Sunday, November 29, 2020

Pastoral Music Semiotic System (Alexsey Nikolsky, 2020)

In Frontiers Journal, Alexsey Nikolsky deals with the Indo-European "cow-languages", how they originally formed and how music has changed as a result.

This topic is hugely important for archaeology because it offers another dimension to understanding to the peculiarities of cattle management by the Corded Ware and later Bell Beaker groups, from gender roles to daily routines.

It is also, as Nikolsky asserts, a kind of connective tissue between PIE, music and myth.

Kulning and yodel form respectively Northern and Southern “dialects” of a cattle-directed “language”—a satellite of the proto-Indo-European.

semiotic system is a communication mode.   Humans generally have five large categories, which then splinter into various sub-modes and so on.  Pastoral cow language includes calling cow from a distance, sometimes a lead cow.  Communicating with other herdswomen from a distance.  Milking songs and other occasions.  

Nikolsky believes this language developed during Sherratt's "secondary productions revolutions" where we begin to see animals as producers rather than products.  As Nikolsky suggests, our falsetto mimics a tone that we use with small children, patronizing and neotenizing livestock from crazed beasts to the status of extended family.  Animals can be moved, relaxed and manipulated with "motherese".  

"The principal psychological trait of kulning is the “humanization” and child-like patronizing of cattle. Similar attitude characterizes reindeer pastoralism: animal is treated like a family member whose life is valued and its attitudes are respected (Ingold, 1986). Kulning, yodel, and reindeer-communication should all be regarded as various “languages of domestication,” generated by borrowing “acoustic traps and snares”—i.e., onomatopoeic decoy calls—from hunters and syntactically reorganizing them into “animal-directed” words to control the herd, its leader, and the individual animals (Alekseyev, 1995)."

Scandinavian Kulning is a more fossilized sister of Yodeling, which illuminates the Emperor Julian's complaint about the "wild shrieking sounds" that reverberated through the Alps.  Probably women calling their herds to safety from the war-machine chuckwagons.  They may have also served as lookouts, reporting the troop movements across the Alpine villages.
"Scandinavian, Icelandic, Alpine, Jurassic, Pyrenean, Apennine, Sardinian, Balkan, Turkish, and Caucasian mountains have sheltered singing styles that originated in the herding culture, and shared a peculiar singing technique based on a forceful high-laryngeal falsetto-like sound production (Wallin, 1991, 510). Wallin (pp. 511–23) summarizes the archeological, anthropometric, and genetic research to support the ethnographic findings of Carl-Allan Moberg (1971). Moberg outlines the core traits of the archaic Fåbodväsendetmusic: “head-voice” vocal technique, utilitarian function of long-distance signaling, and ideological roots in pagan magic."

The centerpiece of Fåbodväsendet tradition is its “maximal-distance” style—“kula”—that I distinguish from “kulning”—an umbrella-term for the entire Fåbodväsendet42.  Local names for kulning (e.g., lockrop) imply the alluring of animals by magic properties of sound to suggest certain behavior to the herd, avert evil trolls and predator-animals—following shamanic tradition of maiden singing (Mitchell R. W., 2001). In Swedish mythology, forest spirits possessed their own cattle, and herdswomen (kulerska) learned kulning from skogsrå, “sirens of the woods” (Johnson, 1990). Suggestive power of kulning was deemed so high that women lived in fåbods alone without any weapons. Folk beliefs attributed this power to beauty."

Gaelic Milking Song

"Similar to lullabies are milking songs (Nielsen, 1997)—used across Eurasia, from Scotland to Mongolia (Gioia, 2006b, 71). Remarkably, when milking, Mongolian herdsmen switch to motherese-like “musical talk,” based on animal onomatopoeia (Yoon, 2018). Known cases of male pastoral calling engage falsetto to imitate the female model (Uttman, 2002)."

St. Hilda

Before delving any deeper, the last part of the paper deals with more of the evolutionary nature of this music and the regression into "motherese" monophony versus are male-chorus polyphony.  I've been piddling with a paper by Jordina concerning Georgian polyphony and the male polyphonic traditions of the Circum-Mediterranean since last January.  

This subsequent post will concern another Pastoral Musical Tradition, probably introduced by the Western Steppe Herders, and how we hear the synthesis of these traditions in our modern music.

Nikolsky's paper is worth reading several times over if you can understand it.  I was a double bass performance major in college a long time ago and I found myself going through wikipedia a lot reading this.  If you have a musical background you'll appreciate his paper a lot, but there is something for everyone here; linguistics, evolution, genetics and economies.

Did ceramic cowbells precede metal bells in Europe?  I am remembering pottery fragments in cow manure piles...  Cowbell beakers?  pbbbbt 

Scandinavian Kulning is presented at Nordicvoice.

Author Alexsey Nikolsky"The Pastoral Origin of Semiotically Functional Tonal Organization of Music"
Front. Psychol., 23 July 2020 |  [Another Link]

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Agaric Craft Clubs

Certain groups of women, only women, did tasks involving the use of string using their teeth and they started it at an early age.

Via the DailyMail.  "Gendered jobs date back to Bronze Age: Textile work was done exclusively by women in Spain 4,000 years ago, study of dental remains reveals"

Angel Rubio Salvador via DailyMail

We can assume because these tasks were done by certain women, the handicrafts were bartered rather than created for household use.  Lozano et al mention that many materials of the Argaric "Kingdom" do show evidence of craft specialization (to a level of full-time professionals in some cases).

It's unlikely the women were slaves of any sort.  The economics of slavery demand better use of of a slave's time.  Probably, groups of women specialized in different types of craft.

Argaric Culture was sophisticated enough, and here maybe urban enough, to imagine bazaars with stands of fruits, nuts, spices, dyes, ivories and whatever.  Wild-eyed people handling snakes, prostitutes doing their craft, skinny dogs going through trash. 

The authors mention this technique for making cordage is widespread and we might assume it was common in Western Europe.  Although the graphic shows an extreme example of wear, I believe most teeth required closer examination.  So what percentage of European women could show this kind of micro-wear?

We might assume that every man and women had their primary duties in life; as a farmer, warrior, parent and so on.  But it's quite possible that everyone had a collateral specialty.  Some women being experts on midwifery, others rugs or cordage, others specialty foods.  It might be possible to divide people into basic collateral duties in a lot of European communities.


Marina Lozano, Sylvia A. Jiménez-Brobeil, John C. Willman, Lydia P. Sánchez-Barba, Fernando Molina, Ángel Rubio,Argaric craftswomen: Sex-based division of labor in the Bronze Age southeastern Iberia, Journal of Archaeological Science, 2020, 105239, ISSN 0305-4403,

Monday, November 16, 2020

Know what Kulning is?

 In the next several weeks I'll be rolling out a few posts on Bell Beaker music?  Say freakin' what!!?

Yep, archaeo-musicology has a number of fairly sophisticated hypotheses about the development of music in Europe, from the Neolithic through the transformation by Steppe Pastorlists in the Bronze Age.

I'm trying to clear out the back pages after a long and shitty year, and there are a lot of very, very interesting papers to discuss before 2020 lets out.


Saturday, November 14, 2020

Kept Crying and Crying (Rebay-Salisbury et al, 2020)

This five-year-old boy was buried in Schleinbach near Vienna, Austria in an Early Bronze Age Únětice Culture setting. He was a bit small for his age and he had an ear infection that stressed the bones on one side of his face. He was murdered.





The area where he was buried is a few farm houses and a few dozen graves, women with jewelry, so on. The abstract tells the story.


The identification of sex-specific peptides in human tooth enamel by nanoflow liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry ( nano LC-MS/MS ) represents a quantum leap for the study of childhood and social relations more generally. Determining sex-related differences in prehistoric child rearing and mortality has been hampered by the insufficient accuracy in determining the biological sex of juveniles. We conducted mass spectrometric analysis to identify sex-specific peptides in the dental enamel of a child from a settlement pit of the Early Bronze Age settlement of Schleinbach, Austria (c. 1950–1850 BC). Four perimortal impression fractures on the skull of a 5–6-year-old child indicate an intentional killing, with a co-buried loom weight as possible murder weapon. Proteomic analysis, conducted for the first time on prehistoric teeth in Austria, determined the child’s sex as male. While we cannot conclusively determine whether the child was the victim of conflicts between village groups or was slain by members of his own community, we suggest that contextual evidence points to the latter. A possible trigger of violence was the follow-on effects of an uncontrolled middle ear infection revealed by an osteological analysis. The boy from Schleinbach highlights the potential for further investigation of gender-biased violence, infanticide and child murder based on the recently developed method of proteomic sex identification.

Let's get to the disturbing part.  Who kills with a loom weight??  Whoever it was, she faced the child when striking him. Two smaller punctures made with a different instrument might be interpreted as a coup de grace, perhaps by someone else? No idea what the fourth blow was.





The authors discuss the other folks in the cemetery and other contemporary child murders for the age before going over some interesting statistics on family violence. They make a fairly compelling case that this child was killed either as an act of mercy, or with some combination of frustration and malevolence. 

I think Rebay-Salisbury et al don't really believe it was a mercy killing though.  The reason is the stack of forensic statistics on child murders and perpetrators at different ages, male, female and so forth.  For example, we all know that a poor soul stabbed 100 times was likely the victim of a "crime of passion" where the victim actually knew the assailant.  Usually this happens face to face.  Muggings and carjackings bring different types of traumas.  Assassinations something else, etc.

The Schleinbach boy was obviously killed (probably) by a woman and she looked into his eyes as she killed him.  The problem with a mercy killing of the young and incompetent is that, if we loved them, we would never let them see our evil deed.  I doubt that changed in four thousand years.

"Child murder in the Early Bronze Age: proteomic sex identification of a cold case from Schleinbach, Austria"  Katharina Rebay-Salisbury1 & Lukas Janker2 & Doris Pany-Kucera1,3 & Dina Schuster2 &Michaela Spannagl-Steiner1,3 & Lukas Waltenberger1 & Roderick B. Salisbury1,4 & Fabian Kanz5  Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences (2020) 12:265

Friday, November 6, 2020

Mihaela is married!

This video has nothing to do with nothing.  Well, at least for now.  Folk music is soul-food musically.

I think she's from Western Moldovia, Romania.  How can the people go wrong with a little folk love?  

A few of my favorite songs.

Bucovina is half in Romania and half in the Ukraine.  It has influences from Germany, Poland, Transylvania.