Cucuteni-Trypillian culture


The Cucuteni-Trypillian culture, also known as Cucuteni culture (Romanian), Trypillian culture (from Ukrainian) or Tripolie culture (from Russian), is a late Neolithic archaeological culture that flourished between 5,500 B.C. and 2,750 B.C. in the Dniester-Dnieper region of modern-day Romania, Moldova, and Ukraine. The Trypilians built the largest towns in Europe, each of them with from 10,000 to 15,000 people. The culture was initially named after Cucuteni, Ia┼či county Romania, where the first objects associated with this culture were discovered.




Reconstructed Cucuteni-Trypillian loom

Few copper artifacts have been found; many copper tools were imported from the Balkans.

Anthropomorphic Cucuteni-Trypillian clay figures - Cucuteni Spoon


Bone daggers, the Late Cucuteni-Tripolye culture

Copper axe, the Late Cucuteni-Tripolye culture

Fragment of design of a painted amphora with the scene of a ritual dance, the Late Cucuteni-Tripolye culture

Fragment of design of a painted amphora with zoomorphic representations, the Late Cucuteni-Tripolye culture

Fragment of design of a painted amphora with zoomorphic representations, the Late Cucuteni-Tripolye culture

Fragment of design of a painted amphora with zoomorphic representations, the Late Cucuteni-Tripolye culture

Binocular vessel, the Middle Cucuteni-Tripolye culture

Painted vessels, the Middle Cucuteni-Tripolye culture

Figurine of a bull, the Late Cucuteni-Tripolye culture

Binocular vessel, the Middle Cucuteni-Tripolye culture

Painted dishes and bowls, the Late Cucuteni-Tripolye culture

In 1884, Archaeologist Vicenty Khvoika uncovered the first, of close to one hundred Trypillian settlements. In 1897, similar objects were excavated in Trypillia, Kiev, and Governorate, Ukraine. As a result, the culture has been known in Soviet, Russian, and Ukrainian publications as Tripolie, Tripolian or Trypillian culture. A compromise currently exists in the English name: Cucuteni-Trypillia.

As of 2003, about 2000 sites of Cucuteni-Trypillian culture have been identified in Romania, Ukraine, and Moldova. Archaeologist J.P. Mallory reports that the culture is attested from well over a thousand sites, in the form of everything from small villages to vast settlements consisting of hundreds of dwellings surrounded by multiple ditches. The culture was centered on the middle to upper Dniester River, (in the present-day Republic of Moldova), with an extension to the northeast as far as the Dnieper.

The Largest cities:

Talianki - with up to 15,000 inhabitants, and which covered an area of 450 hectares and included 2,700 houses - circa 3,700 B.C.

Dobrovody - up to 10,000 inhabitants and covered an area of 250 hectares, and it was also fortified - circa 3,800 B.C.

Maydanets - up to 10,000 inhabitants, area 250 hectares, 1,575 houses - circa 3,700 B.C.

The creators of this culture, were tribes who stretched from the Balkans and Danube basin, to the Carpathian mountains; encompassing territories in contemporary Romania, Moldova, and Ukraine. Scholars categorize the culture into three distinct periods

Early - 5300-4600 B.C.
Middle - 4600-3200 B.C.
Late - 3200-2750/2600 B.C.

Reconstruction of Talianki, a large Trypillian city.

Reconstruction of a temple from Nebelivka, Ukraine, c. 4000 BC

Model of Cucuteni house.

Top view of Cucuteni house model.

The Early period:

In the second half of the 6th millennium B.C. and in the first half of the 5th millennium, the tribes settled in the basin of the Dnieper and Buh rivers. The settlements were located close to rivers, however a number of settlements have been discovered on the plateaus. Dwellings were made in the ground or half dug into the ground. The floors and fireplaces were made of clay, walls were made of wood or reeds covered in clay. Roofing was made of straw or reeds.

The inhabitants were involved with animal husbandry, agriculture, fishing and gathering. Wheat, rye and peas were grown. Tools included ploughs made of antlers, stone, bone and sharpened sticks. The harvest was collected with scythes made of flint inlaid blades. The grain was milled by stone wheels. Women were involved in pottery and clothing making, and played a leading role in community life. Men hunted, looked after cattle, made tools from flint, bone and stone. Cattle were most important, and pigs, sheep and goats took a secondary place - they had domesticated horses. Female statues and amulets were made of clay. Rarely one comes across copper items, primarily bracelets, rings and hooks. One settlement in Korbuni Moldova, had a large number of copper items, primarily jewelry which was dated back to the beginning of the 5th millennium B.C.

The Middle period

In the middle era, the Trypillian culture spread over a wide area from Eastern Transylvania in the West, to the Dniper river in the East. The population settled on the banks of the Upper and Middle bank of the Dniper river. The population grew considerably and they lived on plateaus near major rivers and springs. Their dwellings were built on poles in the form of circles or ovals. Dwellings were built on log floors covered in clay. Walls were woven from wood covered in clay and a clay stove was situated in the centre of the dwelling. With the growth in population in the area, agriculture also grew. Animal husbandry was popular, however hunting also continued. Tools made of flint, rock and bones were used for cultivation. Axes made of copper have been discovered mined in Volyn, and in the areas around the Dniper river. Pottery making was sophisticated. Characteristic were a mono-chromal spiral ornament, painted with black paint on a yellow and red base. There were large pear-shaped pottery for the saving of grain, plates etc. and statues of female figures. Figures of animals and models of houses have also been found. It is thought that the tribes were matrilineal.

Late period

In the late period, the territory expanded to include Volyn to the rivers Sluch and Horyn, and both banks of the Dnieper river near Kyiv. In the area near the Black sea, the inhabitants communicated with other cultures. Animal husbandry became more important - Horses became more important. The community transformed into a patriarchal structure. Communities were also established on the Don and Volga rivers. Houses were build differently, spiral ornaments disappeared from pottery, with a new rope-like ornament becoming more popular. Different forms of ritual burial were developed in graves with elaborate burial rituals.

The Cucuteni-Trypillia culture has been called the first urban culture in Europe. The later Cucuteni-Trypillia settlements were usually located on a plateau, fortified with earthworks and ditches. The earliest villages consisted of ten to fifteen households. In their heyday, settlements expanded to include several hundred large adobe huts, sometimes with two stories. These houses were typically warmed by an oven and had round windows. The huts had furnaces used to create pottery, which the Cucuteni-Trypillians are most known for.

Agriculture is attested to, as well as livestock-raising, mainly consisting of cattle, but goats/sheep and swine are also evidenced. Wild game is a regular part of the faunal remains. The pottery is connected to the Linear Pottery culture. Copper was extensively imported from the Balkans. Extant figurines excavated at the Cucuteni sites are thought to represent religious artifacts, but their meaning or use is still unknown.

As time progressed, the Cucuteni-Trypillians began creating better weapons using stronger metals, and the effort they put into pottery became less noticeable. The Cucuteni-Trypillians noticeably began fortifying their cities, when there was once no need for fortification or weapons. The sudden disappearance of many Cucuteni-Trypillian villages leads archaeologists to believe they were conquered and assimilated into another culture. The Cucuteni-Trypillian people, were likely kurganized by the horse riding tribes.