This paper discusses the enigmatic zoological term arcolino, documented in the travelogue of Marco Polo in the description of the Land of Darkness. Marco Polo’s world-wide famous travelogue «Book of the Marvels of the World» is a goldmine of information regarding «the mysteries and marvels of the East», especially concerning the Ta(r)tars, that is, the Mongols. His travel story became the greatest travelogue of his time. During the 13th and 14th centuries, 119 manuscripts of his travelogue were the object of wide interest. The «Land of Darkness» is generally assumed to refer to Yugria, an area generally identified with the upper reaches of the Ob river, that is, the region where Khanty-Mansi peoples currently live. At Polo’s time, that region and the neighbouring territories were inhabited by Yenisey, Samoyeds, as well as, perhaps, by Mongolian, Turkic and Tungus peoples. The traditional occupation of these peoples involved fishing, taiga hunting, and reindeer herding. Hunted fur would be sold in the markets of various cities on both sides of the Caspian and the Black Sea. From the Marco Polo’s description, the term arcolino seems to refer to an animal with valuable fur similar to a squirrel and/or a sable. We assume that this incognitos animal belongs to the mustelidae zoological family and most likely represents a loan translation from Mongolic solongγo ‘rainbow, Siberian marten’. Ancient Italian arcolino morphologically consists of the lexeme arco ‘bow’ and a diminutive suffix, i. e. ‘little bow’. Moreover, at that time, the term arco was widely used for ‘rainbow’. As for the Mongolic term solongγo, it refers to both ‘rainbow’ and ‘Siberian marten, weasel’. The Italian and the Mongolian term are related both in view of the colourfulness (rainbow vs. fur of the weasel) and, possibly, for the bow-shaped form. Direct borrowings of Mongolic solongγa are attested in Turkic, Tungusic and Yeniseian languages. From Tungusic, it was borrowed to Russian and re-borrowed to some Turkic and Samoyedic languages.
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