they can't grow enough grain.

So If Pelesti (Belesti) really comes from pel, bel (acorn) + jest (eat), could Pelasgoi, Pelastois once have been used as an insulting term for the "acorn eaters" by the grain eaters?

Now have a look at this: 

Hebrew: balut - acorn
Iraq: bellut - oak, khubez bellut - acorn bread; 
Zagros mountains, Iran: Beli - acorn
Kurdish = bellot - acorn
Aramaic: bəllūṭā, ballūṭā - oak, acorn

So In all these languages root "bel" means acorn and oak...

So how does this fit with the official etymology of the Ancient Greek "βάλανος" (oak, acorn) which says that this word comes from Proto-Hellenic "*gʷə́lanos", ultimately from Proto-Indo-European "*gʷelh₂-" (“acorn”)...

Isn't it more likely that it is related to all the above Semitic words? And if so did Greeks borrow this word from the Semites?

Well I think the borrowing actually happened the other way round. Look at this:

Aramaic word bəllūṭā, ballūṭā, “oak; acorn” possibly relates to Akkadian 𒋾 (balāṭu, “to trees or seeds”) and 𒄑𒁁𒀖 (be-lit, baluṭ, “a strong tree...bearing edible produce”) 

But this is not the main Semitic root meaning oak, acorn. The main Semitic root meaning oak, acorn is Akkadian 𒀠𒆷𒀭 (ʾallānu, alyānu) from Sumerian 𒄑𒀠𒆷𒈝 (allanum, “oak; acorn, acorn-shaped”)...

So how and when did "bel" (oak, acorn) come into Semitic languages??? Did it happen during the Bronze Age collapse when Pelestoi (Philestines) came to Middle East from Europe? But how do we then explain the Akkadian words with the root "bel"???

I think this is a very interesting subject which needs further investigation, don't you think?


  1. Goran Pavlovic, thank you very much for this blog post and other old-European-related posts focused on old Slavic regions. I am of Polish-Baltic ancestry and a retired organic farmer and former plant ecologist and ethnobotanist. Long interested in role of oaks and acorns in history and prehistory. For years I live in southern California on lands once sustaining the Chumash and related indigenous peoples who drew part of their sustenance from collecting and processing acorns. Marshall Chrostowski, currently from Quebec

    1. Thank you for you comment Marshall. I think that the role acorns played in the development of human civilisations is way under-appreciated.

  2. And thus you have deciphered the word belka.

  3. Please have a look at something related I've come up with:
    I hope you'll find it amusing :)