Yesterday, I was killing myself in the Shenandoah by climbing “Old Rag” near Luray, Virginia — a six hour rock climb that has left me only semi-mobile this morning. This, therefore, will have to suffice as a belated Father’s Day posting. The picture above may look like every stick drawing of a boy and his father from kindergarten, but it is actually one of hundreds of “birchbark documents” (messages written on the bark of birch trees) from between the 11th and 15th Century Medieval Novgorod in Russia. The documents from love letters to shopping lists are a treasure trove for scientists, giving them insight into the everyday life of people of that age. However, it is the scribblings of the young boy that captivated me the most, including this picture of the boy and his Dad. The drawings from Novgorod come specifically from a Russian boy named Onfim. He is believed to have been around 7. Of course, I expect that Russian school officials in Novgorod will now move to retroactively suspend Onfim.
Birchbark was the poor’s man paper or parchment. People would strip the bark, use a stylist to write on it, and then throw it into the mud or clay to preserve it.
In one, he writes “This is my Dad! He is a warrior. When I grow up, I want to be a warrior just like him!” Given our trend of suspensions and expulsions of children for drawing guns, I expect Onfim to be now suspended and listed as a troubled child. It appears that the Novgorod school system actually allowed children to draw such things while modern educators have repeatedly suspended students for stick drawings.