Friday, 24 July 2020

Kaunakes

The earliest type of dress attested in early Sumerian art of the Pre-Dynastic period (4000-2700 BC) is a sort of kilt made of smooth fabric, which is quite closely fitting the lower body, while the upper body remains bare...Warka Vase detail, Uruk period, c. 3200–3000 BC


During the same period, these "kilts" were also depicted with the "fishnet" design...Some say it's a depiction of tartan...But I would say that it is a way of depicting "woven fabric". You can see an example of this on this Uruk period (c. 3100BC) cylinder-seal...


But then during the Early Dynastic Period (2700-2350 BC), the fashion begins to change...We still see plain smooth fabric kilts and dresses, but we also begin to see the clothes with tasseled ends and fully tasseled garments...Hoard of Sumerian statues from Tell Asmar, Iraq...


To be finally replaced by this: Kaunakes...Statue of Iku-Shamagan, King of Mari, wearing the "Kaunakes". Circa 2500 BCE...


During the Dynastic period, kaunakes seem to have became the cloths worn by "important" characters, a symbol of distinction...Votive relief of Ur-Nanshe, king of Lagash, Early Dynastic III (2550–2500 BC), with all important figures wearing "kaunakes"


Now the exact nature of the "kaunakes" seems to be still debated...You can read about this in "Que savons-nous exactement du kaunakès mésopotamien?" by Catherine Breniquet...

I believe that originally this was just a sheep or goat fleece cut and stitched together into sheets...Just like this shepherds cloak from Romania:


But later, it became a woollen fabric with tassels, woollen dreadlocks, made to look like a fleece...Just like this shepherds cloak from Montenegro:


Which was made like this:


There are two interesting things related to this real and artificial sheep fleece clothes...

First the name...

I am not sure if we know the Sumerian name for it. Akkadians called it "GU-NAK-KU". It was the Ancient Greeks who called it καυνάκης (kaunakes) or γαυνάκης (gaunákēs)...

Now in English we have word "gown" which apparently comes "from Anglo-Norman gune, goune ("fur-trimmed coat, pelisse"), from Old French goune, from Late Latin gunna ("leather garment, a fur"), from Ancient Greek γούνα (goúna, "coarse garment") from "unknown origin"...

Two roots are proposed: 

1. Perhaps from a Balkan or Apennine language...

Well, I don't know about Apennine languages, but in the Balkans languages, more precisely Serbian, we find the word "Gunj". Gunj is Serbian word which means a cover and clothes made from sheepskin, woollen fabric with clumps (tassels) made to look like artificial sheepskin, or woollen felt...I talked about this in my post "Gunj"...

2. Perhaps from Proto-Iranian "*gawnám" (fur) (compare Younger Avestan "gaona" (body hair) and Ossetian гъун (ǧun))...

But what about the Akkadian "GU-NAK-KU"? We can't just ignore this, right?

So is this another Sumerian (Akkadian) - PIE cognate? Remember my article about the PIE - Akkadian words for acorns? Or someone borrowed it from someone? Who borrowed it from whom? And when? 

The second interesting thing. 

Was this change in Sumerian fashion a reflection in the political and ethnic change at the top of the Sumerian society? Why were all of a sudden all the big heads wearing sheepskins or imitations of sheepskins?

What were they trying to show? That they were the "sheep" people and not the "grain and cattle" people? Was this new fashion the result of the herders subduing the farmers? And were the big shots wearing their sheepskin clothes as a symbol of their superiority?

What do you think?

By the way...Central Asian people seem to have liked kaunakes a lot too...From the beginning...Bactria, late third millennium BC – early second millennium BC



https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/f77b/6d1ee9b4699208f3db93987403fb96d6f244.pdf#page=403
https://cairn.info/revue-d-assyriologie-2016-1-page-1.htm

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