Vincha Culture to Freemasonry

From Vincha Culture to Freemasonry: The surprising connection between ancient building techniques and modern-day Masonic philosophy.

Every now and again, we all came across a word that we haven’t heard in a long time. Recently, I watched a documentary where an old Serbian word was used.

The word “shestarenye” (in Serbian Latin script: šestarenje and in Serbian Cyrillic: шестарење) translates to “circling” or “circumnavigation” in English.

Although the word is disappearing from common usage, it is still occasionally heard in conversation.

For example, an eagle flying high in the sky and circling would be sometimes said to be doing “shestarenye”, as would a freestyle-wrestler circumnavigating with his body while keeping his head firmly centered on the ground.

The noun form “shestarenye” translates literally into English as “a sixing”.

The root word of “shestarenye” is “shest”, which translates to “six” in English. This becomes significant when we examine the meaning of “shestar”, the Serbian word for compasses.

“Shestar” also has its roots in “shest”, and it translates to “a sixer” in English (something that performs or does six).

This raises the question of how the Serbian language came to use “sixer” to describe an instrument like compasses which are used for drawing circles.

IMAGE Credit: Alex Lishanin

To uncover the answer, we must look back 7,500 years to the Neolithic era and the dawn of the Vincha (Vinča – Винча) culture, a civilisation concentrated around the Danube River that spread across modern-day Serbia.

The Vincha culture, which succeeded its predecessor, the Starchevo (Starčevo – Старчево) culture, is considered to be the first and oldest urban civilisation in Europe, dating back to 5500 BCE.

The early Vincha settlements, both rural and urban, were characterised by circular pit houses and sunken-floor houses.

The reasons as to why the Vincha culture chose to build circular-shaped houses are still the subject of debate.

Some theories suggest that the circular shape represented the cyclical nature of life, while others propose that it was an easier shape to construct, or one that offered better ventilation and insulation.

It may simply have been a matter of cultural preference and the value placed on aesthetic and symbolic qualities.

In any case, it is clear that the Vincha culture’s use of circular shapes influenced the Serbian language and led to the use of “shestar” and “shestarenye” in modern-day Serbian.

The people of Vincha were skilled in constructing circular pit and sunken-floor houses, which suggests that they had a good understanding of circular shapes and measurements.

Their proficiency in geometry can also be seen in the motifs found on their pottery and other artifacts.

The knowledge of mathematical relationships between the diameter and circumference of circles was essential to building such houses.

One of the most important pieces of evidence of their understanding of these measurements and mathematical calculations is the tool known as the “sixer” (compasses) and the activity known as “sixing (circumvention and use of circle’s diameter to split the circle in its equal parts), which in their time was nothing more than a couple of sticks and a piece of string.


left: Making a Circle (the author using sticks and rope – the original compasses)
right: Dividing the Circle
IMAGE Credit: Alex Lishanin

With the advancement of their civilisation, the Vincha culture saw the emergence of trapezoid-shaped houses, which were built across various settlements and were characterised by increased urbanisation, trade, and technological development, including the use of copper metallurgy.

Lepenski Vir is one of the famous settlements that overlapped from Starchevo into Vincha culture. The Vincha society was harmonious and existed through a long peaceful period, as there were no fortifications or defence mechanism around their settlements.

They were based on egalitarian principles where members were treated equally. However, the social, trading, and technological developments brought a new understanding of ownership, which led to a growing shift from egalitarianism, towards concepts of ownership and control.

The trapezoid-shaped houses built in urban areas represented the connection to the natural world.

The suggested functionality of trapezoid-shaped houses were related to social organisation and community building.

The standardisation of house size and shape allowed for more organised and efficient use of space, which facilitated living arrangements and social interaction.

The uniformity of the houses reinforced social norms and shared values within the community. The trapezoid-shaped houses in Vincha culture had multiple symbolic and practical functions that contributed to the overall organisation and harmony of society preserving egalitarian ideas and values.


Lepenski Vir Archeological site
IMAGE Credit: M. Azdejkovic

According to Dr. Dragoslav Srejović, an Associate Professor of Archaeology at the University of Belgrade, the trapezoid-shaped houses found in Vincha culture were cut-out segments from a circle, specifically one-sixth of a circle.

In his article “Lepenski Vir, the first planned settlement in Europe” (Source: Ekistiks, November 1974, Vol. 38, No. 228); Dr. Srejović describes the foundations of all the houses in the Lepenski Vir settlement as forming “the sector of a circle with subtended angle of 60⁰.”

He goes to explain that this shape can be established using only a system of triangulation, and that the isosceles triangle is noticeable in the foundations of all the houses that have been discovered.

left: Photograph of a house plan showing disposition of objects Dr Srejovic
right: Schematic presentation of a typical house Dr Srejovic
IMAGE Credit: Ekistiks, November 1974, Vol. 38, No. 228

Dr. Srejović further explains that “due to the practical reasons, the point of triangle at the rear of the house is sliced off and the frontage of the house is always extended by an arc.

These modifications were not carried out in an arbitrary way. The rear was shortened by exactly one quarter of the height of a primary triangle, and the frontage extended by drawing an arc from the rear apex with a radius equal to the crossbeam on the frontage.”

He notes that the supports from the main props of the roof structure were placed so that if lines were drawn connecting them, an isosceles triangle would also be formed.

The central point of this internal triangle coincides with the central point of the original triangle, so that the foundation of the house may be considered as a developed tetrahedral area with a truncated triangle at the rear.

This discovery sheds light on the advanced knowledge of geometry possessed by the Vincha people, as well as their skill in utilising this knowledge to build their homes.

In addition to the fascinating architectural wonders of Vincha settlements, another intriguing discovery has been made in their burial practices.

Archaeologists have unearthed burials where the deceased were found in a seated, cross-legged position, which has led experts to suggest it held significant meaning to the people of this ancient culture.

Some have speculated that the seated position may have been a symbol of rebirth or renewal, representing a new beginning for the soul in the afterlife.

Additionally, the incorporation of the human form into the design of the buildings, as suggested by Dr. Srejović, further highlights that intricate and thoughtful nature of their architecture.


Lepenski Vir Archeological site, skeleton in a cross-legged position.
IMAGE Credit: M. Azdejkovic



left: Skeleton in a cross-legged position Dr Srejovic
right: Schematic presentation of a typical house Dr Srejovic
IMAGE Credit: Ekistiks, November 1974, Vol. 38, No. 228

It is fascinating to see, how the people of the Vincha culture used their knowledge of geometry to build their circular and trapezoid-shaped houses.

The use of circles and triangles in their architecture reveals a deep understanding of mathematical principles and appreciation of the natural world.

This knowledge of geometry had been passed down through history and it is still used today in the field of stonemasonry.

Furthermore, the principles of geometry and symbolism in the architecture of Vincha culture can also be traced to Freemasonry.


left: Making a triangle (the author using sticks and rope)
right: Equilateral triangle – base for house foundations
IMAGE Credit: Alex Lishanin

The use of circles, triangles and other shapes in architecture and stonemasonry, as well as their incorporation into the teachings of Freemasonry, highlights the enduring importance of geometry and symbolism in human culture.

These principles continue to inspire us to this day, reminding us of the power of the natural world and the enduring legacy of ancient knowledge and wisdom.

Moreover, the egalitarian view of the Vincha people is also mirrored in Freemasonry. Freemasonry’s belief in the equality of all men, regardless of their social status, is evident in its practices and symbols.

The equilateral triangle represents balance, harmony and stability, as well as the three primary tenets of Freemasonry: brotherly love, relief, and truth. These values are integral to Freemasonry, and the triangle serves as a reminder of the importance of upholding them.

Additionally, the three degrees of initiation in Freemasonry, which are represented by the equilateral triangle, emphasise the idea of continual growth and improvement.

The enduring legacy of the Vincha culture’s use of equilateral triangle for their trapezoid-shaped houses is a testament to the enduring importance of nature’s geometrical shapes in human society.

In conclusion, the use of circles and triangles in building has a rich history that dates back thousands of years, from the innovative design of the trapezoid-shaped houses in the Vincha culture to the incorporation of these shapes in the architecture and symbolism of Stonemasonry and Freemasonry.

It is fascinating to see how these ancient concepts still resonate with us today, reminding us of the ingenuity and creativity of our ancestors.


Eagle circling the sky
IMAGE Credit: Alex Lishanin

Now, whenever I look in the sky and see an eagle circling, I remember the word “shestarenye” which takes me back in time almost 8 millennia when our ancestors, the first builders of Europe used a simple stick and a rope to design intricate houses using the knowledge of geometrical methods known as “sixing” or dividing a circle into its six equal triangular parts.

It is a testament to the timeless wisdom and beauty of these shapes, and the human desire to understand and create beauty in the world around us.

Image References

Fig. 1 – Compasses (Alex)

Fig. 2 – Making Circle (Alex using sticks and rope – the original compasses)

Fig. 3 – Dividing Circle (Alex, using sticks and rope)

Fig. 4 – Lepenski Vir Archeological site (photo by an acquaintance)

Fig. 5 – Lepenski Vir Archeological site (photo by an acquaintance)

Fig. 6 – Photograph of a house plan showing disposition of objects Dr Srejovic (Source: Ekistiks, November 1974, Vol. 38, No. 228)

Fig. 7 – Schematic presentation of a typical house Dr Srejovic (Source: Ekistiks, November 1974, Vol. 38, No. 228)

Fig. 8 – Lepenski Vir Archeological site, Skeleton in a cross-legged position (photo by an acquaintance)

Fig. 9 – Skeleton in a cross-legged position Dr Srejovic (Source: Ekistiks, November 1974, Vol. 38, No. 228)

Fig. 10 – Schematic presentation of a typical house Dr Srejovic (Source: Ekistiks, November 1974, Vol. 38, No. 228)

Fig. 11 – Making triangle (Alex, using sticks and rope)

Fig. 12 – Equilateral triangle – base for house foundations (Alex, using sticks and rope)

Fig. 13 – Eagle circling the sky (Alex – Midjourney)

Article by: Alex Lishanin

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