THRESHING CIRCLES - ALONI

 
 

A threshing circle or 'alonia' (which means threshing ground) is always placed in a position with is most open to the wind with valleys or ravines normally all round. Like monasteries they afford the best views. They have been used almost certainly for thousands of years up until the 1960's on the island of Crete. After that time large agricultural machinery took over and grain sowed in small quantities was no longer a viable crop.

 

Grain was sown normally in October - November, so that it could grow during the wettest months of the year. The farmer ploughs his field using the traditional plough, pulled by a pair of oxen or cows, ploughing every inch of the field sowing his seeds over every inch. As with all farming the main worry is about bad weather, as it may destroy his year-long toil. The ripe wheat or barley was cut with a sickly with the whole family helping, the children gathering the sheaves which were tied in bundles and then taken to the threshing floors. 


It was then spread around on the floor of the circle. It is then threshed using a 'volosiro', a thick board, made with a variety of slats, with the front part narrower and curved upward slightly like a sledge. The underneath of the 'volosiro' (threshing-board) is covered with sharp stone shards, or metal blades or teeth, cutting and separating the wheat. This is attached preferably to an oxen or mule by means of a chain or a strap fixed to a hook nailed in the front plank and then pulled around the 'alonia' breaking up the wheat and loosening off the grain. Donkeys were not usually used, because unlike mules and oxen they often defecate on the crop. The farmer sits or stands on the threshing-board, both guiding the animal and increasing the weight of the board. If their weight is not enough, large stones and or children are put on the board to add more weight. 

Even verses in Homers Iliad mention  "The Greeks of the 8th century B.C. threshed cereals by trampling them with oxen."
 

Next the wheat is separated from the chaff, it is then thrown into the air using a flat wooden pitchfork, allowing the wind to help the chaff to blow away and the wheat to fall back into the circle. Pitchforks, rakes and brooms are used to create a mound and then it is placed into sacks. The farmer would keep part of the crop for his own use and the rest he would take to market. His wife would mill this into flour for making bread, pies or traditional biscuits and sweets. It is believed that the traditional circle dances we see today originated around these floors, during the harvest festivities, perhaps even possibly whilst kicking away the chaff. 

 

The origin of the Greek theatre is recognized to have originated from these circles where prominent speeches were made and plays were performed whilst the audience sat around watching in awe, as with old amphitheatres we see today in many parts of the world. These circles were also used for drying corn and grapes for raisins and sultanas and are still used for this purpose in some parts of Greece today.

  
 
    

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