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23. Geography And Means Of Communication

The conditions of topography and direction of the rivers as shown, played and still play a very important part in orientation. Yet, the conditions of life characteristic of all Tungus groups are such that the Tungus must know topography, orography, climatic conditions and generally physical geography much better than the average city dweller. Yet, here, it ought to be pointed out that the Tungus live in the regions crossed by numerous mountains and rivers.

The Tungus, not only the men but also the women, know very well the system of mountains and rivers of their regions, so that almost every one of them is able to make a schematic map of the region with which he or she is familiar. After the publication of several works on the geographical maps made by the «primitive» peoples [125] the idea that the «primitive» people are not able to represent on plan the facts observed decidedly must be given up. When the Tungus is making a map he does not always represent all the details that he knows. He may give some selected details which may be useful for the traveller, and they will be emphazised on the map. Yet, the sinuosities of a river may be omitted altogether which will not mean that the Tungus does not know them. All Tungus very well understand detailed printed maps which they can read without knowledge of the language, — by the directions of the rivers and mountain ranges only. If there should be found some errors, the Tungus would be able to make corrections. I have seen this in a great number of instances. However, some special remarks must be made as to the Tungus maps. First of all the Tungus idea of the locality may be represented in two forms, - the distances may be expressed in the unit of time i.e. how many hours (day divided into portions, as shown before, in Section 19); and the distances may be shown in the approximate values of measure of length which is indispensable when the Tungus wish to connect a series of known points into a system. In the first case they would represent on the map (usually the routes of caravan) an irregular line with the distances between the points of importance designated in time. Such a map is useful for the traveller's orientation. It is very common that they do not practically need to know how many miles there are, but they want to know in how long a time they may reach a certain point. On such a map one sometimes finds the change of direction of the line due to the lack of space (on a piece of birch bark, for instance). It is different when they wish to show the relationship between the points and the distances between them. In such a case they would employ the same method as do others, i.e. using angular orientation, showing the direction of the line which may lead to the point to be reached or mapped. Every Tungus has seen the region from some mountains or peak. So when the Tungus wishes to represent the relationship of several points he will place himself in the centre from which he will show the direction of various points, adapting the distances between the points in terms of certain units of absolute measure of length. Then he will proceed to another point, from which he will make a new centre for making another angular system connected with the first. Indeed, such a work requires great effort for connecting these systems and almost surely the Tungus would not be able to put on the map a very large territory. It ought to be remembered that the Tungus have no material for making a map on a large scale, — we must consider that. Yet such maps have no great practical value for them and the Tungus have no leisure for making them.

In so far as making of maps is concerned the Tungus does the same work as any topographer, the difference being that he does it approximately and often with the practical view of travelling, — the symbolization of the itinerary in line and unit of time of travelling. This may be compared with the railway schedule, where the distances are indicated in hours, and not with the map. On some maps, again for the purpose of travelling, the Tungus combine both methods. These facts cannot be used for showing that the Tungus have no exact physical conception of the country where they live.

If you ask them to put on the map the regions that they do not know personally it is almost sure that they will represent them in such a manner that the known region will occupy the centre in a certain scale, then the regions less known will be represented with less details and in a smaller scale, and last the regions about which they have only a vague idea will be represented in a very reduced scale and without any details. Such a map will be of the same type as that of Europeans when the latter did not know other regions and did not use astronomical methods.

The only possible inference from the above shown facts is that the method of approach to the problems of topography and map-making amongst the Tungus does not differ from that of ethnical groups which put at the basis of this work geometrical conceptions. The difference is that of quantity of facts known and refinement of mathematical methodology.

As compared with other ethnical groups the Tungus differ also in another respect, namely, the geographical knowledge and art of orientation and potential mapping amongst the Tungus is not restricted to the limited number of people, but almost every one of them knows at least local geography and methods of orientation. Indeed there is nothing mysterious in it. The conditions of life, namely, the hunting, migrations, and the lack of communications, requires the Tungus to be «geographers». Naturally, the men must know locality, and modes of orientation, but also it is not rare among the women who very often are left to travel alone sometimes distances of several days. In fact the usual manner of Tungus migration is that the women with their children and loaded animals go along one way, while the men are going along another way where they may happen to meet game. Children, even as young as twelve years old, are sometimes charged with scouting and bringing messages, and used for communicating with other groups at distances passing over that at which the aim of travelling may be seen. Both the boys and girls do it perfectly. The women sometimes go hunting alone (vide SONT pp. 262 et seq.) and sometimes migrate very long distances. I know a case of a Birarchen woman who left her husband's clan which lived in the region of the Zeia River (the Amur Government) and travelled alone by boat for several days in order to reach the Birarchen settlement on the banks of the Amur River. The distance traversed was not less than 250 miles. Indeed, among the Tungus there are some individuals who know better while others know much less the locality and there are some individuals who are not endowed with the ability of drawing maps, but a case of a complete lack of ability of orientation has never been encountered among the Tungus. In this respect they are far superior to the average Europeans, including those who are speak about the «primitive peoples» [126] without being familiar with the subjects of this mentality and the mentality itself.

Among the Birarchen as well as among other Tungus groups, it is believed that the man cannot lose his power of orientation or his way unless he is led astray by the spirits [127] while the Russians and Chinese can suffer such loss «because they do not know the region and are not accustomed to living in the taiga», according to their very clear objective explanations.

As stated, the topography of the region occupied by the Tungus is required to be carefully observed by the children beginning from when they are very young. The Tungus gradually visits all the regions of the territory occupied by the unit. Since their profession — hunting — requires a perfect knowledge of the topography the Tungus are compelled to acquire this knowledge for the sake of safety and survival. In fact, the Tungus first of all must know in which direction the animal [128] which he is hunting may go and in which direction it is useless to look for it. So that the Tungus must have in his mind the map of the region with all possible details, including the character and altitude of the mountains, the depth of the rivers, and so on. Since the regions visited by the Tungus are very large, — sometimes covering nearly hundreds of thousands of square miles, — the knowledge of the region requires a good memory, experience and still more, ability of orientation in the system of usually very crossed country. Therefore the Tungus have the idea of the systems of ranges and their general direction, and in going to an unknown portion of the region any one of them would easily find his own location and possibilities of further movement along the valleys and mountain ranges. He is found, let us add, in a much more difficult position than the traveller who has instruments and theoretical knowledge of topography, for he usually is not supplied with even food and very often carries his family with him. However, the cases of a Tungus lost in an unknown region are extremely rare: They do occur but only in case where the Tungus is «at-tacked by the spirits», and loses his power of orientation and of critical analysis of a new situation.

* * *

Indeed, the orientation in an unknown country is not an easy task. So the Tungus before going to such a country has to become familiar with the methods of reconnaissance, must have information on a region known to other people and from tradition. In other words a certain education, in the sense of assimilation of previously acquired geographical knowledge and some general principles, is quite necessary. There are old men who possess this knowledge and they transmit it to the younger generation and so there is just one step for formulating general principles which may be seen for instance in Tungus names for rivers. In fact the Tungus have the most elaborated classificatory terminology for the rivers which may be seen in the names. The Tungus names are usually conditioned by the character of the river, its direction, character of the vegetation, character of the valley, character of the water and thus they are essentially descriptive which greatly help in the orientation. I will give some instances.

Amasar — the river which has its sources coming from the direction opposite the lower course, i.e. returning

back (ama).

Dobkur — the double, when the chief stream is split into two minor streams (dobkur — the double walled) Silkir - the stressed (river is stressed between the gorges)

Uyikta — the river which is stressed (uyi — narrow etc.)

Olgokta — the river which periodically dries out (cf olgo — «dry»)

Sungkoit — the river which has some places with very deep bottom (sungta — the depth)

Munuci — the river which has water with a bad smelt (muni -to become rotten)

Takaci — the river with numerous fallen trees (taka — the tree trunk).

Amufia — the river in the valley of which there are many lakes (amuji — the lake)

Mar'ikta — the river the valley of which is covered with shrubs (mar — the forest of shrubs).

Tala - the river the valley of which has salty soil (tala — the salty soil).

Amnunnali — the river, in the course of which there may be easily found unfrozen water during winter (amnuli — the


Kulinda — the river in the valley of which there are many snakes (kulin — the snake).

Arbukakta — the river with dry sections or which has a dry bed at certain seasons (arba — the dry river)

S'ivak — the river with fresh water hydrophites which the elk likes (s'ivak — the water grass).

Sivartu — the river, the valley of which is very marshy (sivar — the marshy places).

There are hundreds of names which may be understood in the same way and which are indicative of the character of the rivers from the point of view of practical needs of the Tungus. Sometimes it is sufficient to know the names of the local rivers for forming a relatively good idea of the character of the region.

Since we have touched upon the problem of names of rivers it may be added, that the Tungus sometimes name their rivers according to the events of travelling, e.g. g'ida the «spear», which was lost, etc. or to some other signs, e.g. g'iramk'id — the one having a coffin etc. Yet the old, sometimes foreign, names are also preserved, e.g. gan — a river in Manchuria so named probably by the non-Northern Tungus populations. The number of rivers with the names which have no meaning in Tungus is rather small. It may also be noted that some rivers remain unnamed, the reason being that they are not interesting and little visited by the Tungus. Such rivers for purpose of orientation may be called either by number, or with the suffixes of diminutivus — kan, can etc. of the names of neighbouring rivers of greater length or importance. The Bystraia River in Manchuria has over sixty tributaries amongst which only a half are named. However, in a region peopled by the same group during long time every tributary would be called by some name. In the Tungus territory many rivers have more than one name, known to the Tungus, and one of them may be a Tungus name. For instance, the Amur River is called Silkir in Tungus, Karamur in Dahur, Saxalan ula in Manchu and Xeixe in Chinese [129].

The Tungus also give names to the important lakes, mountain ranges, and important peaks. All big mountainous masses may also have their names. However, sometimes a general word is used in reference to the large ranges. So, for instance, the Khingan Mountains are called d'idin, and under the same name is known the Yablonov and Stanovoi ranges. It is not a proper name but it may be referred in Tungus to any important watershed dividing the systems of large basins, e.g. the Amur river, the Nonni River, the Lena River, etc. Mountains of different size may be termed by different classifying designations. For instance, a large treeless peak is called jag (Ner.), kumd (Khin.) kumay (Bir.); a mountain covered with a good forest — toksoko (Ner.); an isolated mountain — toloyei (Mank.) (probably of Mongol origin, a phenomenon typical of steppe regions); low with slight slope -vilu (RTM) (Bir.); mountain of middle size — uru (Ner. Bir. Kum. Khin. Barg. etc.); the mountain with rocks — kadar (almost all dialects) (cf. kada Buriat Cast.)

kamniya (RTM. Khin) -a narrow valley (gorges) of a river which leaves but small passages.

koltoko (Kum.) - narrow line laid between the river and its former bed periodically under water.

cungeka (Bir.) - a land surrounded by sinuosities of a river and its former bed.

koco (Bir.) - the same, if it is covered with good but not very thick forest («cozy»).

sujen (Bir.) - the narrow space, near the river, covered with the sand and pebbles.

tam (tiyan) Bir.) - a place under the high bank of a river.

cunguka (Bir) - a place, near the river, covered with good pasturage.

cilcalkuma (Bir.) — a place rising up in a valley, or steppe and not covered with forest.

saja (Bir.) - a flat place before the mountain pass.

This list may be still increased with other terms.

There are also special terms for characteristics of the vegetation. Sometimes they may be identified with the names of trees or shrubs, but sometimes they are special terms designating a complex, e.g.

mar (most of the dialects know this term) - the place covered with small shrubs, very often marshy;

sajaka (Bir.) - treeless space in the taiga;

kulura (Ner.), kulla (RTM) — a place where there was a fire (the next year there may be good grass for horses.)

buarin (Bir.) - a place on the high mountains covered with the burned cedar.

Yet, there are special terms which designate characters good for hunting and breeding, or bad or good for travelling, for instance,

tiy’ika (RTM) - a place good for horseback riding (not marshy, not stony but with good firm soil).

samnakon — (Ner.) — a place with grass destroyed and shrubs cut off (cf. samna — to wear out).

joliggra (RTM) - a place in a river good for hunting the fish taimen, Salmo taimen (cf. joli — the taimen).

jamku (Kum) - a river place visited by elk (rich in hydrophites) [cf. jam+Suff. (RTM)- the hydrophites).

jawraltan (RTM) — the river good for using birch bark canoe (cf. ja — the birch bark canoe.)

As a matter of fact on condition of good knowledge of the region one may distinguish every mile by something characteristic of it, and with such a specialization as is found in Tungus terminology one may give a very good characteriz3ation not only of the river or region, but also all of other details designating particular places even without giving distance in units of length.

* * *

The Tungus for reaching the goal of their travelling choose a direction which would satisfy two requirements, namely, shortness, according to the axiom — the shortest distance between two points is a straight line — and convenience for travelling. When the Tungus live at one spot for a long time and use the same directions it is very likely that there will be formed, little by little, paths. However the Tungus paths are not alike and very rarely are they straight.

Although this question is very important for every one who is familiar with the conditions of virgin regions inhabited by hunters, in the hands of some «theoreticians» it has been greatly confused, so I will now give some details.

The paths used by the Tungus are not alike, because some of them are used only for going on foot, others are used for both horses and reindeer, and still others are used only for reindeer riding. Some conditions of regions render them so difficult for horse back riding that horses cannot be used for riding at all. These are marshy spaces, regions without grass (for horses), sometimes very stony spaces [e.g. the broken masses of rocks on the slopes of mountains, — oroco (Ner. Barg.) joloy (Bin) (RTM), iyay (RTM), — usually covered with lichens, shrubs, and fallen trees], very narrow space for a path, and so on. Reindeer can be used under these conditions. However, if the space is covered with small hard angular stones and the soil is firm the reindeer is not good for riding. Owing to the peculiarities of the horse and the reindeer two paths may go parallel along a valley but they will be different. For instance, the path for horses may go over the slopes of the hills, on firm, stony, ground, while that for reindeer may go below that for horses on the slightly soft soil of the valley, or much higher almost on the crest of the mountain range, so the paths made by wild cervines may be used for riding on the reindeer. However, these cervine paths are sometimes misleading for the aim of some cervines is to attain isolated peaks from which there is no egress.

The paths as a rule are not straight and they go with slight deviations from a straight line which may be due to the above mentioned various conditions. However, even soil and without stones or marshes to be avoided the path still is rarely straight. The reasons are manifold and so-to-say historic in their nature, e.g. sometimes after heavy rains deep pools are formed which must be avoided; during this time the new path for avoiding the pool is formed and later used, for the old path is not at once even and the soil is not firm: if the new sinuosity is not great and the consequent loss of time is of less importance than loss of energy for overcoming the difficulty of returning to the old path, the new path with its sinuosity will be used.

Fallen trees may often produce the same deviations of the path. When the fallen tree is rotten and reduced to nothing the new path may persist while the deviation of the path cannot be understood from a «rationalistic» point of view. However, the old path may be restored if the deviation of the new path is essential and if the making of a new path would not require too much energy. Indeed, the same is true of the paths going along the stony and marshy regions. The sinuosity and deviations from the straight line have nothing to do with the «primitive mentality» fear of spirits and other fantastic hypotheses [130]. The nationalistic point of view alone cannot always explain such cases. The whole region inhabited by the Tungus and those which are very often visited by them are covered with a net of paths which are real means of communication. The path is adapted to the needs of travellers not only in regard to facility of movement, but also in regard to finding water (not everywhere is the water good!), good fuel, and pasturage for the horses and reindeer. Yet, the path sometimes makes a deviation for reaching a place good for erecting a wigwam. A wigwam requires special material (wood) and the Tungus like to have their wigwams protected against the winds in winter and autumn, and open for winds in summer, against the insects. Moreover, the Tungus like to have before their eyes «good scenery». For finding such conditions the paths make either a deviation or a branching. Sometimes one can see no reason for such a deviation if one does not know that the place may be good and is sometimes used as a summer or winter station, or just to spend a night on the way. Possibly no traces of a station are seen.

However, if the Tungus need to produce a new path for a short cut or when occupying a new place, they would not hesitate to change the old system or a section of it. It is especially natural with the change of draught animals, e.g. when the horse is substituted for the reindeer, a change is necessary and it takes place.

The Tungus perfectly well know to where the path leads, for what reason it changes its direction and even how long ago it was used last, who passed on it, with how many animals, etc. They read the past so easily that this was ascribed to a special and distinct character of primitive mentality. Means of communication, as a system of paths, for the Tungus is very familiar and important.

The system of paths is so well adapted to the topography, to the draught animals used, and to the needs of the Tungus that the same system may be used by other people as well, if they are equipped in the same manner as are the Tungus. As a matter of fact one can feel oneself safe if one does not lose the Tungus system of communications, for these communication are the best under the given conditions and one may meet the Tungus in their stations. It is different when one does not know this system; one may pass at a distance of a few miles from a large campment, and a few hundreds yards from a small campment without seeing the Tungus. A single person might not be noticed at a distance of a few yards should he not wish to show himself.

With the Tungus knowledge of the regions, - i.e. minor details of the character of the localities, — with their ability of orientation in a new region, which is based upon the orientation with regard to the sun and stars, and with their general knowledge of topography, they feel themselves absolutely sure and safe in what, in the eyes of a city dweller, may appear as the frightening wilderness of a primitive forest. The Tungus behaves there with the same feeling of security and self-confidence as a city dweller behaves in a big city with its thousands of streets and uniform houses, etc. again on condition that he is familiar with it. For understanding the Tungus behaviour in respect to the vast regions one must not build up a reasoning based upon the impression produced by the primitive forest, or wilderness on one self, when one is not familiar with it. Indeed, the Tungus have also their fears but these are not produced by the wilderness, but are produced by the psychic instability of the Tungus themselves, which will be later dealt with.

The same knowledge of conditions and the same considerations of practical utility and economy is characteristic of the Tungus when they use rivers as a means of communication. The Tungus are very careful in this respect. Before using a river they carefully investigate its course. Before approaching a dangerous waterfall, or dangerous sinuosities, they learn the course and they would go about to see the degree of danger. They know perfectly well the effect of flood, when rivers become dangerous for navigation because of floating trees of the size of mast pines which are carried down by the rivers, danger of swift current, and other conditions. Under such circumstances the Tungus must know in every particular case degree of real danger for navigation. Indeed, some of these rivers are not dangerous at all (Bir.) when in flood: only some of them become so. If the Tungus do not know a river they will not use it. In this case the surest way of travelling is that of following Tungus advice [131].

Owing to these conditions the Tungus do not use all rivers which may be used. In fact if the river may be used at a short distance or its direction does not correspond to that of the Tungus migratory tendencies it is very likely that the river will not be used and even the art of navigating it will be forgotten. In the eyes of a superficial observer this may wrongly appear as «primitiveness», «conservatism» and adherence to the custom.

125. Cf. e.g. Adler's, Bogoras's, Jochelson's works also some other recent publications.

126. In spite of the fact that geography constitutes one of important items of the scholastic program in European schools, the lack of geographical knowledge far exceeds the limits of what may be allowed after a long training in geography. European ladies are famous for their lack of ability of orientation and sometimes even statesmen show ignorance of illiterate people. These facts should not be interpreted as cases of «primitive mentality», but merely as due to the lack of practical need of extensive geographical knowledge and a certain inability, characteristic of city dwellers, in operating the special conceptions and geometry.

127. What is the nature of «spirits» will be discussed later, but now it must be pointed out that there is nothing particularly mysterious about the nature of the spirits and that their intervention into the Tungus travelling has nothing to do with the change of topography. According to the Tungus themselves, the trouble is with the Tungus mind and not physical conditions of topography.

128. It is here supposed that he is familiar with the habits of the animals; vide infra Chapter VI.

129. Historico-ethnographical and historico-geographical values of the names of rivers is very great. However, before these names are used as evidence they must be carefully checked up. The Tungus names sometimes lose their original form (e.g. Shilka of the Russians, instead of Shilkir) or the foreign name is adopted and adapted by the Tungus as a Tungus-like name. Without a thorough knowledge of the history of the names and Tungus language the operations with the names of rivers may lead to errors. Cf. the case of V. B. Shostakovic (vide SONT).

130. Cf. L. Bruhl, op. cit., where he points out this peculiarity of primitive mentality, indeed such a hypothesis might be produced only by the «thin-kers» who know very little of actual conditions of life and topography. This calls to my mind those ignorant people who criticize the constructors of railways and suggest making the line «more straight», without considering the cost of building. The usual explanation given by these ignorant people is that the constructors are not clever enough, or that they dishonest. Such a method is not far from that of L. Bruhl and others who analyse similar phenomena without being competent in judgement as to the actual causes of supposed deviations from their own logic. The theory of spirits is very often used as a justification.

131. Most of the accidents with travellers, — and in the history of the scientific exploration of the region occupied by the Tungus these cases were very frequent, — were caused by the travellers' lack of knowledge of the conditions of rivers and underestimation of the Tungus ability of orientation and their knowledge. Many of these travellers believed that the Tungus were frightened by «nature» and did not know the degree of actual danger. Indeed, in a single case one may successfully pass a dangerous place, but the Tungus who have to do it every day cannot naturally take risks. The daring of such a traveller in the eyes of the Tungus would appear as due to the lack of experience.

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