Diamond shapes in the embroidery – a sign that the woman can bear children
Source: “24 hours”
Author: Vanya Stavreva
Prototypes of the embroideries still used on today’s national costumes have been found on cult and household objects in an ancient village from the Late Bronze Era near Baley and Antimovo villages near Vidin.
This hypothesis is based on 200 encrusted clay figures of females showing the decoration on the clothing of the ancient people and the adornments they used.
Archeologists name the culture of the people living in this region some 3600 years ago – from 16th to 12th century B.C. – a culture of the incrusted ceramics from Lower Danube. The reason is that it has been encountered in villages on the banks of the River Danube only in the region of Eastern Serbia, Southern Romania and Northwestern Bulgaria.
Artifacts from this culture on Bulgarian territory have been found in the villages Vruv, Novo selo, Yasen, Kutovo, Antimovo, Archar, and others near Vidin. The ancient settlement around Baley is the only one that has been completely explored. It was discovered 40 years ago. Many specialists have been working on this site, among whom the archeologists Anna Yotzova and Ass. Prof. Stefan Alexandrov from the National Archeological Institute, a part of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences.
These finds are unique because it was for the first time that the archeologists have found a settlement belonging to this culture, not just a necropolis; thus, more information about the lifestyle of the people from this epoch has been obtained. Apart from the amphorae, bowls, jugs, mugs and other vessels, the archeologists have also found some unique artifacts – kids’ rattle and toys made from clay, and cult figures of idols.
The objects are decorated with carved motifs, encrusted with white paste, which gives the name of the culture. The analysis of the paste has shown that ground animal bones were used to fill the carvings. The effect of the white paste on the polished dark ceramics is really impressive.
The motifs encrusted on the artifacts resemble the embroidery on traditional national costumes; thus, experts suppose that there was similar embroidery on the clothes of the ancient people inhabiting the area.
According to the ethnographer Margarita Nikolova, the embroideries date back even earlier with the most ancient ones being from the Eneolithic period (4th-3rd millennia B.C.). She has researched the symbolism of the national costumes for a very long time and has discovered some ancient references in the apron of the Bulgarian female costume, as well as in the typical for the Vidin region shirt called “barchanka” because of the ruffles of its neck.
The study on the function and the symbolic meaning of the red apron with diamond figures that is tied on the front of the body is very interesting. It has been known to mark the childbearing part of the woman’s body and is thus one of the most important signs of the female costume.
The basic element – the diamond shape – is among the ancient symbols of human art. It also epitomizes the earth’s and woman’s fertility and the Mother Goddess. In the Neolithic and the Eneolithic periods, diamond-shaped ornaments have been found on the lower front and side parts of the body of the clay figures from these periods.
“As the clothing is the equivalent of the human body, the apron with the diamond shape is equivalent to this part of the human body it covers – the genitals and the womb”, Nikolova says.
That’s why the apron borne by grown-up girls and brides used to serve as a sign that they were mature enough to reproduce.
The diamond shape can also be found in male clothing symbolizing fertility, as well as on other parts of the female costume. The diamond shape is a part of the “ramtzi” embroidery in the “barchanka” shirt. This typical shape is usually embroidered on the upper part of the sleeve, on the shoulder and represents a square or rectangular motif from which there are two narrow straight lines going down. The ornament consists of diamond-shaped images with fringes, hooks and smaller diamonds inside.
“The entire decoration of the woman’s shirt “barchanka” with forms on the bosom, the sleeves and the skirts that symbolize the sexual parts of the human body – the breasts, the arms and the womb, signifies the maternal status of woman and are intended to magically ensure her fertility”, the ethnographer says.
The embroidery of this shirt consists of a horizontal frieze and some plant figures which are an ideogram of the earth, often encountered on the decorated ceramics of ancient farmers from the Chalcolithic period in the Tripole culture and Middle Asia.
The ideogram of the earth made of two horizontal lines connected by short, slanting lines, is encountered not only in the Bulgarian embroidery but also in the embroidery art of the Chuvash people, relatives of the Bulgarians, the Caucasian people Hevsuri and the Azeri.
The flower buds and blooms probably have similar features with the plant images of the Chalcolithic ceramics symbolizing life, growth, and the fertility of the earth, Nikolova supposes.
Some varieties of the “barchanka” shirt are decorated with images of bees in different stages of life – from larva to queen bee. These are also supposed to have magically ensured the protection of the Queen Bee and to have stimulated woman’s fertility.