Trypillian Civilization 5400 - 2750 BC


©2002-2003 Kolos Corp.

Global Cataclysm through the eyes of Trypillians

Doctor of History, professor, archaeologist Mykola Chmykhov

Any developed world-view, including ancient, was presented as a cyclic scheme, beginning with genesis and ending with apocalypse. Such system has formed along with the establishment of the modern structure of mankind (stable family, kindred, tribe, social inequality, linguistic families, termination of biological development at the level of major races) and modern climatic conditions of our planet. It corresponds to the Proto-Neolithic Epoch (for underdeveloped peoples - to the Neolithic Epoch).

The Trypillian population of the Copper Age existed during the third, late period of the Neolithic Epoch. It means that is had to live through all three (Lower, Middle and Upper) phases of the Epoch. It had to endure socio-economic and ecological crises, that broke out at the turns between these periods. Such grandiose events had to be remembered and passed on from generation to generation.

The forebears of Trypillians must have survived a particularly serious disaster. We are talking about the period of transition from the Mesolithic Epoch to the Proto- Neolithic Epoch, or from the pre-boreal [climate] to boreal. It was then that the real Holocene, the post-glacial epoch, had settled.

The level of groundwater fell. The cold hardpan warmed up. Coniferous forests north of Ukraine were replaced with the leafy woods. Cold-loving animals disappeared.

Probably, the crisis at the turn of the Proto-Neolithic and Neolithic Epochs, during the transition from the boreal to Atlantic climate, was somewhat milder.

Wherever our forebears had been - whether on the territory of Ukraine, or Moldova, or in the Balkan Danube region - they had withstood a real cataclysm. It is exactly due to this cataclysm that the level of groundwater had fallen. Humus began to form. The Black Sea that had used to be a lake, became connected with the Mediterranean Sea through the strait Bosporus. Water covered significant part of the land, especially in the North-Western Prychernomoria.

Our forebears suffered the second-powerful change in society and ecology at the turn of the Middle and Upper periods of the Neolithic Epoch and the Copper Age. We shall not dwell upon the changes in society - they are nobody's secret. We would like to emphasize the fact that from the beginning of the Copper Age the ecological and climatic situation also became very much different.

In particular, the existence of Trypillia corresponded to another climatic phase - the Atlantic phase. Obviously, its beginning coincided with significant changes in the solar system. It happened at the beginning of a new cycle (the next one since the beginning of the boreal and the Neolithic Epoch) - a 2660-year serial of solar eclipses taking place at the time of vernal equinox.

Therefore, it can be maintained that the population of Trypillia had to realize the periodic character of global crises and cataclysms as the moments, when the old ecological and social situation stops to exist and the new one is being born. The people of Trypillia couldn't help seeing that these crises and cataclysms were related to changes in the Universe and to some special astronomical phenomena. That is why some of the themes present in the monuments of Trypillia may be explained by the idea of global cataclysm.

Ancient Indo-Europeans and Semites distinguished several basic aspects of this theme. Let us expand upon some of those.

In ancient times people believed that the world would come to its end, when the sun or the moon fell into the maw of a beast. Gauls believed, that it would happen, when the wolf's fangs clutched at the moon. According to Scandinavian Edda, at the end of the world one wolf will swallow the sun and another will clutch at the moon with its teeth.

Generally speaking, wolves appear in varying roles in the beliefs of Indo-European peoples. Ukrainians call them St. George's hounds. In Scandinavian sagas Hel - the goddess who ruled the abode of the dead - had the maw of a wolf.

Quite often, snakes feature instead of wolves. Snakes swallowed the sun, the moon and stars in the Slavic and Germanic mythology.

Satan who wanted to destroy the world in the Bible also appeared as the Serpent. This is what the Apocalypse is about.

"Then another sign appeared in the heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on his heads. His tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth. The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that he might devour her child the moment it was born. She gave birth to a son, a male child, who will rule all the nations with an iron scepter. And her child was snatched up to God and to his throne. The woman fled into the desert to a place prepared for her by God, where she might be taken care of for 1,260 days. And there was war in the heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down - that ancient serpent called the devil or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth and his angels with him."

(The Revelation of St. John the Divine. 12. 3-7).

The flying scroll in the vision of the Prophet Zachariah, called into being by God to destroy violators of His laws along with the rest of the world, is close to the described above.

"And I answered: "I see a flying scroll. It is twenty cubits long and ten cubits wide. And he said to me: "This is the curse coming up to the surface of the whole land. For every criminal shall be destroyed according to what is written on this side of the scroll, and everyone who swears falsely and who swears by My Name. And it will settle in his house and destroy it and its trees and its stones."

(Zachariah. 5. 2-4).

Indians associated the land and the altar (models of the Universe) with rawhide, picked up at the end of the world.

"...We pray to glorious Varuna, who pitched the earth to spread a rawhide [of a sacrifice animal] for the sun, like a priest."

(Rig-Veda. V, 85, 1)

"He [Varuna] pushed the heavens far up, [Created] two heavenly bodies and spread the earth."

(Rig-Veda. VII, 86, I)

"Dabha, split the hearts of adversaries and hateable ones, oh amulet!
As [the rising sun] splits the rawhide of the earth..."

(Atharva-Veda. XIX, 28, 4).

"Here they are, these three earths. Of those, our earth is the highest. I took the cure off their rawhide."

(Atharva-Veda. VI, 21, 1).

"What is there in you, rawhide, What are your hairs..." "Let your rawhide be the altar, Let your hairs be the sacrifice straw".

(Atharva-Veda. X, 9, 2, 24).

"When people fold up the space as if it were a rawhide, Their suffering will come to an end even without their understanding God."

(Svetasvara Upanishad. VI, 20).

"Rudra owns these worlds through his power - the sages know no other. Having created all the worlds, he stands before people. He, the shepherd, folds them up in the end of time."

(Svetasvara Upanishad. III, 2).

In the end of the world the heavenly (cosmic) tree will shed the stars, like fruit and leaves. The serpent-like scroll of the heaven will gather carnivorous birds and adders. The rope of devastation and the rope of destruction will stretch across the world.

"... and the stars in the sky fell to earth, as late figs drop from a fig tree when shaken by a strong wind. The sky receded like a scroll, rolling up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place."

(The Revelation of St. John the Divine. 7. 13-14)

"The heavenly bodies will disappear as the heaven will roll up as a scroll of parchment and all its stars will fall down as leaves from the grape vine or unripe figs from a fig tree. It will be seized by a pelican and a hedgehog, and an owl and a crow will lurk in it, and He will stretch a measuring rope of devastation and destruction across it... A jumping adder will nest in there and lay and brood its eggs... Hawks will gather there, one to one..."

(Isaiah. 34. 4. 11. 15)

Let us compare all of this with the picture of the heavenly parchment being rolled up by an Angel in the day of the Last Judgment, depicted on a fresco in the Kyrillivska Church in Kyiv.

However, the most important mission of the end of the world must be its subsequent rebirth in a new, higher quality. This feature is very well embodied in the motif of the holy marriage. The rite was performed by representatives of the upper aristocracy - the king and the queen, who personified a couple of supreme deities, or a king and a priestess of the supreme god personifying the god's wife.

At the cosmic abstraction level it was all about the resurrection of the Universe and the unity between nature and society. In the rite, the married couple personified the sun and the moon at the same time.

Myths about numerous family relationships among supreme deities are related to the holy marriage. The gods were portrayed not only as people, but also as animals, birds and heavenly bodies. The myths about marriages of Zeus, Apollo and similar deities, who got married as serpents, dragons, bulls, etc., are good examples to the above statement.

A child born from the holy marriage symbolized a new world. Thus, it was also the token of the end of this world through its destruction and that the Last Judgment would come. The behavior of the child's father is very interesting. Being the personification of the old world, he tries to protect the baby.

Let us remember Cronus, for example. He tries to take their common children (including Zeus) away from the goddess Rae to eat them and prevent the epoch of new generations from coming. A while later Zeus tries to eat his son Apollo, because he knows that the baby will bring about his new epoch, in which his father will lose his power.

Therefore, hypothetically the myth about the holy marriage may be understood as follows: gods get married at the turn of epochs anticipating the imminent global cataclysm. They plan to give birth to a child who will become the symbol of the coming epoch. Mother's task is to bring him to life. The father, who is responsible for all existing life in the Universe, must render the baby harmless. This should be done it the way that will allow the baby's later revival and action, probably in a new capacity - the baby is to be swallowed or cast into dungeons, etc. This victim must disappear (sometimes for long) for the sake of its later appearance. When the baby grows up, he will begin to struggle against his own father. He will dethrone his father and assert a new cosmic order - the order of the next historical epoch. At its end, the story will repeat, but this time it will star the son of a new king.

Therefore, the holy marriage is the symbol of the progress asserting itself through each next global cataclysm.

The history of Marduk's creating the world has similar interpretation. The foremother Teammate and her husband Kingu tried to fight against their own children. For some time they were successful. However, their youngest sun Marduk, having defeated Teammate and Kingu, asserted the new world.

This is not my purpose to offend Christians, but I think that the Christian doctrine also preserved this traditional formula. It is best expressed in the holy marriage (Immaculate Conception) of the Virgin Mary, who played the role of the supreme deity's priestess.

It happened on the Lady Day, which used to be considered the day of vernal equinox. Consequently, after the natural period of foetal life, Christ was born on the day of Winter solstice - which is Christmas. Born according to the tradition of the holy marriage, Christ, who at the same time was the son of God, after a while was killed and disappeared from the earthly life. However, he is influencing this life and at the day of the Last Judgment he will rule the assertion of a new cosmic (and social) order.

Probably, one can better grasp the meaning of the holy marriage as the condition for the global cataclysm, if he should study myths and fairy-tales, where a married couple is represented as the sun and the moon or as the gods who personify them. The meeting of these heavenly bodies - the eclipse - was considered to be the most important and essential sign of the end of the world.

This suggests, that in the ancient art or myth the pictures of the world's destruction and marriage may have the same meaning. And the behavior of the devil Serpent in the Bible quite logically causes one to think of Cronus, who also wanted to eat his child.

In the Greek mythology the god-kings try to devour their children. In the Bible the dragon wears crowns on all of its seven heads, which indicates its kingly birth. The devil Serpent also is a heavenly omen.

I believe that it preserves the characteristics of the pagan king-god (who sometimes appeared also as snake) and at the same time the father of a child to be born by the omen woman. Thus, devil Snake's chasing a woman conforms to the old motif of the holy marriage. In particular, this relationship may be seen between the dragon snake Zeus and Persephone, between Apollo and Dryope.

So, attempts by Indo-European gods to devour babies and by the Semitic devil Serpent to devour the child of the omen woman correspond to the most ancient concepts of global cataclysms taking place at the turn of the epochs.

At such moments forces of the old epoch try to fight the wind of the new epoch, but all in vain. The most ancient realization of the meaning of such turning point belongs to the time when the epoch of Cronus was replaced by that of Zeus and the golden age was defeated by the silver age. To my point of view it was then that the Proto-Neolithic Epoch ended and the Neolithic Epoch began.

One thing is obvious. The motifs related to the above characteristics of the global cataclysm are well represented in the remains of ancient cultures and, in particular, in those of the Trypillian society. I am talking here about the themes of sculptures, patterns and the ornamentation technique itself.

Those patterns include helical bodies of dragon serpents (often depicted next to different cosmic symbols) in the first place. There are also beaks of birds (sometimes clearly owls, hawks or crows) formed by the same helical compositions where circles and ovals become transformed into bird eyes. These mythical animals with canine (wolf's) maws, heavenly flying dogs (wolves) and defoliated trees; these figurines of women resting upon model thrones with dragon snakes twined around them are the motifs of the holy marriage.

Quite often such images are accompanied by vertical lines or stripes. Can those be the lines of destruction? Also, one may come across rope-like compositions and ornaments. Don't they resemble the rope of devastation?

We have also seen the symbol of the solar eclipse: drawn on a piece of pottery was the sun that collided with the horns of the crescent moon.

Therefore, we have grounds to believe that part of the material pertaining to the Trypillian society as well as to other cultures of the Copper and Bronze Ages could have depicted the ancient concept of global cataclysm.

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