Tradition of Dubrovnik Area


By: Tereza Buconić Gović

Gumno (Threshing Floor)

Threshing floors are stone circles built close to the house, or one quarter of the bordered space, where in July and August people used to bring loads of wheat, armfuls of miniature broad beans, bundles of grain, loose lentils and dried peas. They were the fruits of the ripened fields and security for a prosperous and wealthy winter.

Bundles of wheat were arrayed in a circle within the sun-warmed threshing floor. A man trampled on them, both in the centre and sides of the threshing floor, beating rhythmically with a threshing stick in his hand. This made the kernels of wheat fall out of the ripened ears. The smooth kernels of wheat – the future bread - shone like gold under a layer of yellow and silky straw.

A dark pile of miniature broad beans lay under the straw, while the flat and smooth lentil was hidden from view. The peas bounced, while barley grains with their sharp beards slipped into the cracks of the stone surround and jumped over the threshing stick onto the neighbour's meadow.

Whenever food was brought there, the threshing floor was visited by hens and sparrows from the nearby cypress trees. The man took care that everyone got according to his merits: he himself got hard work and sweat, but also sweet bread and a bubbling cauldron in the winter. The sparrows got the grains which fell into the dry spring beds, and the hens everything that was hidden in the stone cracks. To his stock, the sheep with their thick fleece and the big-eyed cows, the man brought dried straw, managing forever the circle of life.

The stable manure was taken into the pound. It comprised the strength of meadows and mown hay. The soil received the gift of manure and gave a bumper crop. It travelled in and with the sun, from the soil to the belly, from the bundle and the threshing floor to the cowshed.

The stone slabs of the threshing floor were saturated with wisdom and the ability to survive. That is the reason why they looked like plates with food. Filled with seed, they offered safety for the long winter and hungry mouth. As soon as the mules with sacks full of grains set out, the mills released their rollers. The mules returned home bringing sacks overfilled with flour, so that winter days smelled of sweet bread. The bread was baked in the fire place. It was round like the sun with a cross in the middle, and its smell brought the people hope and joy of life for the forthcoming spring.

Reminiscent of granary theatres, the threshing floors slept in the moonlit nights. During festive days, people danced there to the sounds of the instrument called the lijerica, following the rhythm of the human heart, joy and the sun. In the summer the threshing floors saw the change of colours, from golden ears of grain and brown broad beans' straw to the silky colour of sorghum, modul (a sort of lentil) and pea. Children played on the swept clean threshing floor showing the connection between man, the soil, and the barn full of hay, while the threshing floor in the shape of a human eye moved the wheel of life according to the law of receiving and giving.

Nowadays the ancient stone threshing floors have forgotten the handfuls of wheat, the sound of the threshing stick and human footsteps. Over them and the deserted fields, only the little owls fly in the night, while the stars wink at them with their vague promise.

Although far away from the cities, the threshing floors are reminiscent of the squares where the household members still sit in the evening. They are intoxicated with summer nights, the stars, the high moon and kinship with the soil, which from the mysterious darkness tells them that the future seeds are waiting in it.

© Dubrovnik Tourist Board

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