Sunday, June 17, 2012



R.A.B. Mynors, commentary on Vergil, Georgics 1.164:
The tribulum was a wooden sledge, the underside of which was thick-set with nails or sharp flints; on this the driver stood or sat as it was towed round the threshing floor (see on 176-86) by his oxen, and it broke up the ears and chaff so the grain could be separated from them....the instrument was widespread over the Mediterranean and Levant, e.g. in Palestine, 2 Kings 12.31, 2 Chronicles 20.3, Isaiah 41.15 ('Behold, I will make thee a new sharp threshing instrument having teeth')....In Latin the idea was so common that the insignificant verb terere tended to be replaced by the more mouth-filling tribulare (as, e.g., edere was by manducare), and the Christian fathers have bequeathed to us 'tribulation' in the metaphorical sense.
Mynors goes on to cite James Hornell, "The Cypriote Threshing Sledge," Man 30 (1930) 135-139, who writes (at 135):
In Cyprus every farmer threshes his own grain, employing for the purpose a very ancient type of implement, known as dukáni (δουκάνι or δουκάναις), which, for want of a better term, may be rendered "threshing sledge." Its special interest lies in the fact that its lower surface is armed with serried rows of chipped flints, which if found apart and the real origin unknown, may be mistaken readily for palaeolithic artifacts. Such an implement furnishes a striking object lesson of what the ingenuity of ancient man, ignorant of metal working, was capable, in adapting a crude and refractory material to a purpose of considerable complexity. Its survival to-day may also be taken as exemplifying the extreme conservatism of the Eastern agriculturist.

This dukáni of the Cypriote is a broad board about six and a half feet long, of which a length of nearly five feet is straight, the remaining portion, about twenty inches at the forward end, being inclined upwards at an angle of from 18 to 20 degrees. The breadth varies in different dukáni from 24 to 27 inches....

Except for a bare margin of eight inches at either end, the straight section of the sledge is studded on the lower side with many rows of sharp-edged flints (athkiatchia), inserted by their bases into long and narrow triangular slots.
On p. 136 Hornell provides the following photograph:

Hornell describes the operation of the dukáni on p. 138:
A chair and sometimes one or more heavy stones are placed upon the upper side of the sledge, midway between the two battens; on the chair the driver takes his seat and with vigorous prods of his goad starts the cattle off, to drag the sledge round and round the threshing floor over thickly strewn loosened sheaves.
For more interesting details, see John C. Whittaker, "Alonia and Dhoukanes: The Ethnoarchaeology of Threshing in Cyprus," Near Eastern Archaeology 63.2 (June 2000) 62-69. According to Whittaker (at 62), "Until the 1950s, the threshing sledge was in common use in Cyprus. Today it has been replaced entirely by tractor-powered threshing machines and combines."


<< Home
Newer›  ‹Older

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?