Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Estonian Bagpipe, the Torupill

Sandra Sillamaa plays the Torupill with Arno Tamm on guitar
Characteristics of the Estonian Torupill
Bag:  "The bag ("tuulekott", "magu", "kott", "loots", etc.) was usually made of the stomach of a grey seal in the western and northern parts of Estonia and on the islands."   (wiki Link)
Chanter:  "The chanter ("sõrmiline", "putk", "esimik", etc.) was made of juniper, pine, ash or, more seldom, of a tube of cane. It had 5-6 holes. The chanter was single-reeded, generally with a parallel rather than conical bore." (wiki Link)
Drone:  "The drones ("passitoru", "pass", "kai", "tori", "pill", "pulk", "toro") were made of wooden pipes, different in shape and diameter. The number of pipes determined their length. If there is only one, it is quite long, if two, they are both shorter. In some rare cases bagpipes with 3 drones could be found." (wiki Link)

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Musical Ethnography and Bagpipe of the Mordvins

Playing the puvama (Mordvin bagpipe)
Types of Mordvinian Instrumental Folk Music
Nicolai Boyarkin. Saransk, Mordovia

"In the above-mentioned prayers the main ritual functions were obligatory, performed, as a rule, by elected persons: the leader of the prayer _ ozksatya (ozks _ 'to pray, to worship'; atya _ 'old man'), or ozksbaba (baba _ `old woman'), who served as an intermediary between the Patron and the people, and was his mouthpiece, heard his `voice'; a beautiful girl (probably personifying the female source of the kin); a sturdy, handsome youth (personifying the male source of the kin), and musicians playing bagpipes and nyudis, as well as performers of protective signals on torama _ natural trumpet or horn.

"Folklorists believe that at community prayers 'music and singing were the most active components' of these dramatised rites (Brizhinsky). The best musicians _ pipers, nyudi-players, violinists, and the best dancers were invited to ozkses.

"Besides, it should be noted that at these ozkses not just song-texts, their choral sounding, tunes, but also timbres of musical instruments (puvama, nyudi) and the instruments proper had ritual meaning. For instance, for performing ritual tunes at ozkses special ritual bagpipes (ozks puvama) existed that differed from other types of bagpipes by their archaic design, and, in some places, the air-bags of such bagpipes were made of bladders of sacrificial animals (there were usually bulls bought for communal money) and their horns that served as resonators for the pipes of bagpipes or nyudis. Often, side by side with ozksatya and ozksbaba, the musicians served as mediums, i.e. intermediaries between the community and its mythological Patrons. The community was to do everything for the voice of the medium (in case of a musician _ the voice of his instrument) to reach the Patron. The musicians were placed on a fold-gate and lifted while playing; thus the distance between the community and its Patron was shortened. (At similar ozkses a Mari musician climbed a tree and played for the Patron on his ritual gusli). To communicate with Patrons ritual bagpipes were necessary, or at least a part of this instrument - nyudi; any other instruments, for example, those used for exorcising evil spirits (toramas, rattles) could not be used.

"V. S. Brizhinsky believes that there was also a practical reason for lifting the playing pipers. 'The custom', he writes, 'had two reasons: first, it was an acknowledgement of the exceptionally honoured status of the musicians, and second, a lifted position is more convenient for directing the choir.'  The second reason, even if it existed, must have appeared in later times, after ozkses had considerably changed and acquired, partially, aesthetic functions of traditional folk theatre. Out of the symbolic programme tunes of the ozkses connected with cults of trees, only those devoted to the birch ('Kelu') and the lime-tree ('Peshenya') have come down to us. Images of these sacred trees (side by side with oak and pine) are widely used in traditional lyrical songs that were intoned in the past of the ozkses. This refers to common mythological roots. These songs reflect most ancient concepts of the Universe. For instance, the image of the sacred birch _ traditionally worshipped by Mordvinians in the past _ is related to the idea of The World Tree, much evident in the poetry of many Finno-Ugric and other peoples."

Bagpipe of the Mari People, the Shuvyr

The Shuvyr bagpipe of the Mari People

Monday, December 29, 2014

Manifestations of the Drone in the Tradition of Lithuanian Polyphonic Singing

Daiva Račiūnaitė-Vyčinienė
(pdf Link)

"We have reason to suppose the roots of collective (ostinato, bourdon) singing are quite deep. Apparently, the aforesaid examples, where [there are] functional chords sound, have been influenced by homophonic polyphonic thinking. The oldness of bourdon singing tradition in Lithuania could be witnessed [demonstrated] by some other facts."

"There was recorded some examples of collective sutartines Buvo du–doj velnias (‘Was a devil in a Bagpipe’) in Švenèionys region (East Lithuania bordering with Byelorussia) which is famous for its preserved particularly old customs, traditions, dialect and folklore. According to a respondent, this sutartinë imitated music of a bagpipe (Raèiunaite.-Vyèiniene. 2000b: 98) and its strange text attracts our attention (Raèiunaite.-Vyèiniene. 2002a: 312; 2000b: 98; 2004: 20–21) (see ex. 8)."

"In the usual variations of this type of sutartines there are texts about ‘a pipe in Vilnius’ or ‘uncle (old woman) in Vilnius’. Apparently, the connections of a bagpipe and a devil (or other unearthly being) are not casual. We are particularly interested in a bass part singing a continuous sound u–-u–-u– as if imitating a devil’s voice. It is worth remembering that once upon a time various nations considered a produced humming sound as an unearthly one, (by the way, it was unimportant how that sound had been made, i. e. by what instrument it was played) (Encyklopedia instrumentow muzycznych…; Klotin,š, Muktupavels 1989; Musikinstrumente der Welt…; Ole² dzki 1978; Sachs 1975; Ñóçóêåé, 1993, etc.) . It might be said, in the past any making of continuous low sounds or their monotonous repetition was conceived as somebody’s (more often as an unearthly being’s) buzzing, droning, murmuring."

Bagpipe-R1b Theory

Marnie Dunsmore

The Bagpipe, strongly differentiated and of ancient origin, most likely originated in SW Asia. It is intimately linked with a pastoral sheep/goat/cattle herding people who also carry an R1b haplogroup signature.

The inseparability of R1b pastoralism and the bagpipe suggest that the instrument fulfilled some essential herding function.

The presence of the bagpipe might be used to narrow in on R1b populations for the purpose of haplogroup evolution testing.

Significantly, the Hausa people of Tropical West Africa play a bagpipe, are a pastoral people and carry the R1b haplogroup in greater than 40% of men.

Differentiation and innovation in bagpipe style, from primitive to finely developed, may also correlate with a westward migration from the cradle of R1b pastoralism.

Copyright (c) 2010 by Marnie Dunsmore. All Rights Reserved.

[Originally posted by Marnie on Dienekes' Anthropology blog and Matilda's Anthropology blog on January 29th, 2010.]

Epirus: The Geography, the Ancient Remains, the History and the Topography of Epirus and Adjacent Areas

Nicholas Geoffrey Lemprière Hammond

Clarendon Press, 1967

This book is out of print, but if you are interested in the history of Epirus, it's probably worth getting from the library.  It's written by the pre-eminent scholar of Epirus and Macedonia, Nicholas Hammond. 

Nicholas Hammond's obituary (Link)

Prehistoric exploitation of Grevena highland zones: hunters and herders along the Pindus chain of western Macedonia (Greece)

(pdf Link)


The surveys and excavations carried out in the highland zone of the Grevena Pindus Mountains have revealed that the watershed that separates western Macedonia from Epirus was (seasonally)inhabited in different prehistoric times, from the Middle Palaeolithic to the Bronze Age. The highest concentration of ‘sites’ is known from the surroundings of the modern village of Samarina, which is rich in good-quality chert raw material outcrops. This territory is still nowadays heavily exploited by Vlach shepherds who seasonally carry out pastoral activities, moving their flocks from the eastern lowlands up to the high-altitude pastures. The excavations carried out at three different sites, all lying on a flysch substratum, revealed the presence of a redeposited lower sediment, characterized by a polygonal soil caused by ground freezing that was later effected by erosion canals produced by human interference in the landscape. The results so far obtained from a few charcoal radiocarbondates indicate that this fact took place in at least three different periods from the middle Bronze Age to the seventh century AD.

Polyphony in Southern Albania and Greek Epirus

Polyphonia:  "Two shepherds in the Albanian mountains, Arif, a Muslim, and Anastas, an orthodox Christian, have been friends for years in spite of religious barriers."

I first discovered the polyphony of the Southern Balkans at an Orthodox commemoration ceremony for my husband's paternal grandmother in 2003.  Here, the liturgical chant was sung in four voiced polyphony at the small Orthodox Church in the village of Avgerinos, Kozani, Greece.  This village happens to be on the border with the Greek province of Epiros (Epirus).   About a hundred miles south can be found the monasteries of Meteora.

The Kozani liturgical chanting is different from the strongly ison dominated Meteora chanting.  I've unfortunately never found a recording of it.  It is, however, close to four voiced Southern Albanian polyphonic chanting.   The film clip (above) has some short informal non-religious examples of multi voiced polyphony.

The polyphonia of Southern Albania and Greek Epirus have many styles and forms. Perhaps the extreme isolation of this region over the millennia has permitted the survival of this ancient tradition.


Marinela Mahoney, An Investigation of the Polyphonic Music of Southern Albania
(pdf Link)

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Georgian and Corsican Polyphony

"kavkasia"  :  "I've studied Georgian ornament extensively for more than 20 years and I know how it works. I've also studied Corsican, and yes, there are similarities - but there are also key differences, like the melodic structure of the ornaments and the protocol for part movement."

Κύριε εκέκραξα (Lord I have Cried) - Plagal 1st Tone (METEORA)

Prof. Gregorios Stathis (Link)
Meteora (UNESCO) (Link)

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day

Freshwater reservoir effect and the radiocarbon chronology of the cemetery in Ząbie, Poland

Łukasz Pospieszny
Journal of Archaeological Science
Volume 53, January 2015, Pages 264-276


In the 3rd millennium BC an island on the Łańskie Lake in north-eastern Poland was seasonally settled by a group of people practicing a syncretic burial ritual, exhibiting indigenous and foreign patterns. They left behind a small cemetery consisting of at least six graves. 14C dates made for samples of human bones until 2009 did not coincide with the expected age of the graves. Under a new pilot program in 2010–2013, a series of radiocarbon measurements was made for the human bones and an artefact of red deer antler, along with analyses of the stable isotopes ratios of carbon (δ13C) and nitrogen (δ15N) in the collagen. The results indicate a significant proportion of freshwater food in the diet, which caused the radiocarbon dates to be too old due to the freshwater reservoir effect (FRE). Based on the dating of the antler, unaffected by FRE, and comparative analysis, the reservoir offset for one of the graves was estimated to 740 radiocarbon years. The results, although limited by a low number of investigated humans and animals, indicate indirectly a specialization in the exploitation of local water resources. Such an economic strategy seems to be characteristic for the societies inhabiting the coasts of the Baltic Sea and littoral zones of large lakes in the Final Neolithic and at the beginning of the Early Bronze Age.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Modern Swedes as an even split between Late Scandinavian hunter-gatherers and Neolithic Scandinavian Farmers

Nice going Skoglund.  For Swedes, looks like a nice even split between Late Scandinavian hunter-gatherers and farmers from the Vasco-Cantabrian region. 

A good paper on the archaeology of the late paleolithic of the Vasco-Cantabrian region: 

Guy Levis Strauss, Recent developments in the study of the Upper Paleolithic of Vasco-Cantabrian Spain (Link)

The Geographic Distribution of "Early European Farmers"

Last year, when the Lazarides paper came out, I wrote a post about how I thought their results related to Admixture results I had seen.  One of the things I wrote is that I thought the Early European Farmers (EEF) "expanded from North Africa during the Last Glacial Maximum".  I now think that is not right.

Depending on how Admixture is set up, it won't necessarily come up with the same component distributions.  In any case, here's the distribution from the Dodecad Ancestry Project for an "Early European Farmer" component (labeled on the graph as South European) in light green.

Early European Farmers (South European light green)

Looking at this distribution, Sardinians have the highest level of "EEF."

Basques have the next highest level.

Then there's a pretty even distribution across Mediterranean populations.

As you venture away from the Mediterranean, "EEF" gradually dissipates.  For instance, Jordanians, Syrians, and Lithuanians have reduced "EEF".  The Chuvash have virtually no "EEF" ancestry.

I've heard some arguments, for instance on the Eurogenes blog, that somehow it is possible to differentiate a hard boundary between "Western Hunter Gatherers" (WHG) and "Early European Farmers" (EEF).  I strongly doubt that.

I don't have any big conclusions here, except to say that it is very likely that the genetic components being labeled Hunter-Gatherer and EEF both reflect European ancestry that have their roots in the Paleolithic of Europe, North Africa and the Middle East.  I don't think that the EEF component should be thought of as arriving in Southern Europe from the Middle East only during the Neolithic.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

The Paleolithic-Mesolithic-Neolithic Transition in Northern Europe, the Russian Steppe and Armenia

Figure 13, Hartz paper (pdf link), showing chronology of the Late Glacial and early Holocene in the Baltic and Upper Volga.

If you're back here reading my blog, then welcome back.  (I've been busy with other things in the last six months, and wasn't able to maintain the blog, which is the reason that I turned it off.)

I noticed recently an article by Carl Zimmer in the New York Times that discusses research in David Reich's lab at Harvard.  It proposes that there was a wave of "Ancient North Eurasians" that "moved into Europe after 7,000 years ago."

Needless to say, the idea that a massive wave of "Ancient North Eurasians" arrived from Lake Baikal only starting 7,000 years ago is quite deceptive.

Thinking about the Northern European Paleolithic-Mesolithic-Neolithic transition, it's illustrative to look at the record of the Late Glacial and early Holocene in the Baltic and Upper Volga. (See the graph on page 165 of the Hartz paper, referenced below and shown above.)

The Hamburgian-Swiderian-Epi-Gravettian technocomplex extended all the way across Northern Europe (from Scotland to the Russian Steppe).

So, to be blunt, those "Ancient North Eurasians" and "Eastern European Hunter Gatherers", who, by the way, were very closely related, were probably in Europe since the Epi-Gravettian . . . and probably since the Gravettian.

Regarding Armenia, where the genetic data is showing some influence from "Eastern European Hunter Gatherers", there's preliminary archaeological evidence showing that Armenia has some Epi-Gravettian influence.  (See the reference 6 on Kalavan 1, below).  In fact, there's quite a bit of ethnographic evidence that Armenians maintained diplomatic ties with the Russian Steppe into the Neolithic. The Pazyryk Carpet is a good example (References 5 and 7.)

Let's just say that the process of population exchange between the Russian Steppe, Northern Europe and even Armenia, has very likely been going on long before the Neolithic.

Update December 21st, 2014:  If you're interested in looking at how an admixture run and a PCA plot represent population movements associated with Northern Europe, feel free to have a look at the blog post I wrote up on January 6th of 2014. (Link)  (The Hamburgian is strongly associated with reindeer hunting.)

Please note that I know that many professional population geneticists and evolutionary anthropologists read this blog.  I would love to have joined you professionally in those fields.  But frankly, I'm too highly compensated as a Silicon Valley design engineer to allow me to go back to school and get a PhD in your field.  So, for now, this is an amateur endeavor.  However, do not fool yourself.  I've put thousands of hours into the research behind this blog.  If you do think that you've gained something from reading this material, please be kind enough to cite me.  There is a copyright notice at the bottom of the blog.  If I see a publication that I think uses my work without citation, I will be writing a letter to your institution and to the journal or conference publisher.

I'll comment further on the topic of Northern European genetic prehistory as more ancient DNA data is published.

Wishing you a Happy Holiday.


1.  Hartz et al., New AMS-dates for the Upper Volga Mesolithic and the origin of microblade technology in Europe (pdf link).

 2.  Riede, Felix, "The Resettlement of Northern Europe", in The Oxford Handbook of the Archaeology and Anthropology of Hunter-Gatherers, Oxford University Press, 2014.

3.  Ballin, Torben Bjarke, "An Upper Paleolithic assemblage from Howburn Farm, South Lanarkshire" (pdf link)

4.  Felix Riede blog post discussing the Hamburgian

5.  Pazyryk Carpet blog post

6.  Montoya, et. al., The Upper Palaeolithic site of Kalavan 1 (Armenia): An Epigravettian settlement in the Lesser Caucasus (link)

7.  Schurmann, Ulrich, The Pazyryk:  a 2500 year old knotted rug found in an ice grave in the Altai, It's User and Origin (link)

8.  This blog (Marnie Dunsmore), Mesolithic Western European Hunter Gatherers Partly Descended from Upper Paleolithic Reindeer Hunters (link)