Birch bark document


Birch bark document

A birch bark document is a document written on pieces of birch bark. Such documents existed in several cultures. For instance, some Gandharan Buddhist texts have been found written on birch bark and preserved in clay jars.

On July 26, 1951, during excavations in Novgorod, a Soviet expedition led by Artemiy Artsikhovsky found the first Russian birch bark writing in a layer dated to ca. 1400. Since then, more than 1,000 similar documents were discovered in Staraya Russa, Smolensk, Torzhok, Pskov, Tver, Moscow, Ryazan, although Novgorod remains by far the most prolific source of them. In Ukraine, birch bark documents were found in Zvenigorod, Volynia. In Belarus, several documents were unearthed in Vitebsk and Mstislavl.

The late discovery of birch documents, as well as their amazing state of preservation, is explained by a deep culture layer in Novgorod (up to eight meters, or 25 feet) and heavy waterlogged clay soil which prevents the access of oxygen. Serious excavations in Novgorod started only in 1932, although some attempts had been made in the 19th century.

Although their existence was mentioned in some old East Slavic manuscripts, the discovery of birch bark documents ( _ru. берестяна́я гра́мота, "berestyanáya grámota") significantly changed the understanding of the cultural level and language spoken by the East Slavs between 11th and 15th centuries. About a hundred styluses have also been found, mostly made of iron, some of bone or bronze.

According to Valentin Yanin and Andrey Zaliznyak, most documents are ordinary letters by various people written in what is considered to be a vernacular dialect. The letters are of a personal or business character. Some documents include elaborate obscenities. Very few documents are written in Old Church Slavonic and only one in Old Norse. [
Birch-bark letter no. 292, Oldest known Karelian language text. (First half of 13th century)]

The document numbered 292 from the Novgorod excavations (unearthed in 1957) is the oldest known document in any Finnic language. It is dated to the beginning of the 13th century. The language used in the document is thought to be an archaic form of the language spoken in Olonets Karelia, a dialect of the Karelian language. [http://victorian.fortunecity.com/christy/32/tuohi.html] For details and full text, see Birch bark letter no. 292.

ee also

* See the Old Novgorod dialect article for samples of some texts
* Bryggen inscriptions, documents of the same age found in Bergen, Norway
* Wiigwaasabak – birch bark scrolls of the Ojibwa people
* Walam Olum
* Midewiwin

References

Yanin, Valentin L. (Feb 1990). "The Archaeology of Novgorod". "Scientific American", p.84. Covers, "History, "Kremlin of Novgorod", "Novgorod Museum of History", preservation dynamics, and the production of 'Birch bark documents'." This article contains examples of birch bark documents, styluses, and photographs.

External links

*The University of Chicago [http://humanities.uchicago.edu/depts/slavic Slavic Department] has a [http://humanities.uchicago.edu/depts/slavic/bblphotos.html page] with a number of photographs of Birch bark documents and Old Novgorodian artifacts.
*ru icon [http://gramoty.ru/ Online library of 956 Russian birch bark documents and modern translations]


Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Birch bark — or birchbark is generally understood to be the bark of the Paper Birch tree ( Betula papyrifera ), or sometimes of related species such as Gray (Wire) Birch ( Betula populifolia ).The strong and water resistant cardboard like bark can be easily… …   Wikipedia

  • Birch bark letter no. 292 — The Birch bark letter given the document number 292 is the oldest known document in any Finnic language. The document is dated to the beginning of the 13th century. It was found in 1957 by a Soviet expedition, led by Artemiy Artsikhovskiy in the… …   Wikipedia

  • Paper birch — Paper Pa per (p[=a] p[ e]r), n. [F. papier, fr. L. papyrus papyrus, from which the Egyptians made a kind of paper, Gr. pa pyros. Cf. {Papyrus}.] 1. A substance in the form of thin sheets or leaves intended to be written or printed on, or to be… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Timeline of Russian inventions and technology records — The Hall of Space Technology in the Tsiolkovsky State Museum of the History of Cosmonautics, Kaluga, Russia. The exhibition includes the models and replicas of the following Russian inventions: the first satellite, Sputnik 1 (a ball under the… …   Wikipedia

  • Walam Olum — The Walam Olum, usually translated as Red Record or Red Score, is purportedly a Lenape (also called Delaware ) Native American historical narrative. Controversy over the authenticity of the Walam Olum has been voiced since it was first published… …   Wikipedia

  • Wiigwaasabak — (Ojibwe language, plural: wiigwaasabakoon ) are birch bark scrolls, on which the Ojibwa (Anishinaabe) people of North America wrote complex geometrical patterns and shapes. When used for ritual purposes, these scrolls are called mide wiigwaas .… …   Wikipedia

  • Selwyn Dewdney — Selwyn Hanington Dewdney (October 9, 1909 ndash;November 18, 1979) was an author, illustrator, artist, activist and pioneer in both art therapy and pictography. Early life He was born in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan on October 9, 1909 and was the… …   Wikipedia

  • The Tale of Igor's Campaign — (Old East Slavic: Слово о плъку Игоревѣ, Slovo o plŭku Igorevě ; uk. Слово о полку Ігоревім, Slovo o polku Ihorevim ; Modern Russian: Слово о полку Игореве, Slovo o polku Igoreve ) is an anonymous epic poem written in the Old East Slavic language …   Wikipedia

  • Kievan Rus' — Kievan Rus′ ( ru. Киевская Русь, romanised: Kievskaya Rus , IPA2|rusʲ), also written as Kyivan Rus′ ( uk. Київська Русь), or Kievan Russia [http://books.google.com.au/books?q=%22kievan+russia%22 btnG=Search+Books] was a medieval state dominated… …   Wikipedia

  • Veles (god) — For the city in the Republic of Macedonia, see Veles (city). Veles (Cyrillic: Велес; pl. Weles; Old Russian and Old Church Slavonic: Велесъ) also known as Volos ( ru. Волосъ) (listed as a Christian saint in Old Russian texts) is a major Slavic… …   Wikipedia


Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.