Comments on a cultural reality between past and future.

This blog describes Metatime in the Posthuman experience, drawn from Sir Isaac Newton's secret work on the future end of times, a tract in which he described Histories of Things to Come. His hidden papers on the occult were auctioned to two private buyers in 1936 at Sotheby's, but were not available for public research until the 1990s.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

From Aurochs to Ūruz to U

A cave painting of an Auroch, dating to 17,300 years ago, Lascaux, France. Image Source: Heraclitian Fire.

The core of civilization hinges on the domestication of animals, above all, the cow. According to geneticists, the source of all domestic cattle boils down to one prehistoric herd of 80 head of cattle in what is now Iran. In March 2012, DNA research from scientists from the CNRS and National Museum of Natural History in France, the University of Mainz in Germany, and UCL in the UK traced the domestication of this herd back to a period 10,500 years ago (Hat tip: i09). That herd engendered the total number of cows in the world today, approximately 1.3 billion, or roughly one bovine for every seven humans on earth.

Cave paintings of Aurochs, dating to 17,300 years ago, Lascaux, France. Image Source: Prof saxx via Wiki.

These cows were not the cows we know, but an ancestor of modern cows (Bos taurus and Bos indicus - the Zebu), called the Auroch (Bos primigenius, also known as "urus" and "wisent"). Evolving some 2 million years ago in India, they were much bigger, more aggressive and generally tougher animals than our modern cows; we would find their stature similar to that of the American Bison. There are some die hard nostalgics who believe that Aurochs still survive, tucked away in secluded Eastern European valleys (a Romanian video purportedly of modern Aurochs, also known as the Zimbru, here, admittedly shows massive animals on dainty legs, which look an awful lot like the cave paintings). The author of that video refers to yet another Millennial popular study which peculiarly brings prehistory right into the 21st century and states:
You’ll find a lot of things very different than what you’ve been taught. Two animals of the bovine family are claimed to be in existence in Romania; one is called BOUR and the other is ZIMBRU (alias AUROCH). The BOUR is the ancestor of cattle, not the AUROCH. The bour is a smaller animal, but has big horns and that’s where the confusion is. Etymologically, the word BOUR fits with BOS—meaning oxen in Greek and Latin. In addition, AUROCH does fit with TAURUS (meaning bull in Greek and Latin) but that word came about because bour (wild cattle) bulls were much bigger than the cow. Hence, TAUROS. The literal translation from Latin is “like a TAURO”, TAURO being the name of the Auroch. The confusion comes from the fact that Western scientists talk about only one animal, when in fact there are two.
Despite these popular musings, researchers insist that Aurochs are extinct. They claim that the last Auroch, a cow, died in Poland in 1627. These animals lived especially in northern climes, but generally covered Europe, Russia, North Africa, the Near and Middle East, Central Asia, India and Asia.

A cave painting of an Auroch, dating to 17,300 years ago, Lascaux, France. Image Source: Heraclitian Fire.

Palaeontologists view cave paintings as contemporary Stone Age historical records of Aurochs and hence know how they appeared. The DNA sequence of the Auroch was determined in 2010. Perhaps the current boom in genetic research explains why Ice Age creatures have lately enjoyed a vogue in Millennial culture.

Given the tremendous importance of the Auroch, it is not surprising that early writing systems incorporated bovinely-inspired letters and pictograms. In northern Europe's Proto-Germanic and Old Norse languages, the rune which depicted an Auroch was Ūruz or Ur. In Old English, it was indicated by Ur or Yr. This letter became a predecessor of U or Y. The rune also means 'water' or 'rain.'

My impression is that this rune was incorporated into what is now the English word 'you' or 'þu.' In Old Norse, the word was 'þú,' which became 'du' in modern Germanic and Scandinavian languages. In Proto-Germanic, the word was þū and in Proto-Indo-European, it was túh.

Hence, the rune, which designated one of the most important animals with which humans have ever interacted, helped to point to our linguistic sense of the other, the creature outside the Self. Runes have modern-day, quasi-archaic occult meanings, which I won't cover here, but these magical connotations may play with another dimension of this lingustic question, this sense of duality, of the most basic distinction between inner and outer worlds.

Different words which were once used to indicate 'you' were soon replaced with one universal pronoun. Grammatically, 'thou' was once declined in English as follows, until all forms of 'thou' were replaced with 'you' in the late Middle Ages, partly because using 'thou' was considered overly familiar with one's superiors, or condescending toward one's equals:
Nominative singular: THOU
Nominative plural: YE
Objective singular: THEE
Objective plural: YOU
Although English now uses 'you' in all these cases, the modern colloquialism originally from the American South, 'you all,' or 'y'all,' restores a plural grammatical aspect to a now univerally-used 'you.' A colloquialism in the northern USA, Canada, and parts of the Commonwealth, 'youse,' functions in a similar way.

Today, the word 'you' ironically has transformed - some would say reverted - to 'u' in strangely runic Intenet slang and text messaging. Maybe the Ice Age is indeed alive and well on our gadgets and on the Internet.

Image Source: David Levene for the Guardian.

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  1. One nitpick from a great read:

    Aurochs is singular.
    Aurochsen is plural.

  2. Thanks for the comment, Anon. The declension in English is a bit complicated and varies according to which English dictionary one consults. The declension has not been standardized. Wiki:

    "The word "aurochs" comes to English from German, where its normal spelling and declension today is Auerochs/Auerochse (singular), Auerochsen (genitive), Auerochsen (plural). The declension in English varies, being either "auroch" (singular), "aurochs" (plural) or "aurochs" (singular), "aurochses" (plural). The declension "auroch" (singular), "aurochs" (plural), acknowledged by MWU, is a back-formation analogous to "pea"-from-"pease" derived from a misinterpretation of the singular form ending in the /s/ sound (being cognate to "ox/Ochs(e)"). The use in English of the plural form "aurochsen" is not acknowledged by AHD4 or MWU, but is mentioned in The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language. It is directly parallel to the German plural and analogous (and cognate) to English "ox" (singular), "oxen" (plural)."

  3. Hi

    AFAIK, in Romania what you see are reintroduced bisons.
    Nothing related with aurochs.
    Btw, I did saw a youtube video with bisons, and was surprised to see the author saying that they are aurochs...
    That´s really sad.

    And that article claiming that all the taurine cattle come from a single domestication event, may need a review, because since then it have been presented articles on which are proved the presence of different genetic lines ( not only matrilinear but also patrilinear) from different eurasian regions.

    It seems that local aurochsen were crossbreed or incorporated in domestic herds, or in rare cases, were even domesticated ( just like horses).

    And for example, there´s N´Dama cattle herd from west africa comes from a separate domestication event from North Africa, since its genetic map is completely new and bears alelles of african alleles.
    Ah, my name is Gonçalo Figueira, I´m from Portugal and currently working and cooperating for TaurOs project. Also studying bioluminescence.
    We found here, at least, 4 breeds related with aurochs. So we are thinking in using at least 2 breeds to begin with ( one is being selected already, since a selection criteria for the suitable individuals have to been done within the breed) for the international project of aurochs reconstruction ( TaurOs project).
    The other 2 will be used by now in local projects.

    Check more here:





    I hope I was useful for you!

    Best wishes,


  4. Hi Gonçalo, Thank you very much for your comment and those links! I will follow them up. If you are actively doing research on the project, I would be interested to hear more about it for the blog; do let me know at count.theways@gmail.com.