From the Sky to the Ground, Autumn Migration of Nomads

For thousands of years, nomads have been changing places two times in a year, according to the season of the year to benefit from the different altitudes on the top and foot of great Taurus Mountains.

This migration takes place two times, the first at the beginning of May and the second at the beginning of November. The two migrations have some different aspects coming from the seasonal difference which has effects on nomadic life.

In this article, we will try to describe the autumn migration of Anatolian nomads.

Autumn migration is including two main parts, one in early fall from the summer pasture to an intermediary altitude pasture name “güzle”, and the other from güzle to the winter quarter. Güzle places are generally vast empty valleys of 1000 meters of altitude, whereas the winter quarters are almost sea level. The autumn migration is generally considered a romantic-nostalgic journey close to pessimism by the effect of leaving sunny, chaotic, crowdy and joyful days in the summer pasture and going to cloudy winter quarters where the loneliness reigns for the house dwellers separate from the other side of the tribe.

At the end of August, the graze is dried and there is almost to more green in the pasture. For this reason, the sheep and goats which eat only dry grass have less and less milk which contains more fatty substances and dry material in it. Though the daily milk amount of the sheep and goats decrease significantly, nomads use this concentrated milk in order to make cheese, butter, concentrated yoghurt and other dairy products for the family consumption during the whole winter, because products made in this season are more delicious and durable due to the dry substance percentage in the milk.

One of the main properties of these intermediary pastures –güzle- places between the summer pastures and the low lands is that there is an important market place always close to the many güzle points of nomads where they can sell the products they produced in the summer pasture during the whole summer season.

The main product sold in this market is the sheep. Young lambs, old female sheep, and rams which gained a lot of weight in the summer pasture by fertile graze are the primary income source for a nomad family. 60 % of the flock is sold in this way, so, only females who are subjected to be pregnant in one- or two months, some male lambs and very robust rams to be stallion for the flock of the next year are left.

The second product is the milky products, especially matured cheese stuffed into sheep and goat skins preserved in caves at 2000 meters of altitude which are 12 months at 4 C Celsius.

The third product is the excess of wool and goat hair which is either washed or non-washed; apart from the wool kept for the weaving activity to supply the family needs during the winter season.

With the money gained from the autumn market, nomads buy some needs for the winter like textiles to be used to sew some clothes, wheat, and flour for the winter, some wood as lumber or pool to be used within the tent.

Before the autumn migration from the summer pasture to the mid-level güzle, some preparations are made. The clothes are washed; yufka bread and some snacks are prepared for the journey. One of the most important activities is to choose animals to be sold in the market and leave fertile female animals to be bred by the stallions. Those animals to be sold are took of their bells used during the summer, and their backs are dyed or painted by a specific colored earth-paint or dye like henna to distinguish them within the flock. The saddles of the horses, camels, and donkeys are checked and fixed if there is a need. The camels are covered by a goat hair woven blanket to protect them from the chilly weather of the season. The last smelly flowers and thyme are collected to put into the cloth bags so that the clothes will stay with the fragrance of the summer pasture during the winter.

On the migration day, early morning, at two or three o’clock the flocks of the camp dwellers are put into the road with the youngsters of the camp who will survey them during the migration path downside along the road until the first stop point.

Some hours later, towards four o’clock in the morning, the women of the camp collect the tent hold goods and put them into the storage bags according to a very old tradition. The clothes are put into fully patterned woolen bags, the flour in white densely woven wool bags, the kitchen utensils and wool, goat hair and other material related to weaving in separate goat hair black bags.

After a small breakfast, the women upload the household belongings to the camels again according to the very old tradition which enables the job done in the most suitable way to the migration. First, two bags are fixed onto the camel saddle by two sides and then the bedding pile and mattresses, the materials such as big copper milk caldron and the floor table are put on the very top of the load. Time to time a child unable to walk yet is wrapped onto the load within a mattress. The black goat-hair tent generally weighing more than 150 kg is uploaded onto the last camel including the wooden poles put in between folded tent cloth.

The camels are put into a range; every five or six camels are attached to a donkey which will show them the right way to go. The camels have specific bells which ring differently so that the caravan holder who holds the donkey and camel caravan attached to it listens to the different sounds of the bells. The bells ring in each math of camels so the caravan holder can understand if the rope holding camels detached or broke and the half of the caravan stays behind.

The autumn migration is quicker than the spring migration because it is based on going down from high land to the low lands, there are no baby animals that will slug and hurt from their feet by walking on the road. Every three or four hours there is a small stop next to the water sources so that all of the beings attending the migration take a rest for a while until arriving at the night camp. Arriving at the night camp, loads of the camels are unpacked; the tents not are erected, contrarily to the spring migration in which the resting times can be elongated to some days.

The arrival to the güzle camping will generally take three or four days and the tribe will say during one month, till the beginning of the November in which they will take four or five days to arrive at the winter quarters where they will erect their tent for six months until the time of the spring migration.

The stallions are sent into the flock to breed the females into the güzle area. On the other hand, the newborn lambs generally come into the word in winter quarter where they will pass the whole winter and the early spring, until mid-May where the long and difficult spring migration will begin.

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