Hut from the south of Ukraine
The hut was transported from the village of Yerky, located on the banks of Khorol river. Upstream at a distance of 4 km there is the city of Myrhorod. Folk architecture reflects the features of the forest-steppe natural zone: large deposits of clay and a large area of arable land.
The hut is made of clay, covered with straw. It has a three-celled planning (inner porch or “siny” + rooms + pantry). Wall structure consists of framing, which ends at the top with the row of cut logs. The basis of the hut is a thick oak logs, dug deep into the ground. The height of the logs reaches the upper edge of the windows of the hut. All surviving wooden elements were transported and preserved, including beams and joists. All works are carried out according to ancient technologies with bare hands and feet. Due to its unique design, this hut will be the warmest in winter and the coolest in summer among all other huts in our museum.
The frame structure is covered on both sides with a thick layer of puddled clay. The clay walls of the hut were built with the help of wooden shields. Clay stuffing was carried out in stages. The first layer used to be made up to one meter. Once dried, the shields were raised to the height of the first layer and then the next layers were made. Each next layer of walls was built after the previous one had dried, and so on to the required height. The wooden frame inside the clay strengthened the clay mass of the walls, forming a solid structure of the building.
Mound of earth along the outer walls of a peasant’s hut.
Pryzba was usually made not only to sit down and take a rest. Usually, a wide oak log was used for the foundation along the perimeter of the hut. To protect the building from water and freezing, a clay mound was made around the log, braided with vines, and later with woodboards. The structure was rather wide, so it was quite comfortable to find a seat on it.
The walls of the hut are made of adobe, a construction mix typical for folk architecture in the steppe and forest-steppe zone of Ukraine.
Adobe consists of clay and straw. Straw is added to the mix for greater strength. Сhaff, fescue or sawdust could also be used instead of straw. Sand was also sometimes added to the mix for the walls to dry faster and not to settle.
Regarding the fairly common myth about the widespread use of horse manure as one of the mandatory components of adobe, it should be noted that it was used in dried and crushed form, except for polishing the walls before applying lime. And, in fact, nomadic tribes of Central Asia were those who used to add manure instead of straw for the reinforcement of clay, because it was more profitable to feed the cattle with straw. In Ukraine, the realities of life were different. In the 19th century, Ukrainian peasants were not nomads and there were no problems with grain crops either, so they used straw instead of manure.
The first thing you come across in the inner porch of the Myrhorod hut is a trough: an elongated tub made of a solid piece of wood. The trough was used in different ways. Those that were very small, up to 30 centimeters long, served as utensils in which food was served on the table. Larger troughs were used for bathing infants up to three months. Later, as the child grew, they turned into a dish for kneading dough for pies or just bread.
In case the dough was kneaded for a wedding loaf, the trough was placed in the center of the room, then two women used to hold it, and four women kneaded the dough by pouring water and a little vodka to make the loaf more cheerful. Weddings are associated with more than one ritual that uses troughs. For example, the parents of the newlyweds used to sit in there when they were taken through the village, accompanied by singing, dancing, eats and drinks. The presence of troughs in the wedding ceremony, apparently, is due to the fact that they are always close to family life: if you dream of a trough, it means to have family joy.
It was believed that the troughs have a healing power as well. Therefore, children who had convulsions were bathed in the trough, then the trough was turned over with water and the child was covered with it. This was a symbol of protection, immediately followed by the breaking of a new cup. This was a symbol of sacrifice. However, not only children but also adults used to bath in the trough.
The icons in the hut are decorated with Poltava towels, which are mostly embellished with luxurious floral ornaments with a central composition, the Tree of Life, the symbol of Mother Nature. The image of birds, which is also very popular, means love and happiness. You can often find a flower tree, or just flowers in a pot as well.
The Tree of Life combines the past with the present and the future. Therefore, this significant image is conventionally divided into three main parts: the roots of the tree, which reflect the underworld, its trunk, which symbolizes all earthly phenomena, and the crown, a sign of celestial forces.
As a rule, the Tree of Life is embroidered with beautiful flowers on its branches. Flowers are symbols of human life that is happening now, the buds are used to denote future new generations, the fruits show the deeds of people.
The image of the Tree of Life does not use real plants or their parts. Often ornaments consist of a series of small schematically depicted trees that differ in color, and sometimes in size and configuration. This ornament indicates the ancient cult of trees and plants, which prevailed in the good old days among our ancestors.
The most popular living creatures depicted on towels throughout Ukraine were birds. On ancient towels most of the birds were embroidered symbolically and schematically, no one tried to depict a specific species. But there were a few birds that made a special cult meaning in the plot of embroidery, so their images are well known (pigeons, roosters, etc.).
When a pair of birds are embroidered, their heads are usually turned towards each other or towards the Tree of Life on the sides of which they are placed. This placing symbolizes mutual love and intimacy.
The traditional embroidery technique in Poltava region is called tambour stitch. Most Poltava towels are made in red, sometimes with a slight tinge of blue. In addition to towels, icon cases, shirts, tablecloths, valances were also embroidered with the same technique. The main thing in it is a combination of background and embroidery of red and white colors; light wavy lines of the tambour stitches outline demanding ornamental plant motifs.
There are three types of cradles represented in the interior of the hut. The oldest are hanging cradles attached to the ceiling, or to the beams above the bed, somewhere near the stove or any place convenient for the mother of the baby. It was made cusp-shaped (in the shape of a boat) or trapezium-shaped from boards and slats. The cradle was tied at the corners with ropes that converge to the center into one, symbolizing the four corners of the world. When the girl was born, a wheat straw mow was placed in the cradle (straw is a symbol of life, a fertilizing beginning), and a rye straw mow was placed for the boy. In the 1920s, standing cradles entered the life of the peasants.
Every cradle has is a motanka doll inside. A mother-to-be used to make a motanka doll, which represented her child. Before putting a newborn baby in the cradle, the doll was placed there, and it was becoming the child’s talisman, its protector, a symbol of the child’s connection with the whole family. When the baby was taken from the cradle, a doll was put there in its place. Thus, the parents wanted to deceive the evil force that sought to harm the child.
It was believed that the child should be placed with his head at sunrise, which also had a significant symbolic meaning – the bright and rich fate of the offspring. It was forbidden to rock an empty cradle so as not to cause any trouble to the child, and it was also forbidden to rock the cradle together, because it foretold a quarrel in the family.
The ritual placing of the baby in the cradle took place on the third day after its birth. The oldest custom was that the cat was the first to be put in the cradle. This was done so that all the evil and unclean things that could be in the cradle, passed to the cat. It was also believed that a cat could give a child a calm temper and bring a sweet sleep.