- Continued, part 7 -


Related to these viewpoints we will try in the following to modify Narr's model according to structural historical principles. This implies a new arrangement of sources in such a way that all present sources become accessible in pluridisciplinary ways (Fig. 8).

Narr's model is revolved around 90 degrees, stereometrically taken apart according to its main cultural types (gatherers and hunters, agrarian and urban cultures). Each of these types is followed through, right up to the present day (Fig.8). What was uppermost in Narr's model is represented now by the plane (P), meaning 'present'. This arrangement provides a more realistic view of the sources, their dating and their implications. All accessible data, traditional as well as historical and archaeological, are found in this same plane (P). They are diachronically dated or estimated and classified according to the horizontal planes (U), (A), and (G). Evidently sources related to (U), (A) and (G) become more dense, because ethnographical or folkloric data are placed close to historical and prehistorical data. They loose their disciplinary isolation. Further this arrangement forces us to reflect on the sources. What are the relevant characteristics of urban societies using script? Which sources essentially characterize agrarian village cultures, and which characterize gatherers and hunters? Diachronic data are constantly confronted with synchronic ones. What is autochthonous in a particular plane? What are its preconditions in the plane below? What has been handed down as local tradition, what has been accumulated, what was been imported, what was the reaction in terms of acculturation? In this system the same ceramic pot might be dated according to its technological production and form as neolithic, its plant or string ornaments however, might be dated as mesolithic or even more ancient. With such 'interferences' between the different planes new systems can be reconstructed.

It would, without doubt, be a fertile attempt to produce an electronic data collection based on this model of the 'structural history source box'. A selective quantity of sources defined in terms of cultural geography related to various disciplines (archaeology, prehistory, history, cultural history, social history, linguistics, histories of literature, religion, philosophy and art, and further, folklore and ethnology with their subdisciplines etc.) would have to be processed in the way described above. Then the robot-like historian will be questioned about his 'objective' presentation of the respective (geographically defined) human past. It might produce a miracle! The history of words (etymology) in particular, as well as folklore and ethnology, would shift the focus of this whole experiment into the direction of our approach.


Of crucial importance to our own objects of interest 'soft prehistory' and 'traditional territorial constitution', are Narr's curves of finds of durable products (ceramics, copper, bronze, iron, artfully fashioned stone) of peasant and urban strata. In this field, where there is acculturization to new techniques employing durable materials, we find a preference for descriptions of soft industries or their elements which have been transubstantiated in the course of a "metabolic change".

This transubstantiation from soft to durable industries can generally be shown in Narr's model along the curves of finds as 'accumulation' (of new techniques) and 'acculturation' (to the new techniques using autochthonous traditional forms). (see plates to Fig. 10 I-VII)


The most important sources are – also because of their quantity – the many finds related to the earliest Sumerian script. With regard to material, construction, and form, the originally fibroconstructive character of these signs is unquestionable. As important territorial signs of agrarian farms and villages they were copied two-dimensionally on durable clay plates by the tax administration in early urban centres.


Crucial are also the fibroconstructive huts, cultic markers, stelae, and life–trees described by Heinrich (1957) under the title 'Buildings in Ancient Sumerian Pictorial Art'. Here too, the abundance of forms presupposes a substrate of agrarian village cultures.


Among Egyptian sources too, small temple grounds, temples, and bundled markers are to be found (Andrae 1933, 1930). Remarkable are the Djed-pillar and the pillar of the unity of the country (Upper and Lower Egypt), which is used very often, particularly on objects of central importance, e.g. on the Pharaoh’s throne. One depiction shows subdued populations tied to this pillar.


The most monumental and most frequent specimens in Egyptian temple grounds are the bundled plant pillars. In some cases, the same temple roof houses various heterogenous shapes. In comparison to rites depicted on temple walls, which often show such fibroconstructive bundles as sacrifices or sacred markers, they can now be interpreted as tributes of primarily autonomous settlements to a state temple of higher order. A future study will deal with this context in greater detail.


Numerous sources of Greek and Roman antiquity show fibroconstructive sacred signs of territorial significance, e.g. the Omphalos of Delphi which was related to the cult of Apollo.


The European Middle Ages also show similar sources, particularly the stone crosses of Northern Europe ornamented with cord, rope, and plaited patterns. The most important source is found at the 'Externsteine' in Central Germany. Carved in stone, the picture documents Charlemagne's conquest of the Saxons (772) and the subsequent destruction of their famous sacred pillar, the 'Irminsul'. The destruction of this sacred symbol proves it was of great political significance to the Saxons. This will be dealt with in more detail in a future issue.


Surviving traditions of this type were strongly fragmented by the highly "Platonized" Christian system of faith which superseded them, consequently they were also deprived of their former ontological value–centricity, which was categorized as 'superstition', 'heathenism', or 'primitive religion' etc. Thus, the traditions completely lost their original institutional and constitutional value (at least for urban minds). In our context however, it is not at all surprising, that, in spite of the secondary accumulation of a system based on "belief", the behavioural and material part of the traditions has been conservatively preserved (Kapfhammer 1977), evidently because it was the original message! European folklore shows many signs, known as maypoles, bonfires at the centre of rites and festivals, implying circumambulations on foot or horseback etc., frequently with the fire having symbolic meaning. Symbolic huts are placed on particular spots or carried through the settlement, today this is often considered a kind of masquerade. In general, such traditions have often sunk to the level of children’s events, but the value-centricity can still be recognized in many cases, e.g. in the relation of the signs to more evolved sanctuaries such as churches, chapels, and so on, but also in their relation to the autochthonous landscape, e.g. streams, rivers, striking hills with clusters of trees, external borders of the settlement etc., and finally also in the doggedness with which the long-established families hold onto these traditions (maybe because subconsciously they still can read their metalanguage). Following in essence the devaluation process introduced by Christian proselytism, modern folklore consider them simply as 'festival decoration' or - in more religious terms - as survivals of a "primitive" pre-Christian 'animism'. But often their original pre-Christian meaning in the framework of a toposemantic territorial demarcation system can still be reconstructed.

Based on Karl Narr’s model, these plates have united sources in front of our eyes, which, in established cultural studies, had absolutely nothing to do with each other. Let us put this in a provocative way: the Central European maypoles and the Assyrian life trees belong to the very same family! Conventionally they are dealt with in entirely different disciplines. The maypole is part of popular tradition, found e.g. in the European Alps. The Assyrian life tree is considered an object of archaeology of the ancient Near East, or, at best, of religious history. The conventional partition walls are of the cultural geographical, of the historical, and methodological kind.

It may seem rather grotesque to many, that in a temporal sense, we are looking for the 'primordial' in the present; on the other hand, we search for what obviously was transformed and transsubstantiated much later, in the distant past of the early urban cultures of the ancient Near East. But this paradox is the logical consequence of structural history, which emphasizes the vital complex and thus prescribes the 'digging' in the uppermost and vital surface. After all, its results come closer to plausibility than archaeological speculations.


Walter Andrae (1930, 1933) has been working intensively with this concept of metabolism or transubstantiation. Supported by Jordan's technologically evident find of the so–called 'ringbundle–symbol' which he related to the sign of the Sumerian city goddess Ishtar, postulating fibroconstructive prototypes for the whole field of sources (columns, stelae, etc.) between Ionian column and Ishtar symbol. His method can be termed a 'soft prehistory'. However the attempt to compare his archaeological materials with ethnological data was still alien to him. Remarkable is the fact that Andrae used experimental models to understand the structural symbolism of the Ishtar sign. Their socioterritorial implications however were not disclosed to him for understandable reasons: the ethnological aspect, vital reality was lacking!

In a former study, Andrae's approach was taken up and further developed to include the archaeology of script (cf. Egenter 1984, and vol. 3 of this series). The earliest Sumerian scriptory signs were interpreted as two–dimensional pictures of technologically primitive territorial signs of agrarian territories. The major priests of the primary cities had copied these territorial signs of the surrounding farmers and settlements two–dimensionally onto clay plates, in order to collect taxes on the basis of these signs (Fig. 9). The multitude of forms among these signs clearly suggests the existence of an agrarian village belt around these cities.

In terms of art history, plant ornaments now become a general indicator of lost soft industries and point to the structural order of "decorated" objects. This is particularly the case where we come upon a frequent occurrence of fibroconstructive cult markers depicted on durable materials, as in Assyrian and Babylonian cultures (life trees). Consequently, one assumes a dense substrate of agrarian village cultures: traditionally they built the factual fibroconstructive models of these later representations. In other words, archaeology gains a new instrument to analyze and interpret prehistoric art in new ways, e.g. with respect to ceramics or rock art (see Egenter 1994a).

With regard to the history of architecture too, our relation to important sources might change considerably. Vitruvius's theory of the three orders of antique columns has had its day. The classical column, the Ionian and the Corinthian, originally was the freestanding and autonomous symbol of the polar and harmonious order of the world; as a sign symbolizing society’s highest values, it was considered a deity, sacrifices were offered to it, cults centred around it. Is it for this very reason that classical columns have preserved their now worldwide significance as mysterious symbols of the Western elite?

In the historical context, studies such as Wilhelm Mannhardt’s on so–called 'lower mythology' (1963), gain new importance. Much of what is described there as pre-Christian traditions of the rural population can be researched within the framework of structural ergology. A tremendous amount of materials for Central and Northern Europe!

Finally, folklore should take a new look at their object cultures. Once again we repeat our staggering question: is the maypole of Central Europe a close relative of the Assyrian life tree? Or: How are the fibroconstructive "festive decorations" of the European Alps (Kapfhammer 1977) related to Adam and Eve's 'tree of cognition', or to the 'eternally burning thornbush' in the Old Testament?

Horrified by Hitler's blood and soil approach to popular German values, postwar folklore vehemently turned towards functionalism (Weiss 1946). The rural traditions were thus quickly dehistorized. Diachronic interpretation, formerly widespread, particularly with regard to cult–related customs, was shunned. Traditions were recorded for documentation in archives without evaluation or interpretation (archival method). This is proudly taken as a proof of enlightenment. But, perhaps, this was entirely wrong! One should eventually rediscover it diachronically by using the structural method.

Such traditions can now be researched in different ways by interpreting Christian structures and institutions as a superstratum overlying a traditional system of territorial demarcation (Fig. 11). The graphical representations show results of a study carried out in 1985 relating to the complex 'maypoles, splendent poles, and plague candles' around Salzburg and in the Styrian region of Austria. All these traditions are clearly related to certain characteristics of the local topography (tectonics, rivers, paths, houses, fields), and appear in definite social relations. Thus they can clearly be reconstructed as pre-Christian practices of territorial demarcation. The study will be dealt with in greater detail in a future book of this series (vol. 7).

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To figures 1, 2
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