Pastoral Features of the Culture of Slavic Veneti
By Petr Jandáček
Insights into the pastoral features of the Culture of Slavic VENETI
through the experiences and observations of MONGOLIA in 2012 Augmented by Pictorial Appendices attached at the end of text:
Appendix #1 – Merchandise of Hunters & Gatherers
Appendix #2 – Symbiotic Foundations of the Dairy Industry
Appendix #3 – Milking Goats, Sheep, Yaks & other Bovines, Camels, Horses & Reindeer
Appendix #4 – Microbe Cultures for Milk Products & Alcohol
Appendix #5 – Riding on backs of Animals
Appendix #6 – Falconry in Antiquity and Today. Use of Hunting & Fishing Birds
Appendix #7 – On The Hoof = Shelter, Clothing, Meat & Milk and everything else….
Appendix #8 – FELT Making
Appendix #9 – Construction of a GER (Yurt)
Appendix #10 – Reindeer Herders – A People Appart
Appendix #11 – Leisure Time for Mongols – Play & Fun & Games
Appendix #12 – Oxcarts Across Eurasia
Appendix #13 – Shamanism
Appendix #14 – Synopsis
It would be disingenuous to present this as a scientific study. Rather, it is a travelogue which I believe is insightful, and potentially of value to the many researchers and authors in the Slavic-Venetological community as it had been to me. My travels in Mongolia 2012 (and last year 2011 in tropical South America) had provided me with an understanding of Neolithic Economy which I could never have had gained from literature. To be sure, the biota and climate of Central Europe had always promoted a more diversified economy than the environment allowed in Mongolia. Still, the aspects of transhumance (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transhumance) are largely applicable. As tourism is gaining hold on Mongolia, more and more vacationers are enjoying the experience. Arguably, my journey was unique in that I deliberately tried to link my experiences to the study of the Veneti.
I had learnt many things about the ancient Slavic VENETI by extrapolating from contemporary isolated ethologies of Mongolia and China and applying such findings to more profound understanding of archeology of Central Europe. For instance: Hunting and Gathering may be considered a primitive way of life. Yet, “gathered” resources such as mushrooms of the forest, local varieties of insects or amber found by beach combers on the shores of the Baltic Sea are likely to spawn mega-commerce both in ancient times and contemporary markets. Horn of the ibex had great commercial value in the distant past as it still has now. I have learned to appreciate the fact that milk and milk products played an extremely major role in economies of the past and that few mammals (if any) were exempt from the dairy industry. I had learned that the dairy industry is “symbiotic” and not merely “exploitive” by humans. I have come to understand that yeasts and bacteria were routinely used by ancient peoples to convert carbohydrates, lipids, and amino acids into alcohol and/or more durable food products for later consumption and/or for the market place. I have come to appreciate that riding of angulates is a very ancient “cavalier” way of life and is likely to be millions of years (in the making) rather than just a few thousand years old. I have learned that Shamanism is alive and well in China and Mongolia and that in the modern world Shamans are invited to the United Nations and other international gatherings and treated with much respect. I have experienced the taste of insects (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Entomophagy) and found them to be very palatable and an important part of local and distal economies as trade goods. Mongolia has a population about the same as that of Slovenia but the population density precludes a critical mass to create reasonable infrastructure of roads, railroads, plumbing and airports etc and subsequently Mongolia is a land of “great future potential… and… always will be. Mongolia has a very small human population but it has 43 million head of livestock! I had spent three weeks in Mongolia and did NOT see a single chicken! In China I have seen ducks and geese, chickens, doves and parakeets and every other bird and fowl and insect sold for the dinner table and as pets. Alas, in Mongolia the ONLY “domesticated” birds which I had seen were eagles and hawks used in falconry! If my travelogue is published in the Venetological Zbornik it will have black and white photos. I can provide color photos to readers upon request. Perhaps Mongolia is one of the last places on Earth to preserve the Abrahamic way of life, and within a short time such may not be found anywhere on this planet. If we fail to record it as I have tried in this travelogue, we are likely to have no reliable ethnographic evidence for our study of the European VENETI.
Geo-political facts about Mongolia
Mongolia is as large as “Western” Europe. It appears small as it is “sandwiched” between Russia and China. For centuries it was a “protectorate” of China and Russia (Mongolia’s ONLY neighbors). Russia and China may have disagreed on many details of how to deal with this “protectorate”, but they agreed that the land must be protected from the influences of Britain, France, United States, Japan, Korea and other “corrupting” interests of the other parts of the world. Additionally, both China and Russia have had xenophobic periods of national histories when they themselves had closed their borders and minds to foreign influences. Only since the decline of communism(s) had mining companies offered some small change to parts of Mongolia. Copper, gold, and rare earths are the ores which are mined in this land. Typically a Mongol pastoral family members can fit all of their metal objects into a metal bucket used for milking of camels, horses, sheep, goats, reindeer, yaks and other livestock. (Some few pastoral Mongols have also acquired metal stoves, motorcycles and solar panels.) Thus, even in the 21st Century the pastoral nomadic Mongols have very limited experience with metallic objects.
The Mongol diet
The Mongol diet consists almost entirely of fermented milk, yogurt, and nondescript bone-hard / sun-dried yogurts and “cheeses”. They never wash their fermenting containers/vessels for fear that such sanitary steps might disrupt the biota which turns their liquid milk into more durable sol-gel or extremely hard dairy products – which I affectionately call “extra-somatic kidney stones”. The microbes which turn butters rancid must also remain predictable and uncontaminated. Any disruption of the fermenting biota in their containers may change the Ph of the environment and may cause harmful bacterial cultures to take over their dairy economy. In 2011 (on our trip to the Amazon jungle) we were offered alcohol which the women ferment after CHEWING and SPITTING plants into a communal spittoon. I declined to drink the Amazonian Spit Beer. I DID drink some of the Mongolian fermented mare’s milk liquor. Mongols have primitive stills which they use to distill alcohol from fermented mare’s milk (lactose rather than fructose or maltose). It tastes like yogurt with very bad wine added. Cognac — it is NOT! I had observed a “bait and switch” strategy in milking of mares. A twelve year old boy brings a three month old foal to the mare and to his mother who does the milking. Sometimes the boy steals a ride on the immature foal. Riding on a three month old foal is STRICTLY FORBIDDEN by equestrians in America. To his credit – the boy put his weight on the foal’s pelvis and not on the animal’s immature spine. The foal is allowed to nurse on the mare for about three seconds, and then is pulled away from the mare. The boy’s mother then continues to milk the mare. It is a custom to offer fresh or fermented mare’s milk to visitors – (as bread and salt was offered by Slavic peoples). Milking of camels is a “bait & share” rather than “bait & switch”. The baby camel is allowed to continue to nurse on one teat while the woman obtains milk from the other. Tea with salted mare’s milk and floating melted yak butter is offered to visitors after they sit down in the Mongolian “ger” (Russian yurt). See photos.
About Milk & Meat in Mongolia
My grandmother in Czechoslovakia had one or two goats, and in my naiveté, I expected a small number of dairy animals supplementing a diversified economy. Instead, I found an exclusive milk and meat economy based on hundreds (or thousands) of animals tended by a half dozen to a dozen of family members. The women spend five hours a day milking during milking season. These family groups move their livestock several times a year to greener pastures as the grasses become locally exhausted. There are (almost) NO fences in Mongolia. The Mongol diet of dairy products is supplemented by meat. Lambs, veal calves, kid goats, reindeer fauns or other young are not eaten. The Mongols harvest ALL the wool, hair, muscle power, and milk from EACH animal before it is considered too Geriatric to make it through the horrible Mongolian winter, and only THEN it is slaughtered for meat. Only tough flesh from OLD animals – who had given every last ounce of fiber, milk and locomotion power is harvested to supplement the milk products. Tooth-pics are used without hesitation in every fine restaurant in Mongolia to remove sinews from the teeth of human gourmets. Picking of teeth is almost a communal ritual. Mutton is the most common meat dish in Mongolia. The Ancient Hebrews (before the Laws of Moses) had the so-called Laws of Noah – which did not address the relation of Man to God or Man to Man so much as the relationship of Man towards Animals. One such law was that the animal had to be killed before parts could be eaten. The fact is: that the best way to preserve meat – is – to keep it alive. This begs the unsavory question – Is it OK to harvest a leg from an animal in January, and another leg in March without killing the animal? I did enquire and learned that indeed, in Mongolia you have to KILL the animal before roasting any part. That does (usually) include castrated testicles.
Hominids had been riding on the backs of animals for two million years
The common wisdom is that riding on horseback or other animals is a recent event/invention – perhaps less than 10,000 old. As I mentioned before: I had observed a pre-teen in Mongolia ride a foal which did not weigh any more than my 170 Lbs. This made me ponder the fact that when I was in the Amazon jungle at a Monkey Island Preserve (2011) I had monkeys climb and ride all over me. I like to say in jest – that there was one monkey that pestered me so much I thought that I should at least buy her a drink. The facts are that #1. human babies are carried by their mothers for more than one year after birth! #2. Surely, Australopithecus in Africa observed leopards “ride” on zebras as the feline bites the jugular. #3. There is a saying in America : ” Monkey sees – monkey does”. #4. Surely after observing leopards – an Australopithecus of two million years ago also would spring to an angulate’s back and sever the blood supply to the hoofed animal’s brain with a stone blade. Thus, the rides may have been short….. but much, much older than a few thousand years! #5. Cradleboards are common for “papooses” in every human society. #6. In Mongolia I had ridden on a yak, on a Bactrian camel, and on a horse. I had also observed reindeer riding. #7. I have come to the conviction that RIDING is at least two million years old!
Felt making is something which I had observed and photographed in Mongolia. I did not observe any weaving of cloth there, nor had I observed any basketry. Felt making is an analog technology and weaving is binary and digital (which is now applicable in computer science). I perceive that weaving requires a more advanced technological equipment and acumen than does felting. Weaving also requires more advanced mathematical tradition than felting. Big rolls of felt are pulled by draught animals to bind the fibers of the material. In the past I had suggested that the reason that Slavs RHYME their numerals(enA dvA, TRI čTiRI, pJET šJEsT, sed*M os*M, DEvET DEsET) is because it was useful in weaving and basketry.
The felt is largely used in the construction and insulation of the gers (yurts). I provide many photos of GER construction and GER temporary settlements. Since the GERS very much resemble the Geodesic Dome in which we live in Los Alamos, I am contemplating plans for permanent housing in Mongolia based on a hybrid design of “GERodisic” construction insulated for temperatures of -50 F. Categorically, traditional Mongolian architecture is ROUND – in form of felt yurts or Teepees like those of the American Indians of the plains. Like in the popular movie: Dances with Wolves (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dances_with_Wolves) See photos.
What other things can we learn from the MONGOLS
I learned an interesting philosophy in Mongolia: “There is NO BAD weather! Only BAD clothing!” See the photo of the clothing of yak riders in the winter.
We saw only LARGE DOGS in Mongolia. We had observed some pathological conditions in dogs. We did not see any signs of veterinary medicine. Our guide said there were veterinarians – although most herdsmen handle common medical problems themselves.
To a large measure this paper is an exercise of photojournalism. Thus, much of the balance of the text may be in form of captions to go with the photographs.
I used to go mushroom hunting in Los Alamos with my Slovenian best buddy, Al Arko. Al used to bring home TWO WHEELBARROWS full of mushrooms! A mushroom shop (in China) shows how “found objects” such as mushrooms (or amber) can support an enormous market for mere Hunters and Gatherers. I have never seen so many tons of dried mushrooms in my life!
Horns of IBEX (Capricorn) and other animals had very great value in antiquity, and in Mongolia they still do!
The resources hunted by hunters, and the “found objects” of gatherers are and were a source of tremendous trade.
Last year (2011) in the jungle of the upper Amazon I witnessed women breast feeding a baby anteater (after the hunters killed and ate the mother). It made me understand that the development of the milk economy was not a mere exploitation by mankind of mammalian attributes of other animals but a SYMBIOTIC relationship where humans would supply other young creatures with milk until the young reached maturity and could return the favor in kind – and in meat. Further research on my part reveled that such events are common. https://www.google.com/search?q=women nursing goats&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&aq=t&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-a&source=hp&channel=np It made me pause and consider similar situation with wild grasses which (upon domestication) Can NOT seed themselves but are dependent on Man to SHUCK the corn and THRASH the wheat and have humans place the seeds in the ground – as the plants had lost the ability to reproduce without humans. see Teosinte on the internet learn.genetics.utah.edu/content/variation/corn/
I witnessed milking of goats and was totally amazed at the size of the operation. About 150 goats were lined with horned heads up over a tight rope and a second rope was placed over the neck of each goat and wrapped under the tight rope. It takes about five hours each day to milk the 150 goats in two sessions.
Goats, camels, mares, sheep, reindeer and yaks are milked by Mongol women for many hours each day. Without infrastructure of roads, rail etc the dairy industry is limited to local consumption. Mongols crossbreed cattle with yaks which gives greater survival rate in the winter to the bovines with such hybrid vigor.
In at least one photograph you will see a pregnant Mongol Woman miking a camel. Please notice how the hind legs of the camel are tied together to prevent kicking.
I also reflected on how Louise (my wife) and I were Peace Corps Volunteers in Jamaica (1970/71) and how when our daughter, Tatianna, was born – Jamaican women would stop me on the street, expose their bosom and would say “Big-ones, sire” – thus offering their services to me as a wet-nurse for our baby. This behavior is inconsistent with the norms of the prevailing world culture, but it is a further indication of how milk was basic merchandise in the “commodities market” of the pre-modern world.
Thus, from my travels I have come to certain new understandings which are based on observations (often photographed) and on personal experiences rather than on scientific method based in statistical and componential analysis. There are few scientific experiments which can confirm or dispel what I offer. Thus the value of my travelog is attitudinal rather factual.
Among my impressions is my observation that Mongols resemble Europeans more in somatic proportions and hair color than they resemble their neighbors – the Chinese. They are taller with longer limbs and larger “chiseled” noses and more prominent supra-orbital ridges (taurus). Juvenile Mongols often tend towards blondism which is replaced by darker hair after puberty – much as in the Alpine populations of Europe.
I had come to appreciate that milk played a much greater role in developing human economies than any other resource. Milk was the currency of commerce between people; and between people and other mammals! It is the biological foundation of banking and credit, and of capital and interest and futures and derivatives……etc. I now understand the significance of “Land of Milk and Honey”, of the she-wolf and Romulus and Remus, of Hera and the Milky Way, “Milk of human kindness” “Milking of an Economy” etc. etc. Limburg, Emmenthal, Roquefort, Olomouc, Cheddar and many other European cities are more famous for their bacterial cultures than for the cultures of their universities or cathedrals. Thus, Mongolia shares with Europe the emphasis on milking. China, India, Japan and other parts of Asia are largely devoid of the dairy industry and much of their populations are in fact lactose intolerant. The Americas and Australia also did not promote a milk economy before contact with Europeans.
I had come to appreciate that people all over the world would domesticate birds of prey for falconry or fishing or for plumage. In areas of the world where ducks, geese and chickens are absent – hawks hunt with people and people hunt with hawks (falcons). Plumage from peacocks, ostriches and other unusual birds was used to purchase much of the Americas from the Native Indians.
#1 – Merchandise of Hunters & Gatherers
#2 – Symbiotic Foundations of the Dairy Industry
#3 – Milking Goats, Sheep, Yaks & other Bovines, Camels, Horses & Reindeer
#4 – Microbe Cultures, Fermentation & Alcohol
#5 – Riding on backs of Animals
#6 – Falconry in Antiquity and Today. Use of Hunting & Fishing Birds
#7 – On The Hoof = Shelter, Clothing, Meat & Milk and everything else…
#8 – Felt Making
#9 – Construction of a Ger (Yurt)
These photos illustrate the construction of a MONGOLIAN GER (Yurt in Russian). Additional captions to the pictures are largely unnecessary.
#10 – Reindeer Herders – A People Appart
#11 – Leisure Time for Mongols – Play & Fun & Games
#12 – Oxcarts Across Eurasia
One of the most profound epiphanies that Petr ever had was when he saw Amazon village women breast-feed a baby ANTEATER.
The hunters of the village killed an Anteater and then realized that it was a female with a suckling. They brought the baby anteater home and the women suckled it. The epiphany was that: this was a major event (perhaps 10,000 years ago) when an economic revolution took place – probably with a baby goat or sheep. A suckling goat or sheep was adopted by “wet-nurses” and raised to repay the “investment’ with “interest” in a SYMBIOTIC (not merely exploitive) “private treaty”. When mature, the goat or sheep would repay the tribe with progeny, milk, meat, horn, skin etc. Similar event took place with grains. Wild grasses like teosinte or wild oats etc. drop their seeds when mature. Such seeds on the ground are useless to mankind. Occasionally a mutation produces individuals with ears of grain which HOLD ON TO SEEDS for years and have to be shucked or thrashed to remove the seeds for human consumption. Soon humans developed varieties of grasses which TOTALLY rely on PEOPLE to seed them and… in turn the people have bread and other grain products. There is a SYMBIOSIS between the primates and the grasses…. and both benefit from such a relationship. Win-win!
In Slovenia a wheel from an OXCART was found which ALSO is 5,000 years old. We can conclude that simultaneous OXCART CULTURE(s) existed from the region of the Italian Alps – through Slovenia and into Mongolia 5,000 years ago
The oldest wheel we know about was found in 2003, near Ljubljana, Slovenia. According to what experts say, this wheel is nearly 5,000 years old.
Apr 5, 2003 – Oak axle found in Slovenia is about as old as the wheel. Working on a site in the Ljubljana marshes, Slovenian archaeologists last year uncovered … “Near the site where the wheel was found, there is an even older … In the settlements, archaeologists came upon evidence that indicate that 5,000 years ago …
#13 – Shamanism
#14 – Synopsis
Our trips to Mongolia, China (2012) and South America confirmed my understanding that all of Western Eurasia had well established trade routes in antiquity for goods and ideas. Paleolithic settlements in France had seashells from both the Mediterranean and the Atlantic. The voyages and travels of Columbus, Leif Ericson and Marco Polo were in no way “unique”. They were just better documented than the journeys of thousands of other travelers. Depictions on stone monuments of oxcarts in the Italian Alps and in Mongolia are remarkably similar. Copper axehead of Otzi the Iceman and one found in Iowa are almost identical. Breech-cloth and leggings of the American Indians and of Otzi the Iceman are also identical. The teepees of Mongolia and America are indistinguishable. The domestication of ALL cereal grains (rice, wheat, rye, maize, oats etc) followed the same formula: 1. Wild grasses seed themselves. 2. Occasionally a mutation appears which holds on to the seeds after they are ripe. 3. Granivorous people value rachis (ears) (klas) of grasses which are NOT fragile but which hold seeds till thrashed or shucked. 4. Humans eat most of such seeds — and plant more of the stable rachis grain for future harvests. Milk also is an investment and credit into juvenile mammals who pay back the capital with interest. Thus the grain and dairy industries are the prototype of most other economies and banking. Humans also formed an economic partnership with microbes very early in prehistory. Until relatively recently most humans preferred round dwellings. Riding on the backs is very ancient idea. These and many other bits of understanding I would like to share with others who study the Veneti.