A San Francisco Cultural Initiative
Slobodan Dan Paich Comparative Culture Papers
Presented July 10-12, 2009 at The Turkic World, the Caucasus, and Iran: Civilisational Crossroads of Interactions.
Arya International University, Makhtumquli Feraqi Centre for Turkic Studies Yerevan, Armenia.
Slobodan Dan Paich
Director and Principal Researcher
Artship Foundation, San Francisco, USA
A reflection on methods of husbandry and agriculture from the point of the History of Culture and Ideas, this paper is an exploratory conceptual framework for a possible interdisciplinary research project comparing archeological findings, artifacts, documented ethnographic, anthropological records of the Eurasian Caucasus. To initiate discussion, the paper will briefly look into regional cultural similarities and differences through a comparative analysis of some of the examples of music, dance, local stories, legends, and their possible connection and origin in husbandry and agriculture.
The paper will explore historic interactions in the Caucasus through a series of open questions and reflections. The methodologies of iconography: comparing, identifying, classifying, and the reading of images as a means of probing into cultural meaning will be extended from Art History into the archeological and ethnographic remains of agriculture and animal husbandry.
For Artship Ensemble, a theater matrix is unified field, a holder of all the written and orally transmitted and remembered elements of the expressions.
This paper is not an attempt to idealize a practice or come with any universal answers. It is intended as a sharing of the successes and straggles of number of project tackling an emerging paradigms of working together, celebrating doing and making intelligence and looking for a deeper sources of freedom of expression. The paper originally intended for the Ensemble members is sharable with people interested in this type of work.
To open discussion with other disciplines, citing published research, a number of themes will be compared, including:
These themes could open an enquiry beyond national or religious boundaries.
One of the sub-themes of this paper's comparative, regional and diachronic approach, positions it in contrast to nationalist and mono-disciplinary methodologies.
The paper will sketch out a possible interdisciplinary research, potentially drawing from the social sciences, cultural history—including archeology and ethnography. It will also include the application of new technology to archeology, e.g., geodetic satellite renderings of the Earth's surface, applied to the history of water management and ancient agricultural and pastoral land use, could aid in critically comparing ancient practices with pre-industrial ones. The open-ended conclusion intends to shed light on the history of cultural interactions in the Caucasus.
To bring this discussion in to sharper focus we shall look to the histories of the National Academies and more specifically at formation of some Academies of Science.
I was looking for an example to open this paper concerned with the profound cultural contributions of the Caucasus and tentatively ask some open questions about its far-reaching, cross-cultural influences in Asia and Europe, particularly in the Mediterranean.
As an historian of art and ideas my sense has been for a while, shared with a number of colleagues, to work on a need to shift the centrality of the Greco-Roman view as the cradle of civilizations, held strongly in the mainstream of European and American Art and Cultural History. This shift would express European cultural interdependence with Africa and Egypt on the one hand and the Fertile Crescent and the Caucasus on the other. In that light, I was looking for an example of ancient technique, (The Classical Greek word for art is techne) which would represent a deeply meaningful and lasting cross-cultural contribution. And as a side note, but an important element of this paper, an example that is more than an archeological finding that can potently have an impact on post-industrial needs and sustainable practices; a tall order for an historian of art and ides. Fortunately, I remembered an article reprinted in an online news magazine South Asian Women's Forum that a friend sent me, as she knew that I am interested in the history of irrigation. The article title is already a provocation in itself:
In Nakhchivan, Ancient Water Technology Meets Modern Need
Our intention in this paper is to presume a trans-national and trans-religious audience of scholars and a concerned public committed to cherishing all cultural manifestations and advocating preservation, regardless of current national or religious boundaries. Ours is an idealistic and expanded view of the history of cultures and ideas, where every ancient olive, fruit tree or an old bridge or well, are testaments of human presence, and worth preserving or at least documenting.
S. Ostrovsky, the author of the article we began to look at, describes how newly trained youth workers systematically tackle drought in Nakhchivan by clearing blocked and abundant tunnels near the water sources at higher altitudes “reviving an ancient irrigation system invented by the Persians 2,400 years ago.”
S. Ostrovsky describes how the traditional technology was saved from near extinction by tapping the knowledge of two chehriz technicians, a 65-year-old and a 72-year-old, “who remembered the skills from their youth. They have since trained 100 more young men and the project has spread to other parts —rebuilding chehriz in their spare time.”
Chehriz, kariz or qanat (kahrezesin Armenian) is a type of underground irrigation aqueduct; a human-made tunnel connecting an underground layer of water in the foothills of seasonally snow covered mountains or a higher altitude mountain lake to the dry and arid plains below.
The water distribution takes place along a deliberately crafted tunnel, often lined with bricks or some reasonably impermeable material. To maintain the qanat, aerate the water and allow hotter air to ascend out of the system, there are well-like openings all along the length of a qanat, built close together at regular intervals. The qanat uses gravity as a main source of propelling the water downhill. This marvel of engineering and understanding of the environment has been the underpinning of Persian culture since the Iron Age. It spread trough the Caucasus, to China, Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, Andalusia and Sicily. This far-reaching, inter-cultural communication and implementation of an irrigational technique from the south Caucasus region to the Mediterranean and Asian cultures is one of the pivotal examples in this paper.
The secondary interest of this paper is a possible application of any of the ancient attitudes, techniques and discoveries for today's world and the future.
We briefly return to S. Ostrovsky's article where he quotes Sarat Das, head of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) supporting the reconstruction of waterways as saying: “Nobody attended to the chehriz in Soviet times, mechanization replaced the traditional systems.”Summarizing, S. Ostrovsky commented on the reconstruction project that, “unable to pay the higher prices for electricity imported from other countries, the locals looked to the region's 400 or so crumbling chehriz to turn their dusty fields green.̵
To conclude this section and as a celebration of the qanat system of water management we shall briefly look at the magnificent setting of the Badh-i-Sheh, “Kings Garden.” This image and land/ water use concepts are addressed to the European and American art and cultural historians who are not familiar with this ingenious irrigation invention and to the Caucasian scholars as homage to the region.
G. Garster in his book on Persian Gardens &endash; Brot und Solt: Flugbilder writes:
The Badh-i-Sheh (Kings Garden) is near Mehan, in the province of Kerman [close to Teheran]. A canal brings water from the foot of the mountain to the Garden. The Garden dates from the Kajar dynasty (1794 — 1925); purists dedicated to early Persian garden art dispute its aesthetic merit. They fault its planting, its architecture, the width of its watercourses. But even most zealots must admit the uniqueness of its setting, which permits the realization of a Persian garden ideal: the magical transformation of a barren, scorching desert purgatory into a paradise of cool and shade, fruit and flower.
Similar statements can be made about simple agricultural land, orchards and domestic gardens in the villages and communities of the Caucasus utilizing qanatsfor centuries and other forms of irrigation since prehistoric times.
Another example of far reaching influences from the Caucasus region is the Metsamor Phenomena, rather than place only, as a prehistoric international research and innovation center, where production of early metallurgy goods for export occurred, but also a center of astronomy and navigation. Virtually unknown in the west the Metsamor complex is situated on a hill and in the general vicinity of Mount Ararat, in the Ararat plane.
For western colleagues and students who my have only heard of Mount Ararat in relationship to the story of Noah, Metsamor castle is at 2,759 feet, while the summit of “Mt. Ararat” is about 7,000 feet.
For Armenians and scholars of the Caucasus, who are familiar with the place and its history, our brief mention of Metsamor is not only an example of Euro-Asian cultural interrelation, but also a way of paying homage to the enormous effort to uncover and preserve this cultural heritage site and its findings. The inclusion of the Metsamor example is also a way to celebrate and honor the tremendous inter-disciplinary, pioneering astro-archeological work of scientifically interpreting the site by astronomer Dr. Elma Parsamian and her collaborators.
Metsamor Castle, a prehistoric stronghold, is the generative center of a fully developed ancient metropolitan area that at is peak housed 50,000 inhabitants from approximately 7,000 BC to the end of the 17th century AD.
Metsamor's sophisticated techniques of metal smelting and fabrication were probably the most advanced of its time.
Important for the interest of this paper, is that according to several current descriptions of the site, its products reached Egypt, Central Asia and China. In the royal tombs at Metsamor, Babylonian, Central Asian and Egyptian objects were also found, demonstrating far-reaching exchanges. The explicit Egyptian connection implies links to Anatolian, Cypriot and Aegean sites.
K. Hayassa-Azzi in a 1970 pamphlet,Museum of History of the Metsamor Mining and Metallurgical Works describes the type of bronze used:
…the great amount of half finished and end-products established the wide range of variety and specialization in metallurgical production undertaken on a large scale, in which the salient features were: copper- arsenic—thin—bronze in addition to copper- arsenic, copper-tin, copper-zinc alloys in varying proportions depending on the task assigned to the metal.
The pamphlet also describes other metal production and associated techniques:
The production of pure copper (98.5%) is also established, apart from lead, gold (electrum) and typical stainless hematite laminate, notable for their mirror brilliance. The production of glass and paste (the latter containing zinc over 1% and lead up to 0.5%) was well ahead [of other cultures]. The mines of Metsamor disclose tin, copper, lead, zinc phosphorus, mercury…
Clearly the volcanic promontory was not only of strategic significance, but it provided ready raw materials and a vantage point for Metsamor's other preoccupation, astronomy.
In taking about Metsamor 's astronomy one doesn't know how one should start, with the Astronomer or Astronomy?
Astronomer Dr. Elma Parsamian, of the Biurakan Observatory, first studied a number of excavated monuments at Metsamor in the 1980's. With her enormous experience as an astronomer and as an archeo-astronomer, Elma Parsamian published her findings in 1984.
There is an incredibly significant promontory, a shelf with an elaborate design referred to in the 1970 pamphlet, Plan of the Cult – Astronomical Structure. Dr. Parsamian placed a modern compass on it and found that the diagram orientation was accurately conforming to the marked coordinate and pointing due North, South and East.
Dr. Parsamian, in exploring another aspect of the Metsamor astronomical designs incised in stones and uncovering a potentially 5,000 year stellar calendar, established that the primary star which matched the date on the curving is the brightest star in our galaxy, Sirius. These two extremely simplified examples, from the research findings of Dr. Parsemian's complex and important study are adjusted for non-astronomical readers, mostly art and cultural historians and the general public.
A. Whitaker, in his website Ancient - Wisdom.co.uk describes Metsamor's astronomical characteristics:
The astronomical observatory predates all other known observatories in the ancient world. That is, observatories that geometrically divided the heavens into constellations and assigned them fixed positions and symbolic design.
A. Whitaker points to the extraordinary precedent of Metsamor 's astronomical practices:
Until the discovery of Metsamor it had been widely accepted that the Babylonians were the first astronomers. The observatory at Metsamor predates the Babylonian kingdom by 2,000 years, and contains the first recorded example of dividing the year into 12 sections. Using an early form of geometry, the inhabitants of Metsamor were able to create both a calendar and envision the curve of the earth.
Dr. Parsamian, after her pioneering interpretation of the purpose and antiquity of the observatory at Metsamor, began to look at the Karahundj site, an Armenian prehistoric stone circle. In her role of astro-archeologist, she examined the standing stones considered by archaeologists at that time to be markers of a 3,000-2,000 BC burial site.
The ragged esthetic of the stone circle disguised for our contemporary eyes the immense sophistication of the site. It takes an inter-disciplinary approach, critical rigor and insightful questions from many angles to decipher the mindset of the circles' ancient builders.
Image and some facts from Rick L. Ney, www.TaCentral.com.
The most astonishing feature of the site are the holes in some of the stones and that the stones were set intentionally for a specific systematic observation. The apertures are focused exactly at:
The apertures in the stones are predecessors of modern optical sextants and telescopes.
Dr. Parsamian articulated the hypothesis that the site was a comprehensive observatory.
The designers and users of this observatory were clearly trained forecasters and navigators, with a grasp of the night sky, of the stars, sun, moon and visible planets. The ancient observers followed definite coordinates and the annual movements across the sky.
Utnapishtim or Ziusudra of Assyrian pre-Biblical deluge stories sends forth birds to seek dry land, similar to the Biblical Noah. A striking similarity also exists in the Mesopotamian Utnapishtim in the story of Deucalion, son of Prometheus and Pronoia, who were all saved by warning of the deluge by a deity and were advised to build an ark.
As navigational archeology is almost nonexistent, an indirect hint of navigational use of birds may be found in the obscure and little documented comparative history of omphaloses, the earth navel's and their association with birds.
There are a number of ancient sanctuaries around the Mediterranean that have inherited the title of ‘Earth Navel.’ Most of these sites were the nexuses of earlier cults of mother goddesses, places of veneration, pilgrimage and in some cases prophecy. The most famous omphalos is from Delphi in Greece. They are also found in Greek temple complexes at Delos and in the Ancient Egyptian Nubia, at the temple of Amon. The omphaloses with birds sitting on or near them are represented on a number of Greek bas-reliefs and coins, as well as written versions of the Egyptian book of the dead. The birds represented sitting on omphaloses are the same type used by the ancients for navigation, homing pigeons, crows and ravens. So far there is no positive verbal documentary evidence for the similarity between navigational and omphalic birds. One extremely open hypothesis is that the specially trained birds offered practical or ritualized connection between sanctuaries of the ancient world.
The ancients certainly observed the miraculous ability of birds to navigate over large areas, particularly at the time of their migration. Modern science has just begun to represent a possible mechanism of these navigational skills.
In the summary of their paper, The Magnetic Sense of Animals, T. Ritz and K. Schulten write:
Animals have several types of magnetic organs, often separately specialized for determining direction versus location. Recent results offer hints about how these once-unimaginable detectors may have evolved.
The authors also write:
Although the use of the geomagnetic field for directional information is well established experimentally, it is not known by which biophysical mechanism magneto-reception is achieved. The magnetic sense is maybe the last perception mechanism for which the nature of the receptors and of the biophysical mechanism remain unknown. How can the geomagnetic field be perceived?
In the illustration below T. Ritz and K. Schulten represent the perceptual sensitivity of birds to the overall earth magnetic field.
Reflecting upon this specific relationship of humans and birds, birds to specific locations of sanctuaries and sanctuaries as possible conveners of the greater Mediterranean federation of villages, some questions emerge:
The tools, focus and language of investigation have changed, but actual and implied traces of sophistication and keen observation of the ancients leads us to imagine a very special relationship of humans and birds when it came to the navigational partnership.
Why look into a breed of dog in studying cultures of the Caucasus, or any culture?
Studying the development of dog breeds typical to the Caucasus from the point of view of cultural history can bring fresh insight into aspects of interactions with Central Asia, the Mediterranean, Eastern Europe, Southern Russia and Iran.
In this brief overview we shall look at the Armenian Shepherd Dog in its habitat of the highlands of traditional Armenia.
Since Prehistory, humans have bonded with animals as a means of extending the senses and bringing more physical power to their enterprises. The previous chapter cited examples of artifacts and folklore where birds had a role in ancient cultures, due to avian abilities to navigate over large areas by seeing and using the geomagnetic field.
Dogs can, with their wet nose as an odor discerning compass, detect direction of air currents containing the warning smell of a predator or stranger, or welcome smells of its home or returning owner. According to experts, dogs can differentiate smells at nearly 100 million times lower concentration than humans.
Dog's ability to bond, guard, warn and detect, offers, as we noted before, a tremendous field for cross-cultural exploration of the history of human-canine relationships, as an adjunct to archeological finings, folkloric traditions and inevitable chronicles of wars.
The regal, almost lion like (with canine presence rather than feline grace) Armenian Wolfhound (gampr) or aralez is a specific breed of shepherd dog that originated in the highlands of historic Armenia, potentially 15,000 years ago. Almost all pastoral mountainous areas of the southern Caucasus have a descendant or a cousin of the dog, if not the breed itself. The gampr are muscular and brawny, but also responsive and gracious to the shepherd and the flock. In assessing danger and outside intrusion, they are inelegant decision makers. Their leonine sturdy movements are part of the breeds energy conservation and communication of authority and implied power before an attack if needed. In a "battle" mode the gampr/ aralez has the sharp reactions of a wild animal.
Surprisingly, observing dog domestication, particularly of the Armenian gampr, may shed some interpretative light on the relationship of Sumer and the Caucasus. There is a tension and attraction between Sumer--the land near the great rivers, with its intensive, continual agricultural work regardless of season, and the Caucasus—the hinter land of mountains, foothills, lakes and high plateaus. While both realms practice agriculture and herding of animals, simplified, this attraction is a relationship, a co-dependency of Shepherds and Farmers. Mythologized, this relationship is culturally expressed in the stories of Inanna and Dumuzi or Semiramides and Ara. In both myths, dogs play a role.
Inanna had seven hunting dogs. She had a dog “who sniffed at the soul and told her if it was good or bad.” …Her husband Dumuzi had a dog described in written documents and clay tablets as: “The black dog, your shepherd dog, the noble dog, your lordly dog…”
Sumerian Inanna, goddess of lands with greater population density, falls in love and forms a deep relationship with Dumuzi (Tammuz), a shepherd boy from the wild, mostly untamed and more sparsely populated Caucasus. (Notice she doesn't fall in love with a chief Metallurgist or Astronomer from Metsamor).
Throughout their love, part of Dumuzi always belongs to nature, the weather changes, his dog and his flock. Even the agrarian goddess of love, who went to the underworld and came back, could not penetrate into the mindset or heart of a shepherd.
Feeling unsupported in her underworld trials, Inanna sends Dumuzi to the underworld as punishment, only to regret and lament her decision. Inanna pleads with the gods for Dumuzi's release from the underworld. The gods consent on the condition that he has to live half the year as gatekeeper of the underworld during the barren months of the hot summer, and the other half on earth with Innana.
F. Lindemans, in The Encyclopedia Mythica, says this about their reunion:
t the autumnal equinox, which marked the beginning of the Sumerian new-year, Dumuzi returned to the earth. His reunion with his wife caused all animal and plant life to be revitalized and made fertile once again. …Dumuzi, originally a mortal ruler by his marriage to Inanna, ensured the fertility of the land and the fecundity of the womb... [Dunmuzi became] a god of vegetation and fertility, and also of the underworld. And was called ‘the Shepherd’ and ‘lord of the sheepfolds’.
M. F. Lindemans also makes these statements:
In the Old Testament, the priests of Inanna (Asherah) and Dumuzi (Tammuz) are known as kelabim "dogs."
Sumerian royal inscriptions use the compound ur-sag "hero, warrior" which means literally "top dog."
According to the Sumerian King-List Gilgamesh was descended from ‘Dumuzi a shepherd’.
The other myth that delves even more specifically into unique characteristics of the Caucasus is the story of Semiramis and Ara and the presence of the mystic Aralez, an Armenian god in the guise of a dog.
Ara the Handsome, Ara Geghetsik, Armenian king of Ararat (1769-1743 B.C), was deeply rooted in the high plateaus and mountains of Armenia. In love with his wife, and having no time for the sophistication and fineries of Semiramis' court, he declined her advances. This refusal inflamed Semiramis' desire, and she attacked the Armenians with her numerous and well-trained army in hope of capturing Ara.
In a battle fought in the Ararat valley, Ara who would rather die than be captured, battled so hard that in the end the invaders, fearing for their own lives had to kill him despite Semiramis' command that he be captured alive. At his death, Semiramis was wild with grief; the fact that her war caused Ara's valiant death was not helping her either.
It is said that Semiramis prayed to the gods of Armenia to revive Ara from the dead. She particularly implored the divine dog Aralez, empowered with the gift of bringing back to life soldiers who had just died in battle, by licking the bleeding wounds of the afflicted, and breathing on them until the solders showed new and combatant life force again. According to the Aralez legend, there is only one affliction that reviving brings to the once dead warriors: they became deprived of their "spiritual aspect," otherwise they would live out the rest of their potential lifespan. Knowing that, Semiramis hoped to revive Ara, who, lost to all other spiritual connections would see her as his religion, his soulmate.
But Ara died, and never returned. Even in his death he held on to the spirit of his highland soul, not wanting to be a member of the imperial retinue, nor a part of the hierarchy of the urbanized court of the land between two great rivers. His god seems to have respected his decision.
Semiramis, a woman of considerable knowledge and power, then took his dead body and tried to revive him herself, without success. When in full fury the warriors of Ararat advanced to avenge their king, Semiramis disguised one of her generals as Ara and spread the rumor that the gods had brought him back to life and he had become her consort. As a result, the war ended. This deception made the connection of the highlands of Ararat and the lands of the two great rivers uneasy at that time, as it was not based on true kinship.
Semiramis' deep attraction to Ara was an inner call to invigorate a genetic pool of inbred aristocrats. She deeply sensed the essential otherness of the highland king's way and intelligence. Hers was not conquest of land or resources, but of a gene pool and breeding. She experienced the shortcomings of pure breeding first hand among her kin. Although aggressor, young and beautiful, Semiramis is a matriarch in distress, deeply in love, with uncontainable longing like the she-wolf howling at the moon.
We have seen over and over in history that anything pure extinguishes itself by isolation.
The history of the Shepherd Dog gampris a perfect expression of the cunning of adaptation, reinterpretation and survival.
In an article Armenian Shepherds: the Gampr Deified as Aralez, posted on tacentral.com, there is a description of the diversified look of the breed:
Unlike many contemporary dog breeds, who have been bred to maintain a uniform &lsquot;beautiful’ look, the gampr's exterior, its shape, size and color may vary from location to location. They are prevalently large dogs, muscular, strongly built, with a powerful head. In the high mountain terrain, they are mostly big, with a long coat, while in lower areas a more typical type is a lighter and short-coated dog.
The following description of the Armenian Wolfhound, from the same article above, is an important portrayal of geographically specific characteristics. This kind of documentation is invaluable to understand the breed in its setting, easily overlooked when viewed out of context:
At first sight, the gampr's exterior may not seem appealing: it has a harsh unsophisticated shape, coarse coat, lazy and ungraceful movements when the dog is calm. This is typical for all natural breeds whose exterior and behavior are tailor-made for survival. Coarse hair well protects it from cold and heat, rocks and thorns, an enemy's fangs and other weapons. Diverse coat color facilitates mimicry in various landscapes.
The history of the Armenian shepherd dog, in its diversity, adaptability, outer raggedness is like the history of Caucasus and relations to its neighbors, invaders and pilgrims. For thousands of years travelers came for metallurgical, astronomical, agricultural and breeding wisdom, techniques and goods. The unique setting, bio-diversity and tremendous inventiveness and ingenuity of the people of the Caucasus must have inevitably been reflected in the characteristics of their dog. The divine dog Aralez, the fearless handsome, ingenious and inventive shepherd king Ara, and gampr dog share the same regional characteristics. Are those the characteristics that Semiramis was hoping to impart to her offspring by pleading for help from the highland canine god Aralez to revive Ara? In her case Aralez did not oblige, but in the case of every noble, working dog in the Caucasus a little bit of this "mythological" dog resides. Finally, at the end of this section about Armenian shepherd dogs we have to state simply: there is not a shepherd dog without a shepherd.
The reason for looking at the characteristics of shepherds in relation to the cultural history of the Caucasus is to probe into possible exchanges, influences or spontaneous similarities with the Mediterranean and beyond. It is an attempt to bring findings from international intangible heritages to searches and research for the tangible traces in the material culture of prehistoric and pre-industrial husbandry. If we move from reconstructing the artifacts to the reconstruction of characteristics of historic human beings, in our case shepherds, a number of skills, aptitudes and breakthroughs emerge. An ancient shepherd is a psychologically complex, evolved and congruent being.
The psychology of shepherds is distinguished by the ability to be alone, to manage, even seek a period of time away from the cosines of a closely-knit group, the village. Although away, shepherds are deeply connected to the survival, food and clothing of their kin, unlike monks who withdraw from the world for spiritual reasons.
Either alone with the animals or in the company of a few other shepherds, like sailors, they are the type of professionals who create a social subculture of their own.
Close observation of surviving artifacts, scant pictorial evidence and comparative critical reconstruction of the sophistication and profound intelligence of the working traditions of shepherds may give us a better understanding of early and non-industrial societies. Also, critical reconstructions may give us an insight into lost cognitive processes, historic understanding of land use and ancient sustainable practices. This new look at the Culture of Shepherds may also shed more light on the contribution of the Caucasus region as one of the cradles of civilization.
The whistling language, although the samples are not from the Caucasus, is an extraordinary operational mode, and an example of the ingenuity and sophistication of shepherds. Currently surviving in the Canary Islands, this form of specific communication is studied by D. Corina, a University of Washington associate professor of psychology and M. Carreiras, a psychology professor at the University of La Laguna, on the island of Tenerife in the Canaries. Their study tested the human brain's remarkable flexibility to understand a variety of signals as language. The whistling language of shepherds expands our view of what is cognitively perceived as language. The Silbo Gomero, or Silbo, primarily used by shepherds to communicate with each other over long distances of rugged terrain on the island is a surviving fragment of ingenuity associated with the profession of tending animals.
The online newsletter Science Daily, of January 7, 2005 quotes D. Corina as saying:
“Science has developed the idea of brain areas that are dedicated to language and we are starting to understand the scope of signals that can be recognized as language.”
The newsletter comments that their experiments confirmed that the way the brain processes these whistles is similar to the way it goes about deciphering English, Spanish or other spoken languages. Silbo is an occupation-centered language and is used to say such things as "open the gate" or "there is a stray sheep." It is not the worlds only whistle language. There are others in Greece, Turkey, China and Mexico, according to Corina.
Beyond the highly evolved and complex animal calls, the music making, often in solitude, is an integral part of the shepherd's life. This music creates an audible territory for warning predators and reassuring the flock. Wind instruments were almost always used, as they audibly resemble whistling, and are higher pitched than plucked or bowed instruments.
There is a unique type of archaic polyphonic singing preserved by shepherds in remote regions of Corsica, Sardinia, Albania, Istria, Romania, Bulgaria, Anatolia and Georgia. The close similarity of this type of singing among shepherd communities is noticeable. This type of singing is done around the family table, at evening gatherings or in taverns. In regions were shepherds bring the animals home for the winter it has been an instrument of community solace and expression for thousand of years. Usually sung by shepherds and their families, the songs are characterized by the devotional intimacy of unaccompanied, orally trained singing. The singers have often grown up and trained together. Very similar to Corsica, Sardinian Canto a tenore survived and flourished in the more remote and pastoral culture of central Sardinia. Likewise, in Albania, another Mediterranean mountain region with a strong pastoral tradition and survival of an archaic form of singing, is the Iso-Polyphony, resembling Sardinian and Corsican examples.
The tonalities of the shepherd's polyphonic singing are not based on a musical octave scale, the pentatonic scale of Pythagoras or what we know of ancient Egyptian and Assyrian music. They are sometimes sung in quartertones, an unusual harmony resembling echoes and overtones of voices in caves and underground chambers. The shepherds utilized caves well after the agricultural revolution and building of settlements and villages near arable land. To understand the possible relationship of archaic singing to cave echoes we turn to Professor S. Errede from the Department of Physics at The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. In his article Pre-Historic Music and Art in Palæolithic Caves he writes
Recent acoustic experiments carried out in some of the caves in southwestern France under the direction of Iegor Reznikoff have shown that in the majority of such caves, the presence of wall paintings and drawings is highly correlated with the phenomenon of natural echo at that location in the cave, and especially so at particular resonant frequencies. Furthermore, it has been established that indications relating to the nature of the particularly resonant sound are recorded not in the form of some kind of random graffiti, dispersed at the whim of the prehistoric artist, but instead as precisely-coded signs within the pictorial representation, often explicitly indicated by means of lines or dots emerging from the mouth of a person or animal drawn, in precisely those areas of the cave where the echo is most pronounced.
S. Errede, in the same paper, shows the photograph, below taken near the entrance, just inside the Pech Merle cave in France. On the ceiling of the cave are red dots placed there by prehistoric people to indicate a zone of special acoustic significance-resonances. The drawings and dots at various locations on the cave walls demonstrate a potential of a prehistoric music score.
The surviving polyphonic singing, although slightly different in its manifestation and performance today, points to a probable similar source and attitude. Perhaps this type of singing is related to some specific sanctuary, overtones of which were brought home and integrated, remembered and practiced by pastoral communities over a large geographic area and across time. The calming, soothing tonalities are the potential gift of shepherds to their communities. Perhaps refined in their loneliness, they offer communal solace even today, particularly in some regions of Albania. Just as refinements of duduk playing, another pastoral instrument, are solace to the Armenian Soul.
G. Ifrah in his book The Universal History of Numbers opens the first chapter entitled, “Exploring the Origins-Ethnological and Psychological Approaches to the Source of Numbers” with:
There must have been a time when nobody knew how to count. All we can surmise is that the concept of numbers must have been indissociable from actual objects-nothing very much more than a direct apperception of the plurality of things.
In the world of the shepherds, counting plays an important part, both daily checking if the same number of animals have returned for the night and seasonally in ascertaining the numbers of the expanded flock.
G. Ifrah, in his book continues by pointing to the facts about human perception of numbers.
Everyone can see the set of one, of two, and of three in the figure, [see below] and most people can see the set of four. But that's about the limit of our natural ability to numerate. Beyond four, quantities are vague, and our eyes alone cannot tell us how many things there are.
G. Ifrah concludes this section of his book by emphasizing that the eye is not a sufficiently precise counting tool, its natural number-ability virtually never exceeds four. For larger quantities we have to count to find out the numerical values.
If this is the cause some very interesting questions and open hypotheses arise about the counting practices of ancient shepherds.
Considering the sophistication of early husbandry we cited earlier is it possible that Paleolithic and Bronze Age shepherds did not have a method for managing the tally of their flock?
Did shepherds have some internal, all encompassing mnemonic system outwardly supported by a tally device?
H. De Cruz in the positioning of her paper, How Does Complex Mathematical Theory Arise? Phylogenetic And Cultural Origins Of Algebra, discusses the act of writing numbers as essential in development of algebra. Below are some fragments from her opening argument:
I discuss how extending mathematical operations from the brain into the world gives algebra a degree of autonomy that is impossible to achieve were it performed in the mind alone.
Earlier H. de Cruz states:
I argue that an externalization of mathematical operations in a consistent symbolic notation system is a prerequisite for these emergent properties. In particular, externalism allows mathematicians to perform operations that would be impossible in the mind alone.
She brilliantly and convincingly argues her point from a worldview of literate societies and cognitive development associated with written literacy and numeracy:
By comparing the development of algebra in three distinct historical cultural settings, China, the medieval Islamic world and early modern Europe, I demonstrate that such an active externalism requires specific cultural conditions, including a metaphysical view of the world compatible with science…The worldview where oral tradition and the capacity of the brain to keep large amounts of information, trough mnemonic ordering of meaning and facts, may have a completely different relationship to externalization of information and deduction.
A glimpse into this worldview where the dominant operational systems are preserved and communicated through the oral traditions, may help reconstruct the intellectual achievements of early humans and help better understand archeological and ethnographic remains of early cultures as different rather than primitive.
To come close to this worldview, presided by the oral traditions, we shall look at transmission of oral epic poetry before we ask final open questions about possible numbering techniques among non-literate ancient shepherds.
In the seminal book on oral tradition and epic poetry by A. Lord, The Singers of Tales there is a translation of a live interview with one of the last oral epic singing practitioners surviving among mountain regions of Bosnia, recorded in the 1930's by M. Parry:
When I was a shepherd boy, they used to come [the singers of tales] for an evening to my house, or sometimes we would go to someone else's for the evening, somewhere in the village. Then a singer would pick up the gusle, [bowed string instrument typical of the Balkans used specifically to accompany epic poetry] and I would listen to the song. The next day when I was with the flock, I would put the song together, word for word, without the gusle, but I would sing it from memory, word for word, just as the singer had sung it... Then I learned gradually to finger the instrument, and to fit the fingering to the words, and my fingers obeyed better and better... I didn't sing among the men until I had perfected the song, but only among the young fellows in my circle [druzina] not in front of my elders…
Now imagine any contemporary teenager first listening to an epic for several hours and then repeating it the next day from memory. By contrast, the non-literate shepherd boy was equipped with the necessary plasticity and capacity of brain independent from written record and entirely confident in the ability of comprehension, retention and reproduction through oral means alone.
In looking for the origins of numeracy it may be useful to examine some processes of the oral traditions of epic singing.
In the oral traditions, the expression and the memory are aided by rhythm (repeatable numeric sequence), a musical instrument (both a tally stick and an emotional anchor). Also by the use of a considerable number of pre-existing, repeatable storytelling conventions used across the repertoire for situations of grief, conflict, family, and love; a complex system in which the unity is held together by a number of distinct parts.
The recitation is approached from the general thematic over-sense to the particulars of the events of the story. The epic is held as a whole and as parts simultaneously, as a spatial and temporal continuum in the narrators' internal space.
How many graduate students or doctorial candidates can do that with their thesis?
G. Ifrah, whom we quoted earlier, continues in his book The Universal History of Numbers:
But it does not follow at all that a mind without numbers of our kind is incapable of devising specific tools for manipulating quantities in concrete sets.
For G. Ifrah a concrete set is "one to one correspondents" of the numerical modeling called Dead Reckoning, (a simple example being one sheep equals one pebble).
Through examples of traces of mental processes of the ancient shepherd we hope that it is possible to sense the mnemonic and cognitive capabilities of a mind independent of a consistent symbolic notation system. We can only imagine the variety of responses of ancient shepherds in managing the counting of their flock.
But at the same stage an orally transmitted methodology must have existed similar to whistling language, dog calls, polyphonic singing and recitation of epics. This numerical management of the flock may have been regarded by shepherds as a tool of the trade rather than a ritual secret.
A tentative, cautious hypothesis arises that can be expressed with these open questions:
In summary we can reflect upon some of the distinctive characteristics of people who chose or were chosen by their community to be shepherds.
The most significant trait of the shepherd is an ability to live alone, or with very few people for a considerable period of time and mostly be in non-verbal communication with the surroundings and animals.
In studying and reconstructing the early professional shepherd's, characteristics emerge of a human being outwardly rugged but highly trained and sophisticated.
Also, we recognize the need for patience and ability to observe, tend and problem solve.
Once we liberate the shepherd from western urban images of the bucolic simpleton, passing his time by droning on his pipe, an image comes into view of a multi-skilled professional as accomplished as any contemporary medical doctor or an engineer.
One attempt of this paper was to dispel the eighteenth and nineteenth century European and American romantic construct of the culturally other (usually orally trained, environmentally integrated) as primitive.
Another intention of the paper was also to touch upon the immense wisdom and environmental sensibilities of the ancient people of the Caucasus in choosing sites for dwelling, ceremony, production of artifacts, observation of astronomical phenomenon, farming and rearing of animals.
In this closing remark we shall approach this overlooked aspect of origins of civilization by looking at the subtext of the planning and presentation of the two great world museums.
If we look at the arrangement of the Louvre and the British Museum from the nineteenth century to more recent re-arrangements we see an implied norm of what is considered the beginnings of civilization.
The Louvre is at one end of the urban axis with the Arc de Triomphe on the other. This implied military parade axis combined with an impressive municipal park almost ends with the Louvre's grand staircase and the magnificent statue of the Winged Victory of Samothrace, also called the Nike of Samothrace. Although the staircase is not at the exact terminus of the axis it is emotionally there as a memorable element of those public spaces. It is an urban celebration of the victory of the civilized over the uncouth.
Similarly, at the British Museum, after a grand and stately neo-classical courtyard and entrance, one used to be lead trough Assyrian and Egyptian antiquities before entering the room with the magnificent Phidas sculptures from the Parthenon, the Elgin Marbles. This layering implies the assent of civilization ending with the lord Elgin as a representative of the discerning and truly civilized. In this scheme of things, metallurgical and astronomical centers, places that have been a cultural nexus for thousands of years have no place as an evolved civilization. Inaccessible and land-locked these geographic areas where of no direct interest to the museum-building maritime nations, except as buffer zones, as "less civilized," better kept antagonized among themselves.
These days the Louvre is bending backward to be a pyramid, were tourist's money is buried, as if trying to reinterpret the fact of being on an apex of an imperial axis. As a premier world institution they are quick and have means to adjust to the new global ideology of commodification of everything.
This analysis of the two famous world museum's implied presentational modes is intended to bring to consciousness the ever-present subtext operating in presenting culture anywhere. This is not to underestimate that the great world's museums offer excellent learning, cultivation of the senses, education of the mind and refined pleasure. Also, some of those treasures may be lost if not understood, cherished, preserved and interpreted by the museums. On another hand, it takes enormous effort for a person who doesn't speak Armenian to find the site and the museum at Metsamor. Nevertheless, redressing the immense contribution of non-dynastic civilizations and knowledge transmitted without a script is long overdue.
To deepen and study further the relationship of the Caucasus and Europe in the closing remarks of this paper is a pre-proposal sketch for potential interdisciplinary research, involving experts from the social sciences, earth science, cultural history—including archeology and ethnography using Scenario and Geodetic Methods.
What is Scenario Method?
The Scenario Method is an investigation based on research findings extended by imagining future or past through a number of plausible scenarios. The scenario investigation is often done by a multi-disciplinary group of experts. It is used in business to deal with future uncertainties, and in forensic science to recreate possible scenarios of the past. It has been in the investigative repertoire of archeology and ethnography. Is used by scientist more and more to predict ecological outcomes.
An example of Scenario Method is a project entitled Scenarios for Cultural Landscape Development carried out by a Danish university (Det Humanistiske Fakultetsyddansk Universitet). Description of the plans reads:
The project focuses on the analysis of physical changes in the countryside and their relationship to land-use and landscape oriented policies.
For that end they have convened a coalition of The Royal Veterinary and Agricultural University, Forest and Landscape Research Institute, Institute of Plant and Soil Science, Dept. of Land Use and both archaeological and cultural historians from their project "Boundaries in the Landscape" (1995-2000).
The other research methodology that can unite a multi-disciplinary team of experts is Geodesy, giving context for the potential of analyses of ancient, modern and future sites, as maps, in our case significant to the relationship of Caucasus and Europe.
What is Geodesy?
The geodetic system is a sphere-shaped or ellipsoid "net" that is used by map makers, today aided by computers, as a base-map grid to correlate global positioning on a flat image (e.g. a computer screen or printed map) of any location on the spherical planetary body. Geodesy is a branch of the earth sciences. It is the scientific discipline that deals with the measurement and representation of the Earth, including its gravitational field. Aspects of it are familiar to every day computer users as Google Earth or Map Quest. The methods' usefulness to cross-cultural research can not be overestimated.
X. Le Pichon and C.Kreemer, in a report for The Smithsonian/ NASA Astrophysics Data System, write:
The geodetic definition of a stable Eurasian reference frame has long suffered from having a disproportionate number of stations in its European portion and from the fact that the available stations east of the Ural mountains are all in, or close to, the central Asian deformation zone…
Although we are taking this specific and scientifically precise work into the arena of history and practice of ideas, we might inadvertently de-contextualize it. Even the plain reading of the passage without any technical knowledge expresses the main theme of this paper: The need to understand, bring to equal footing, and study the cultural connectedness of the Caucasus and Europe. The reasonably easy accesses to global maps and geodetic information can help a multidisciplinary team pinpoint and contextualize the spread of ancient practices, wisdom and skills from the Caucasus to Europe.
The Danish example is a case of a number of agencies and disciplines working together and using the Scenario Method for study and problem solving. We found an example of geodetic research that can become a model of multi-disciplinary gathering directed towards cultural assessment of historic sites in the UNESCO publication Archive, October 2005, Struve Geodetic Arc Joins World Heritage:
he Struve Geodetic Arc is the first survey-site on the list. The countries hosting the Struve Geodetic Arc are Belarus, Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, the Republic of Moldova, the Russian Federation, Sweden and Ukraine.
The Struve Geodetic Arc is a chain of survey triangulations stretching from Hammerfest in Norway to the Black Sea, through ten countries and over 2,820km. The report continues:
These are the points of a survey …[that] represent the first accurate measuring of a long segment of a meridian. This helped establish the exact size and shape of our planet and marked an important step in the development of earth sciences and topographic mapping. It is an extraordinary example of scientific collaboration among scientists from different countries…
The World Heritage List now numbers 812 sites in total, including 628 cultural, 160 natural and 24 mixed sites, in 137 States. The inclusion of The Struve Geodetic Arc signals an interest in new and emerging multi-national initiatives as valuable assets to the World Heritage.
The Geodetic satellite renderings of the Earth's surface in the hands of a multi-discipline, multi-national team applied to archeological site analyses, the history of water management, ancient agricultural and pastoral land use, could definitely aid in critically comparing ancient practices and trace possible connections and interconnections. Apart from helping view the sites and understand them in a context of regional land mass and discover elements invisible from the ground. It is also possible to understand the sustainable practices of the ancients. In cases of need and times of reduced available resources, like oil or other commodities, traces of this collective wisdom may became useful. The example is Naksivan recantation of chehriz, or qanat irrigation systems, the example that opens this paper.
Some new insights may be found from chronological and non-chronological comparisons of sites like Metsamor, Karahundj in Armenia, to sites like Cyon Tepe in Anatolia, and Kral Tepe on Cyprus.
Cyon Tepe may have a connection to Metsamor in sharing techniques of smelting copper and bronze at least 7,000 ago. Cyon is the site of the earliest known piece of woven cloth, 9,000 years old, and also the earliest known hammered copper objects, with traces of the earliest cultivation of wheat.
Kral Tepesi is situated in eastern Cyprus on the Karpaz peninsula, the area closest to Asia. A rich bronze hoard was found on the top of the hill in 2004. The hill sharply stands out from the surrounding fertile plains. The choice of the site, its arrangements and sensibilities to the surroundings are very similar to Metsamor's position in the Ararat plane. Just as Metsamor was a center for metallurgy since prehistoric times Cyprus was a center for aromatic oil based perfumes and ceremonial ointments.
This comparative study may deepen the understanding of the cultural similarities and differences from prehistory to industrial societies in the Eurasian Caucasus. This collective research may uncover possible allegiances, even federations beyond territorial limits, like the Aegean and central Mediterranean in Prehistoric or Greco-Roman time.
R. R. Holloway in his paper, ‘The Classical Mediterranean’, its Prehistoric Past and the Formation of Europe' writes:
The sea was the essential unifier of this region of villages. And as important as the villages were the federal sanctuaries which gave the Aegean and Italian communities the ability to act in union. These leagues or amphictionies became first the basis of Greek survival and then of the [pre-imperial] Roman commonwealth. Indeed, they are the forerunners of the modern democratic state, the roots of which thus lie deep in prehistory.
A tentative example of these types of alliances is pre-Bronze Age connections of Malta on one side to Africa and on the other to Sicily, Sardinia, Corsica, the Apennine Peninsula and Adriatic Coast (reflected in Polyphonic Music we cited earlier). With further research, similar allegiances may be discovered between sites of the southern Caucasus and the Mediterranean, the Black Sea coast and even the Danube watershed. Due to dissemination of artifacts there is a great amount of evidence that people traveled a long way in prehistoric and historic times. The Sanctuaries and Oracle Centers may have been the gathering places were travelers found goods, seeds, animals, tools and weapons but also more portable things like knowledge of techniques, tips for use of materials and seasonal forecasts.
In closing and as a form of discrete scenario exploration we will address the possibilities of diverse types of advice people were seeking from the cultural nexuses and places of pilgrimage in ancient times.
With the image of ancient Greek priestess, Delphic Pythia in trance, modern critical observers often dismiss her utterances as quaint gibberish manipulated by priests. In doing so, one thing that gets overlooked, is that ancient people were seeking all kinds of wisdom, of which divine revelation or cryptic utterance is just one aspect. Astronomers at Metsamor may have given practical navigational knowledge to travelers and sailors coming from far away to seeking their advice. Also, parallel to accurate tracking and remembering the rising and setting of the stars, the known planets, the sun and the moon, land conditions were also carefully observed by the Advice Givers. For their data verification and multiple sources of information they may have relied on consultation with the shepherds, and other people in the fields. Shepherds as keen observers of weather patterns and animal behaviors can predict and be astute seasonal forecasters, useful to crop planning and seeding, also for planning of long journeys or pilgrimage. Their oral wisdom may have been collected and disseminated by professional forecasters in the places were people came for advice and solace.