VENETS AND (PROTO)SLAVS
»PROTO-SLAVS« ON APENNINES PENINSULA
(three millennia ago)
»You have realised how wide is the range of research topics;
there are subjects which hence might not be seen by most academicians,
in particular experts in a single discipline.«
Florence, May 2000
In autumn 1956 I came to a secondary school in Ljubljana which was casually known to me from a few visits. At that time people did not travel as often as they do today – when some of them even travel to and fro every day to go to work or to attend lectures – and Ljubljana was not the town as we know today, but being in Ljubljana evoked my memories of living in the town of Gorica, where I spent my childhood until autumn 1947 when my parents moved to Solkan and the town stayed at the border. Since than we only could talk about Nova Gorica with passionate zeal. Ljubljana, however, was the only town in the vicinity, reachable for us and necessary for our existence as it had hospitals, theatres, opera, a number of secondary schools, and a university and so on.
I had never felt at home in Ljubljana, though I lived there almost ten years and I still do return there very often, because it is a centre of events and as such can not be avoided. But yet, in addition to the town’s institutions of national importance – which were for me, a young man growing up, respectfully distant and slightly strange places – I also discovered interesting, small details which suited me more, such as libraries, exhibitions and finally antique shops which pleased me the most. I used to rummage there often among the new deliveries and it happened that an Italian comprehensive, soft-covered book published in 1926 came into my hands: Le prime e le più antiche civiltà (The First and the Oldest Civilizations), written by Giuseppe Sergi. The very next moment, after I started to glance through its contents, the book aroused in my mind a real mental and emotional storm, as the written words were far from anything I knew from the school lectures and the books I had read so far. Let’s take a few sentences, which are quoted below as a translation from the Italian source (they also may be found in the source language on pages 26l-263):
»On the contrary, we have detailed reports on Euro-Asiatic immigrations into Italy from the North during the first period of the Iron Age. In addition, I showed in the various quotations that the Celtic tribes, who occupied Piedmont and Lombardy, came from the Western Alps; the tribes, quoted as the Illyrian tribes, who expanded to the Veneto region and went as far as Bologna and farther – whom I have already called the Old Slavs (Italian: Potoslavi) because of the affinity between the Slavs and the Illyrians – came from the Eastern Alps.
Immigration of the Illyrians is indicated by the remnants of a cemetery found near Villanova, south-east of Bologna, in the Este region (in the Iron Age it was a major centre of the Veneto) and its surroundings, and in the Rimini region; those findings revealed the earliest Iron Age culture of central and northern Italy, called the Villanovan culture, after the type-site of the first archaeological finds near Villanova. The oldest documents of the Celtic expansion are the remnants of a cemetery found in the area of what is today Ticino (southernmost canton of Switzerland) ...
It is difficult to tell precisely the age of this expansion, but it is generally assumed that it was about the 8th century BC, although it seems to me rather late, if these invasions are compared with the invasions of the Achaeans (Ahhiyans) into Greece and with the Etruscan colonization, which Oscar Montelius in his chronology puts in the 10th century BC, though it was for sure at least one century before the formation of Rome …
The language in Italy was transformed and evolved under the Proto-Celtic and Proto-Slavic influences; as I proved before this language was not some imported Italic language, as it was believed in earlier times, but it was a local formation which derived from the primaeval speech facing the new language, in just the same way as it happened in Greece. At that point Italy was the cradle of dialects, and as in Greek they were entailed by dialects of a primeval tongue and by the pronunciation and accentuation of Eurasian groups or tribes, who for sure were also familiar with dialect formations. ... These varieties of dialects had to result in a new language which evolved still further in the Latin language ...«
These theses were for me so astonishing that I had to evaluate them critically from all sides by keeping a distance and looking for other opinions. At the beginning my enthusiasm was interwoven by confusion, as my new knowledge did not accord with the facts I was taught. The first two questions came spontaneously: Who is that Sergi? Is he perhaps some dreamer, speculator, or forger? When and in which circumstances was that book published? Does it have some hidden intentions? The book was issued in a period when sovereign power was in the hands of fascists and they did not want to have anything in common with Slavs. I learned that the author, Giuseppe Sergi, is a well-known Italian historian, anthropologist and philologist from the end of 19th and the beginning of 20th century. That is how my many years of studying ancient events in our region started, though I focussed more on etymology or, as some researchers like to say, language archaeology ...
At that time there were only a few of us from Gorica, but I was lucky to be a friend of Branko Marushich, today a Doctor of History, who was professionally very strict and we spent many weekends together. When I told him about my discovery, he gave me the first lesson, which proved to be very useful, as since then I have always looked for a second opinion from different authors for each matter I was investigating. Many times, in doing so, I came to understand the conception of reality as expressed by Pirandello’s question: What is the difference between reality and illusion? /Luigi Pirandello, Italian novelist (1867-1936)/. It can be imagined how awfully difficult is to reconstruct ancient history (of language), if we realise that even today with all the abundance of information enabled by computer technology, which is in full swing, we are not able to give a unanimous opinion on today’s facts. Trying to constitute a thesis one should start by constituting hypotheses and assumptions and these bring with them an unavoidable risk, a burden that each author must bear, even if he works conscientiously and with good intentions.
After many years of research I got a fresh impetus by the comprehensive book of the Italian philologist Giovanni Semerano (1913-2005): »Le origini della cultura europea« (1984/1994) /The Origins of European Culture/. He was a student of Gaetano de Sanctis, Giacomo Devoto, Bruno Migliorini and Giuseppe Furlani. Thanks to new research into civilizations and ancient languages of the Middle East, the intuition and study of the above-mentioned historians and linguists was proved true by G. Semerano’s books about linguistic history written on the basis of studies which unveiled the relationship between Acadian, Greek and Latin. He succeeded in finding an etymological explanation for many Greek and Latin words, as well as for other languages which he marked with the words: »etymology unknown«. He derived from these languages a variety of explanations and among them also for Slovenian words. His work stimulated me to make my own research using his approach.
The latest research (also in the genetic field) increasingly supports the theory that the Proto-Indo-Europeans’ origin is in the vicinity of Anatolia, if not even in its very centre, and that accords with the findings of linguists who, like Giovanni Semerano, unveiled the ancient connections between the Middle East and the Baltic. These connections also led across our territory – this is the mythical »Amber Road«. On this ancient trade route for transporting amber, I make considerable efforts to find the remains of amber pieces that were lost and forgotten in time, and to put them together in a necklace. Although this necklace is not complete and it is broken-off in many places, it is still tied-up enough to remind us that this broad territory with a great past is the cradle of our civilization which has developed in the throes of social change.
From the foreword at the beginning of the book written by Lucijan Vuga: Jantarska pot (Amber Road) / Unveiling Our Ancient Past; Bilje, 2000
Many historians and geographers have already asked themselves: where did the Venetic people come from to the coast of the Black Sea, as did the earliest Roman geographer Pomponius Mela (AD 43) who mentioned them between the Armenians on the Caucasus and in Cappadocia (from the Greek Kappadokia). Apollonius Rhodius (3rd century BC–after 246 BC) mentioned them at the Halis River, in the Persian Empire (the Gezel Irmas River of today), where we also can find very interesting topographic names: Zara, Ibora, Zela, Komana, Komisha – Mons rotundus. The Russian historian and philologist A. F. Gilferding (1831-1872) was particularly active. He maintained that the Venetic people moved to the Black Sea from central Asia at the time of a great migration when they set out in various waves from the common Asiatic centre and established themselves in their different seats. Moses Chorenski (AD 370– 489) in his book quoted a text from an ancient record which says that in 127 BC one Tatar Bulgarian branch invaded an Armenian province, Vanat – Vanand (that proved Pomponius’ and Apollonius’ reports), and during the time they had been united and these people were called Bulgars –Vanands or Pulgars – Vends. The historian Appian /Bellum Mithrid. C.I.V./ mentioned the Venetic people in the territory which stretched along the river Lower Istru – Danube, in the vicinity of the Dardanians and Sintians, to the boundaries of Macedonia; he quoted: The Veneti (also Venethi) as well as the Dardanians and Sintians are the neighbours of the Macedonians (»Enetois kai Dardaneas, kai Sintois, perioikia Makedonion ethne«).
Where did Indo-Europeans come from? Establishing of the ethnogenesis system of the Indo-Europeans is one of the central problems of the science of history. Working to solve this question, we come across historians who hold that Indo-Europeans have never existed as a united group of peoples at all, but that various racial-distinct groups participated in constituting a single language basis, and that all contemporary Indo-European languages were derived from this original single stock; others believe that in old times there was a single people with one common tongue, and during a very long period of migrations this people dispersed from the common centre in various directions and established themselves in their different seats where they united with other peoples and began to vary and diverge in language, constituting the new languages known as Indo-European languages and the different peoples who spoke them are known as Indo-Europeans.
Regardless of which among those theories is true, the mystery of a geographical position of the origin of Indo-European-civilisation remains. Some of them maintain that the Indo-European civilisation appeared in central Asia or the Pamir mountain region, or the Himalaya mountain region; others maintain that it appeared in Scandinavia; some of them argue that its origin was in Russia, and others believe it was in the central Danubian area, etc. Anyway, this rather wide geographical area is in any case an arc spreading between the Black Sea and Caucasus, and this indicates the natural direction of their migrations. Thus the most convenient directions of advance towards the South were first towards India and Iran, second through the Caucasus and third into the Balkans.
All these three directions finally come together in Anatolia; this may be proved by the penetration of Greeks from the Balkans to Asia Minor (the Trojan wars did not last a few years, but this advance lasted for a long time, because the Greeks met with strong resistance from the original inhabitants; Troy is a symbol of this clash of arms.) They continued to advance from Iran to Anatolia and finally they occupied Anatolia from the direction through the Caucasus. In a word, the Indo-Europeans, with persistent and long-lasting efforts, finally succeeded in occupying new territories from the east to the west and then from the north to the south!
Already in the sacred Zend books and the Veda texts from India we can find records which can prove the close relationship of certain groups of peoples with their Aryan ancestors.
The Sanskrit sources are the largest body of texts originating in the ancient East, written in the Sanskrit language which had an alphabet with 48 characters. The language was codified only in the 4th century BC, and this should surprise us, if we realise that alphabet was known a long time before it was deciphered, but it was kept as a secret of the priest caste; priests also developed the alphabet and improved the literary language.
The Sanskrit was not a colloquial Vedic language, as it was ancient Hindu (contemporary Hindu language is compound of Persian and Arabic, due to the Islamic conquests). So the late appearance of written texts may be explained by the Brahmin belief that knowledge is sacred and therefore it is inappropriate to entrust it to the common people by setting it down in written form. Even after the sacred texts known as the Vedas were written in Sanskrit, they were jealously and stubbornly kept hidden.
Knowing that only Aryans among all the ancient peoples were familiar with horse-breeding, and assuming that the Aryans came from the Pamir mountain region, or from the source of the rivers Jassarte and Osso, or from the steppe regions in the vicinity of the Aral Sea (Aral Lake) or from the Caucasus, or from the southern Russian plains or even from the middle of the Danubian area (the Pannonian Plain) – all these geographic positions are suitable for horse-breeding – we must conclude that the horse enabled the Aryans to have the decisive military advantage for the Aryan invasion of new territories.
They undoubtedly came to India from the northwest about the 2nd millennium BC, and it is known that they were the eastern Aryan branch; it seems that they had never constituted any larger centralistic State, but they were organized in small kingdoms under an absolutist regime.
This might be the reason why they did not have any significant contacts with the West; the first trade with Egypt and Babylonia started only in the 12th century BC. If the Conquest of the Indus Valley by Ramses the Second is only a legend as well as being a campaign by the Mesopotamian queen Semiramis, it is certain that in that time the goods came from the eastern shore of the Indus River through the Persian Gulf and Arabian Sea. It was only in 510 BC that the Greek admiral Skilos from Korinthos (Karianda) reached the Delta of Indus River on the orders of King Darius the First and established the Persian Satrapy on both the river’s shores.
Two centuries after that, the king of Macedonia, Alexander the Great (327 BC) conquered India, which was divided into a great number of small kingdoms (Rajah: princely ruler).
The best known documents from that period are:
The sacred texts known as VEDAS (a kind of bible for the peoples of ancient India); these are composed of four parts: collections of hymns, prayers (to be recited by the officiating priest), religious commandments, sacred legends and so on; most experts assume that these texts appeared as early as 1500 BC.
The Law Code of Manu, probably from the 9th century BC; it contains a collection of civil laws and religious commandments which governed the Brahmin social order.
The Book of Paranas – this is a collection of poems about the customs and mythical legends of India, with philosophical and moral instructions.
The texts from the later »heroic« period of India are:
The Mahabharata (its authorship is attributed to Vyasa) is a Sanskrit epic of ancient India. It contents twenty thousand verses and narrates about the conquest of the Indian subcontinent by Aryans describing their heroic actions during a long and wrathful struggle with the primary non-Aryan inhabitants; however the central story is blurred and hard to follow, because of its many digressions.
The Ramayana is an ancient Sanskrit epic. It is attributed to the Hindu sage Valmiki. The name Ramayana is compound which means Rama’s Journey and tells the story about Rama and his subjugation of the Deccan. This book also contains too many unrelated events; however, their descriptions are of vital importance for researchers.
In addition to the poetry there is also the prose legacy, for example:
The Jataka is the most comprehensive collection of tales and narratives in the world, edited by later, classical nations.
The Panchatantra is a collection of originally Indian animal fables; it is assumed that the famous Greek writer Aesop used this book as a basis for his fables. Most experts assume that these last books are proof that the cultures of India and Greece are closely linked
The Zend Books are written in the Zend language. The Zend people, who originally lived in the Pamir mountain region, derived their name from the language in which the Zend Books are written. They later migrated to the south, and turned to the west; some historians called them pure Aryans, however they were formerly called Arii and the plateau where they finally settled was named Iran after them.
This is geographically a whole region which spreads from the Caspian Sea to the Persian Gulf and from the Tigris Valley to the Indus Delta, surrounded by immense mountain ranges, which by their nature are a defence against entering into this dry, steppe province, interspersed with salt lakes, which even changes into a desert in its central part. The fertile and wealthy valleys are in the southwest; they open towards the Indian Ocean, which provides plentiful rain. In the northwest (which coincides with the ancient Media) are also fertile valleys and basins, particularly in the area of the Caspian Sea; the climate is calm and humid.
Ancient Iran encompassed Gedrosia (the present-day Baluchistan) in the east and Karmania (Central – Eastern Iran) in the south, Arachosia (Southern Afghanistan) and Paropamisia in the east, Bactriana with Sogdania in the northeast and Drandzhiana in the central region. The western region is the most important for historians: the Media (also Medea) was squeezed between the Caspian coast and the upper Tigris, and Persia bounded by Media and the Persian Gulf.
As this wide central region is predominantly desert and the increasing population could not produce enough food, the Iranian group of Aryans thereupon were forced to work as shepherds or devote themselves to difficult farming; later, they began invasive raids. At the beginning they had a single national language, single civilisation and religion and sometimes they even mistook the Medes for Persians and vice-versa. In the course of invasions, during various pauses before reaching their final destinations, they began to vary in language and other social manifestations.
The historical origins of these peoples are shrouded in mystery, and we used to learn about them merely from the legends, but the later periods have a comprehensive documentation. One of the significant sources of knowledge is the Bible, as well as the Greek historiography which has many reports about them; the historians Herodotus, Xenophon and Plutarch left many reports on these peoples.
There are however the indirect Iranian sources:
The ancient inscriptions regarding Cyrus the Great, king of Persia (also known as Cyrus II, the first Zoroastrian Persian emperor) and his successors, found in Bitsum, Susa and Persepolis; the most important among these inscriptions are those written in the period of Darius the First (King of Persia), which are written in three languages: Median, Persian and Assyrian (the large inscription of 45 x 30 m is cut into living rock; it was deciphered by Rawlinson). These 3 languages together with the Aramenian language from Chaldaeus (Greek Khaldaios) constituted the official languages of the Persian Empire.
The Zend-Avesta is a book with dualistic religious Zoroastrian scripture. It contains much information about their ancient history; the documents on this text quote different dates of origin which are within the interval 1000–600 BC. The Avestan language, which presents the eastern dialect of ancient Persian, was formerly called ancient Bactrian, as it was thought that it originated from Bactria, but this proved to be wrong and the translations and comments of the Avesta text were named Zend.
The Persian Book of Kings was written by one of the greatest poets of all times, Firdusi Shahnameh (also spelled Firdawsi). It is assumed that the book originated from the 10th century AD. The author recounts heroic tales of ancient Persia which describe the destiny of 50 Persian kings from ancient times till the time when he lived and worked (AD 935–1020). The book is based on the people’s oral tradition (reports) and written documentation, and it is therefore a veritable treasury of the historical data.
The Greek sources include many important documents, but the most interesting are those written by Homer, which are the most popular because they were all written in the period of Roman culture. We must be cautious about certain facts relating to Greek origin, as we often fail to keep these facts in mind. Therefore we will give here a short genesis of the Greeks.
Most of historians maintain that the Hellenes were an Aryan branch or Indo-European branch which invaded the Balkan Peninsula and predominated over the primary population. The Hellenes were at first only the population of one Greek region called the Hellas, which was the narrower region of Thessaly, and at a later time this name was broadened to include the whole people of Greece.
This region factually was only the exposed part of »Amphiktyon« which had its seat in Thermopylae. The »Amphiktyons« were the administrative, religious and political regions which for some time had the function of mutually connecting the neighbouring states. The best known is ancient Amphiktyon, constituted by the Hellene named Amphiktyon, which was located in Delphi and its members met on a regular basis in one of the Temples near Thermopylae. The Amphiktyonic Council was a council of representatives from twelve Hellene tribes. They met biennially and came from Thessaly and central Hellas. Most historians maintain that the words Greece and Greek have a Latin origin, however some of them argue that the root is in the word Graikoi, the nickname for the inhabitants of the Dodona and Epirus; the Graia was a common name for small places in Euboea and Boeotia.
It seems that this Hellenic branch did not come over the Black Sea, but that they expanded slowly through its northern coast, went over the Danube and at first stopped in the mountainous region of Macedonia. From this point in the 3rd millennium BC they started to push towards the south, dislodging the primary, pre-Hellene populations. They had begun to take over some language elements from the primary inhabitants, however in the classical period they saved their original toponymy, mythological terms, and the names of animals and plants. Historians cannot say exactly who the original inhabitants of the Balkans were, but they are unanimous that the primary (pre-Hellenic) inhabitants did not originally constitute a single people with the Hellenic people. The original inhabitants came a few millennia before the Hellenes; it is almost certain that they came from the north, from Thrace. In the 2nd millennium BC different peoples immigrated into Thrace from Mesopotamia, Asia Minor and even from Egypt – it seems that they were the Lelegi, Carians, Phrygians etc.
It is assumed that the heroes who were mentioned in the ancient documents were also the original inhabitants. For example: Cadmus (Kadmos), who sailed from the Phoenicia and arrived in Boeotia, a region of ancient Greece; he founded a city with Cadmean population there, Thebes, and the acropolis of Thebes was originally named Cadmeia in his honour; he developed the Phoenician alphabet. Pelops arrived from Phrygia (a province in Asia Minor). He came to Greece escorted by many men and settled in the district not far from Elis. Later the Pelopidai (Agamemnon, Menelaus, Atreus, Thyestes etc.) established their supremacy in most of the southern Balkans, which is today the Peloponnese.
Danaus came from Egypt into Argolida (in Greece) and founded the city of Argos. Cecrops also came from Egypt. He settled in Attica, and founded the city of Cecropia, where at later date the acropolis (Acropolis of Athens) was built. Some historians try to prove that all these famous heroes belonged to the Hellenes, that they only spent some time abroad as traders or similar and that they later came back to Greece and acquired the nicknames Egyptian, Phrygian etc.
However, this is not so important. The important thing is that the Balkan Peninsula was inhabited by other non-Indo-European peoples before the Hellenes came. In that Palaeolithic-Neolithic epoch the non-Indo-Europeans built their residences as well-fortified housing complexes with several rooms, and one of them was the great central hall (in a later period the Greeks had similar great halls called »megaron/plural megara«). They lived in tribes and they worked as shepherds or farmers; they also made utensils from baked clay and were able to make simple tools and arms. Historians are not unanimous regarding the Pelasgians (Pelasgi is the Greek word for the oldest inhabitants of Greece). The Pelasgotide (Pagasai) was a region in Thessaly and the Pelasgians were its inhabitants.
Some historians maintain that the Greek word »pélagos« (mediaeval Latin is pelagus) means »plain« and the Greek word »mekednos« means »highlands«, though the Pelasgians and Macedonians may be translated respectively as the »plainsmen (Slovene Dolenjci)« and »highlanders (Slovene Gorenjci)«. According to this thesis the Pelasgians were also Hellenes, but over time their name was abandoned; this sets one thinking that this abandoned name in fact was the pre-Hellenic people.
However this is a point which draws a huge difference of opinion among historians. Did the Indo-European Hellenes come as the primitive and savage people who took over a highly-developed culture – which was undoubtedly flourishing on Crete and the nearby islands – from the primary inhabitants, or did the Indo-European Hellenes come as a civilized people who brought their own advanced culture?
From the book by Lucijan Vuga: Jantarska pot (Amber Road) / Unveiling Our Ancient Past; Bilje, 2000 (note by the editor)
This Venetic land was in Paphlagonia, a region in Asia Minor on the south coast of the Black Sea, also called »Pontus Euxinus« – EUXINUS in Latin means HOSPITABLE; PONTUS means WIDE, OPEN SEA; so we might translate the Black Sea as the »Hospitable, Open Sea«, which are rather counter-intuitive as Black suggested inhospitability, darkness, danger and bad luck. The translation of the river’s name »Partenia« is also interesting; in the translation from Greek this means the »Virgin River«. However, none of these names have Venetic roots. Hence we can only incline to the term PAPHLAGONIA. Some historians (for example, Giovanni Semerano) compare this name with Pelagonia which was on the territory of today’s Macedonia (the regions are not very far from each other and only a narrow channel divides them). This region spreads from the coast of the Black Sea up to the Halis River in the hinterland, and its inhabitants were sailors. Some try to unveil the etymology on the basis of the Assyrian language baal – palag: the rulers of waterways, the masters of the sea. Already the historian Herodotus (Enetoi, I, 196) warned about the coincidence of the Veneti on the Adriatic Sea with those in Paphlagonia. Also the geographer and historian Strabon (63 BC), who quoted the Meandri, maintains that the Veneti came from the country of Lukosiri, that is Cappadocia, and that they fled from Troy together with the Thracians and arrived as far as the north coast of the Adriatic Sea. The historian Cato (this may be found in Pliny the Elder’s Natural History N.H., III, 130-131) says: »The Veneti originated from the Trojan stem (Venetos roiana stirpe ortos).« As the Veneti lived in the vicinity of the Anatolian (Semite and Indo-European) peoples, they had begun to vary in languages and other cultural manifestations under their mutual influence. For this reason some historians have carried out comparative etymology research into these languages; examples are the words Paphlagonia or Pelagonia (developed by G. Semerano). Assyrian: baal in Akkadian is belu which means big, superior, lord, master; in Assyrian: palag – passage, way, channel. Such comparative research will be the subject of a separate chapter.
Other cities in Paphlagonia recorded by Starbon and Ptolemy (Claudius Ptolemeaus) are: Zagora, Sivata, Rastia, Olen, Titva, Sekora, Tobata, Laskoria and Elvia. Homer mentions Egial or Aigial, and some recognized in these names the words igalo, egalo – shore, as well as igovina, ivovina, rakitovina, a type of willow wood (Janezhich, Slov. – nemshki slovar, 1893 /Slovene – German Dictionary, 1893/), or the word igo (Slovene: jarem /yoke/) – German: Joch, Jochholz; Wagebalken; however the word igo also means (in old Slavonic, Russian) supremacy. However this will be discussed in another study.
From the book by Lucijan Vuga: Jantarska pot / (Amber Road) / Unveiling Our Ancient Past; Bilje, 2000 (note by the editor)
IS A KEY TO THE ETRUSCANS IN VINCHA?
The astonishing concepts of the archaeologist Dr. Radivoje Peshich,
Professor at the Italian Institute for Oriental Studies in the city of Arezzo
Near to Belgrade lies the village of Vincha with the 14th-century monastery of St. Vavedenja where a prehistoric Neolithic settlement was discovered. This archaeological site has been excavated since 1908. However, surprisingly, nobody began to study the findings till a few years ago, when Dr. Peshich devoted his knowledge and time to researching those findings. The facts which aroused his curiosity are for us simply astonishing. He proposes that the signs of the inscriptions on the excavated artefacts are identical with Etruscan letters, although the Vincha culture existed in the period between 4400 and 3200 BC.
We are certain that the Etruscans lived in the period between 800 and 300 BC, although some historians maintain that they are older. However this is not the most exciting point; in fact, we know that the oldest alphabet was the Cretan linear alphabet dating back to around 1800 BC.
According to experts, the primary and most primitive forms of »writing« (proto-writing) were rock drawings, left by cavemen which developed over time into tallies (notching into wood), cord-knotting (this is known among the Central-American peoples), stone carving (petro-glyph) and the drawing of objects (pictographic script). Many years later the writing system which had a single sound marked by a letter came into use, and this type of writing is used today. This genesis of writing is extremely simplified, but it is just mentioned to show that the Vincha Alphabet proposed by Dr. Peshich put this sequence of events upside-down. Well, at least partly, as it has not been revealed yet when and by whom the Latin and Cyrillic alphabets were created; it is known only that they were used by Phoenicians. In fact, historians believed that this alphabet is not the Phoenician but the Canaanite alphabet or the Northern-Semite alphabet from the 17th century BC. These findings remove development of the alphabet in the oldest past and show that the development of proto-writing was not linear, as might seem logical at first sight, but it evolved independently in a number of societies.
This is why the theory of Dr. Peshich is so interesting. He claims to have deciphered symbols dating from earlier than 3000 BC – from the inscriptions on the artefacts excavated at the Danube – as letters which are almost the same as the letters in the Etruscan alphabet. The age of the excavated artefacts was carbon-dated to 3470 BC by laboratories in Western Europe (a radiometric dating method that uses the naturally occurring radioisotope carbon-14 (14C) to determine the age of carbonaceous materials up to about 58,000 to 62,000 years ago).
The origins of Indo-European people, but perhaps not all its peoples, lay precisely in that region where the remnants, so interesting for us, were excavated. Some historians hold that the Central Danubian region is the cradle of the peoples of a »battle-axe« culture who are the direct predecessors of the Indo-Europeans. The archaeological finds relating to the discovery of the alphabet similar to the Etruscan alphabet are precisely in this region; hence we may conclude that it is a some kind of Proto-Indo-European - or (as Dr. Peshich believes) just European script.
The pictographic script is connected with such famous peoples as the Sumerians, Egyptians etc. – in a word, the Eastern peoples. However, we are now faced with inscriptions whose origins lay in the West or in Europe. Historians have the following explanation why at the beginning of civilization the pictographic script prevailed: It is more decorative and for the level of science and mutual communi-cation at the time it was quite enough. Only wealth and the increasing human ability of abstract thinking required different ways for the expression and communication of one’s thoughts with precision and unambiguousness. The only way to achieve that is with an alphabet, where each sound has its letter or a certain group of letters.
Dr. Peshich has analysed the inscriptions on 89 fragments of pottery which were found in Banjica (near Belgrade) and are included in the Vincha circle. He analysed in particular the symbols incised in the fragments and he discovered that they constituted a writing system, where each symbol coincides with a letter from the Etruscan alphabet – at the beginning he missed a letter »f«, but he found it later on a figurine from Vincha. The whole archaeological site encompasses about 800 fragments.
The Vincha village is 14 km from Belgrade, and the second important cultural site is Banjica, which recently was a suburb of Belgrade; the places Shabac, Tuzla etc. are also important. We should also mention Tordosh, Tartaria, Karanova, Sitovo and Gradeshnica in Romania and Bulgaria. There, the number of excavated artefacts is quite considerable and it is really odd that so far the findings have not been given the appropriate attention, as in ancient times this culture was fairly widespread. The archaeological findings proved that the technique of pottery production was quite highly developed, which allowed the incision of inscriptions in the clay before and after baking; they were familiar with making jugs, amphorae, urns, bowls, amulets, figurines etc. They had inscriptions written by a skilled hand, which shows that this script was in common use. The size of the letters depends on the size of earthenware, so in addition to the large letters, miniature scripts were also found.
Some people are opposed to Dr. Peshich trying to prove that the Vincha markings do not represent writing but just the bulk of the symbols created for religious purposes or merely symbols used as property marks (conveying information about the value of the pots or their contents), arguing that the symbols are arranged in no particularly obvious pattern and therefore cannot be an alphabet system, and besides, that the symbols tend almost exclusively to appear on pots and were not used to record messages, which is the main purpose of writing. It might be useful to remind the reader that pictographic script was created in the same period, and, as mentioned above, the average level of human intellect did not require a demanding alphabet system (the earliest known Chinese inscription dates from about 2000 BC, which is almost 1500 years after the Vincha script). It will be therefore extremely unprofessional and also irresponsible to hold that it is possible to unveil and prove in such a way some accomplished philosophy, or religion, or anything like that which dates so far back in the past; however, there is no doubt that the people in the territory of the Vincha culture had quite a high level of social manifestations and human creativity. From the enclosed photo everybody can make his own judgment as to the similarity of the Vincha and Etruscan alphabets.
A very interesting and at the same time crucial question which must be answered is how the sounds for the respective letters were selected. Dr. Peshich holds the following:
»By comparative analysis of the Vincha and Etruscan alphabets we came to the following astonishing conclusions:
– The signs from the Vincha alphabet are on the whole incorporated into the main body of Etruscan graphemes;
– All Vincha graphemes and their variants can be found in the main body of Etruscan graphemes;
– After making tests to search for the equivalent voice sounds for the Vincha alphabet we used a very simple operation and came to the appropriate results by use of the Etruscan elements.
These results were only partially obtained by use of the Phoenician alphabet, which means that the Etruscans finally adopted their alphabet (the earliest known inscription dates from the middle of the 6th century BC) after they found all the necessary voice-sounds in the Vincha alphabet. The reason probably lies in the similarity of the Vincha and Etruscan languages. Traces of Phoenician inscriptions were also found in the Apennines, although only fragmentary, similarly to the way we find traces of other inscriptions, but the Etruscan alphabet is the most widespread and used in everyday life.«
This raises the well-known questions: Where did the Etruscans come from? Who were they? What language did they speak? This is a mystery which still remains unsolved today and it also closely relates to the Veneti, and there is a lot of ink spilled on that issue, worldwide and in Slovenia, too. Let us speak directly and say that Dr. Peshich has no scruples about a possible close connection of these languages with the Slovene predecessors, in other words that these languages may also be read by analysing Slovene etymology with a technique known as the comparative method (word roots can be traced all the way back to their origin – for instance, the Indo-European language family). It was not right, Dr. Peshich says, that the certain persons attacked and criticized Matej Bor. We should not forget that Dr. Peshich is a philologist and that his theories may be opposed only by scientific arguments and not by disregarding and jeering at him.
As this new direction is quite an incentive for all those who were previously interested in the so called Slovenian-Venetic-Etruscan connection, and irritating for the opponents of this connection, it would not be inappropriate to mention the latest theories of Russian historians about the Veneti.
In the Russian magazine Knowledge – Power (Znanje – sila) they published an interview with G. Lebedjev, MA (Science of History), about the origins of the Slavs (the translation of this article was published in the Slovenian periodical »Our views« (Nashi razgledi), 13 March 1987). It starts with the editor’s introduction: »One of the most mysterious and speculative issue in history and archaeology is certainly the appearance of the Slavs on the stage of history. In fact, researchers of the Slavic culture from various generations have made considerable efforts, and they still do, to explain their appearance with more or less well-founded hypotheses.«
I think that this introduction does not need any addition; if somebody makes efforts to shed some light on this labyrinth with new facts and assumptions, he should not be jeered at, as happened to Mr. Matej Bor, but he should be accepted amicably and with professional support. The Russian theories are not anything final and accomplished either, but only a search for some different, unconventional concepts which might help to find some scientific theory on the appearance of the Slavs, whose appearance on the stage of history was lightning-like. It seems unlikely that all the written documents and the name Slavs, kept to this very day, appeared at the same time, in the early 6th century. Surprisingly, all historical sources describe in the same way the almost simultaneous appearance of the fully defined historical portrait of the Slavic peoples as well as the region they settled in.
The Russian historians have the following theory:
Before the middle of the 1st millennium BC, the Southern ethnic group, related to the Mediterranean culture, penetrated to the region of the north Indo-Europeans (predecessors of the Baltic and Slavic tribes); these were Lusatian tribes (bearers of the Lusatian culture), who were probably called Veneti (also Venthi); this wedged position was maintained till the 3rd century BC, when they were defeated by Celtic tribes from the west and by Scythian tribes from the east. The Germans put pressure on them from the north. In the period between the 2nd century BC and the 5th century AD, the Venetic group separated from the common Balto-Slavic ethnicity. Later they constituted the Prague-Korchak cultural complex which is regarded as the Slavic cultural model which spread over a wide area from the Pripyat Marshes to the Carpathians, and from the middle Elba in the west to the Danube in the South.
To sum up: The Venetic peoples penetrated into the Balto-Slavic region in northern Europe. Later they separated from Balto-Slavic ethnicity and became the proto-Slavic bearers of the Prague-Korchak culture. All these events took place in the region where Dr. Peshich is making an analysis to find out when the Vincha-alphabet, which is almost identical with the Etruscan alphabet, was created. We should bear in mind that the ancient peoples in this European region had migrated very often in different directions: from the south to the north and vice-versa, and from the east to the west and vice-versa.
The Russian historians include the Veneti among the Indo-Europeans, whose culture is closely connected with the Mediterranean civilization. According to them the Venetic peoples are closely related to the Illyrians (they explicitly mention the people called Illyro-Veneti, maintaining that Venice got its name after the Illyro-Venetic people), to the Italics and partly to the Celts. However, this last definition is ambiguous, as other scientists have a different approach when defining mutual relations between peoples, such as Illyrian, Celts and Italics ...
But let this alone, and let the scientists solve this question. What we are really interested in is the Venetic penetration to the north and its meaning for the ethnogenesis of the Slavs, which later, about the 6th century AD, had begun to migrate to the present day region. Well, we are coming to perceive a rough course of the historical events and mutual influence and it is not odd if we find in the cultural remnants so many Venetic elements and we should not be surprised at all if we find out that there is much similarity between the Slovenian and Venetic language (let alone other cultural elements from the common ancient-past, as the preliminary scientific research has not started yet), and this was pointed out by Mr. Matej Bor and others.
It is delightful that we do not know everything yet, and that the scientists may surprise us with their discoveries, which will deepen our comprehension and widen our horizons. We will also find out many things about the Slavic and Venetic peoples!
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