Asian studies in Lithuania
Authors: Neimantas, Romualdas
Published in: Kaunas
Published on: 2002
Publisher: Epaisas

Romualdas Neimantas’s book “Traces of a Sun Stone” opens up with a small preface on how the author, during his journey throughout Central Asia, came across a Khakas woman, who was a historian and archeologist. Upon learning that the author came from the Baltic region, the woman shows him an old family keepsake – a necklace made of amber, which had been passed down to the women of her lineage from long time ago. Although the author is aware that the lengths which the amber, also known as the Gold of the North, had traveled around the world has been mostly through and due to Amber Road – an ancient trade route starting from North and Baltic Seas and ending at the Mediterranean Sea –  Neimantas is left wondering how the amber had traveled so far and deep into the hands of Khakas people. With the help of Neimantas’s friends, specializing in History and Archeology, as well various information depicted in old manuscripts and archeological finds, the author creates and connects the main spots of a possible route on how the amber could have gotten into Khakassia. In the book, the author depicts the travel through Central and Southern Europe, Northern Africa and across India until the lands of Khakassia through the adventurous journey of a young Baltic man named Aistis.

The book consists of eight chapter in total. The story begins with a small glimpse into future events of Aistis and his kin, however, the book quickly goes into the past to explain how and what got them into their current situation in the first place. The Baltic tribe that Aistis was a member of, the Curonians, were lately in shortage of iron and copper, thus, the chief priest of their village, Daumas, ordered them to travel to the lands of Sambia to make a trade to get what they needed. Before their departure, Aistis’s father tells his son that he expects him to learn a lot about the world and craftsmanship of the local people so that Aistis’s, full of newfound knowledge, can inherit his fathers smithery. Having reached the Sambia people, Aistis and his travel mates Gudrys and Kuprius learn that the Sambians are short in iron and copper and the trio is suggested to travel to the nearest Roman post. Each chapter of the book covers a different region that Aistis gets to travel to. Eventually, through an upheaval, he and his kin gets separated and Aistis is left to wander through the unknown lands on his own, meeting and learning about the local people and their daily life. Each chapter entails extensive descriptions of people’s wardrobe – from Sambian and Dacian, to Roman and Indian, each contrasting the other. The local nature and architecture are described in a picturesque manner, providing close to a first-hand experience.

Apart from many cultural and historical references, the book also contains a number of mythological motifs, such as animism, polytheism, as well as mythological creatures. Such was the case with the sea serpent that Aistis had come across while on his way to India via ship.

Through the adventures of the book’s main character Aistis, the reader learns how important it can be to learn about the surrounding world and all the different people and cultures, as well as how crucial it can be in terms of self-reflecting one’s own culture and way of living. As the chief priest Daumas said: “My people cannot close off from the outside world. The outside world is already at their doorstep”. It is of utmost importance to the main character Aistis, as through his journey, he expands his horizons through engagement in foreign people’s lives, their culture, learning Latin, Greek and Roman History, as well as the qualities of amber and the many things one can do with it.

The story may intrigue school-aged people or younger, specifically those who are fascinated and eager to learn about various different cultures, History and mythology. Neimantas makes sure to put some additional notes in the book to further describe and explain in detail some historical and cultural facts, as well as terminology. The book may also be interesting to those who are already familiar with a lot of the references, either by serving as a fun, imaginative but accurate adventure story or to perhaps expand and provide some previously unknown additional information.

Initiators of the project: Japan foundation VDU