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42                      JOUENEYS IN PEESIA           LETTER xvm

have never been out of their romantic mountain-walled
hole, in which they are shut up by snow for four months
every winter. Ten families live there, each one possess-
ing a step. They said they owned sixty-five goats and
sheep, five cows, and seven asses; that they sell their
wheat, and salt from a salt spring at the back of the
hill, and that their food is chiefly acorn flour made into
bread, curds, and wild celery.

This bread is made from the fruit of the Quercus
lallota, which is often nearly three inches long. The
acorns are not gathered, but picked up when they fall.
The women bruise them between stones to expel the
bitter juices.. They are afterwards reduced to flour, which
is well washed to remove the remaining bitterness, and
dried in the sun. It is either made into thin cakes and
baked, or is mixed into a paste with buttermilk and water
and eaten raw. The baked cakes are not very unpalat-
able, but the paste is nauseous. Acorn flour is never
used from choice.

The grain is exchanged for blue cottons and tobacco.
It is not possible to imagine a more isolated life. Tihran
and Isfahan are names barely known to these people,
and the Shah is little more to them than the Czar.

Near the imamzada of Sahid is a burial-ground,
rendered holy by the dust of a pir or saint who lies
there. It has many headstones, and one very large gray
stone lion, on whose sides are rude carvings of a gun, a
sword, a dagger, a powder-flask, and a spear. On a few
low headstones a peculiar comb is carved, denoting that
the grave is that of a woman.

To several stones long locks of hair are attached, some
black and shining, others dead-looking and discoloured.
It is customary for the Bakhtiari women to sacrifice their
locks to the memory of their husbands and other near
male relatives.