High Albania and its Customs in 1908

M. Edith Durham
1910 The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland  
With Plate XXXI.] High Albania is the large tract of mountain land which forms the north-west corner of Turkey in Europe. It is the only spot in Europe in which the tribal system has been preserved intact up to the present day and along with it a mass of very ancient customs. Changes are now sweeping rapidly over the Balkan peninsula, and it is with the hope of inducing someone better qualified than myself to go and investigate on the spot, before it is too late, that I will try and give an
more » ... try and give an idea of the very primitive conditions which still prevail. Writing has, it appears, always been an art unknown to the tribesman, consequently he possesses an extraordinary memory, and has handed down quantities of oral traditions, most of which remain to be collected. Life is very rough, but the dangers of travel in North Albania have been ridiculously exaggerated. In most places I was received with enthusiasm. Many districts did not remember having been visited by an Englishman, but had received a few Austrians or Germans ; and a few had not admitted any foreigner at all for years. In such they only knew of the King of England vaguely, as one of the Seven Kings who are believed to squat in a circle and arrange the affairs of Europe. One of the seven is the King of France, and one, I believe, the King of Poland. The Albanian tribesman does not call himself Albanian, but Shcypctaar, and his land Shci/jmii. He says lie is the son of an eagle {ShcypS), and his laud is the land of eagles. His language grammatically belongs to the so-called Aryan group, and he boasts and believes that he is the oldest thing in the Balkan peninsulait was his before the coming of the Slav or Turk, and he hates each with a bitter
doi:10.2307/2843266 fatcat:izyrwa7o2rfitiwtg7eg4cdtvq