Trypillian Civilization 5400 - 2750 BC


Kolos Corp.

The Trypilska Kultura - The Spiritual Birthplace of Ukraine?

 Natalie Taranec
(research paper)

1. The Spiritual Birthplace of Ukraine

In 1897, archaeologist Vikentiy Khvoika discovered the Trypillian civilization, and hypothesised that they might be the original ancestors of all Slavs. While this theory is in dispute, the Trypiltsi, located in central and south-western Ukraine [1], certainly influenced Ukrainian religious and artistic culture. The Trypillian civilization came to it's final stages in 2400BC, by which time, it began merging with other, newer communities, such as the Cimmerians and the Scythians. I propose the Trypillian Civilization as the spiritual birthplace of today's Ukraine, because of the profound impact it had on developing the psyche and identity of the country in relation to its spirituality, respect of nature, and admiration for the arts being able to express this highest communion between people, their natural and supernatural worlds [2].

In this research paper dedicated to the ancient archaeology of Ukraine, I will attempt to illustrate the spiritual life of the Trypillian civilization at its height,  to identify the religious motifs contained within the artistic records left behind for us, connecting their time with ours. I hope to also show how the form of Trypillian symbolic art has been retained and repeated to this current day in contemporary religious and secular material culture and rituals, creating a long uninterrupted cultural connection between today’s Ukraine and her spiritual birthplace, the world of our ancestors – the Trypiltsi.

 2. A Brief  Note on the Historical Discovery of ‘Trypillia’         

This ancient civilization, also known as Cucuteni in Moldova and Rumania, was named eponymously after the town where finds were first excavated. In 1896-1899 Czech born Vicentiy Khvoika [3] conducted a series of excavations near the town of Trypillia, in Obukhivskiy district, Kyiv region. These excavations unearthed an incredible array of monuments, statuettes, ceramics, day-to-day implements and tools, graves, housing, even complete proto-city settlements, indicating an ongoing, settled, traditional agrarian culture. V. Khvoika documented "this discovery to the 11th Congress of Archaeologists in 1897, which is now considered the official date of the discovery of the Trypillian culture" (E-Museum, 2004). Dr. M. Videiko, a leading archaeologist-academic at the Ukrainian National Academy of Sciences wrote that "carbon dating of these settlements placed them at 4200-2750 BC" (Trypillian Civilization in the Prehistory of Europe, 2004).

There is agreement amongst archaeologists [4] that this land has been tilled continuously. Umansky believes this suggests "that the local population sustained the achievements of the material and spiritual culture of the Trypillians" (2004). Importantly, this indicates that while the material evidence of the Trypiltsi had been preserved under the earth that they so revered, their attitudes, symbols, and art have been preserved in the living successive cultures with whom the Trypiltsi merged. Since Vikentiy's discoveries more than a hundred years ago, the Ukrainian earth has revealed many of its well-kept secrets. Dr Videiko has documented some 1,200 settlements that have been explored over the course of the 19th-20th centuries: these are summarized in Appendix 2. From these treasures hidden and preserved by earth for so many years, we are able to interpret the important aspects of the Trypillians' inner spiritual life, and how they codified these within their art.

 3. Artifacts or Arty Facts?

Thinking about the information revealed by excavations, perhaps I am close in my offbeat interpretation of the word. ‘Artefacts’ comes from the Latin arte factum, from ars skill + facere to make. In a modern sense, artifacts are ‘something made or given shape by man, such as a tool or work of art, especially an object of archaeological interest’ (Collins, p.61, 1998). However, it is the meanings (the facts, or the text) embedded in the forms that give context to that society and its belief system.

 Ornamentation of everyday use items seemed to be an obligatory component of their creation. Earthenware, ceramics, pottery, tools, vessels, dishes, pottery moulds, internal walls of houses (as shown by clay models) all exhibit a compulsory ornamentation: painted in varying earth-colours, such as white, red, ochre and black, and sometimes carved with incisions or encrusted. The decoration of items or spaces are geometrical incorporating symbols of nature (sun, moon, stars, rain, birds, trees, branches, seeds, flowers, water) and with magical symbols of the supernatural world (the eternal circle, teeth, rhombus, crosses, endless meanders, snake-patterns, lines) are so universal and repeated, that it is unlikely that the decorations were random or coincidental. Umansky believes that these ornament-symbols are of two types: “those aiding to find food and to grow crops, and those protecting people and the results of their labour”. He notes that “some items carried both the symbols of fertility and of protection, intertwined in an integral picture of the cosmos”. Videiko also supports the idea of using ornamentation as a form of protection: “the floor and the walls were painted with red and white colours and decorated with geometrical ornamental patterns to protect the inhabitants from evil spirits” (The Trypillian Culture: Introduction).

 It is not surprising that cosmic protection was so integral to Trypillian beliefs. The triangular interrelationship of man/woman, the life-bringing earth, and the cosmic forces all affected and depended on each other. Lockyer comments that the people who would first observe the heavenly bodies, and apply this knowledge, “would succeed best in knowing when to plough and sow, and when to reap and mow” (p. 2, 1964). It would be natural, considering the awe, fear and wonder with which these ancient peoples lived, to infer a supernatural quality on these all-controlling elements: the sun, the dawn, the moon, fire, thunder, and storm all were deified in the religion of this old form of nature worship.

 The Trypillian period coincided with the transition from the boreal to the milder Atlantic climate: “the level of groundwater fell, the coniferous forests were replaced by leafy woods, cold-loving animals disappeared, humus began to form, the Black Sea - once a lake - became connected to the Mediterranean Sea through the Bosphorus strait, and water covered a significant part of the land on north-western Prychornomoria” (Chmykov, 2004). Not surprisingly, in an age where environmental change was linked to astronomical phenomena, the sun, dawn and everything connected to it was revered as much as life; whilst the night, evening and obscuring of the sun or moon (i.e. an eclipse) was feared with dread. Related to nature worship was the concept of ancestor worship. No doubt in times of fear and unease, people would turn to the spirits of their departed ancestors, seeking their care from the supernatural realm. One particular relevant ritual referring to ancestor worship, pre-dating but common to the Trypillian period, included the sacrificial burning of a home or even a complete settlement. “They contained beautiful vessels, tools, meat or animals, which became a rich offering to the spirits of their ancestors. It was necessary to burn out such houses, as well as leaving the old fields to the ancestors, as these houses of the dead would become shelters for the souls of their ancestors” (Videiko, The Trypillian Culture: Introduction).

 Much of the reverence to the spiritual world can be read from the text of the ornamented items. For example, the fear of a solar eclipse is symbolized graphically on a vessel: “drawn on a piece of pottery was the sun that collided with the horns of the moon” (Chmykov, 2004). This is one example, but there are literally hundreds of signs used artistically with specific meanings, and Taras Tkachuk estimates that some “12% of these are related to Sumerian words (for example, star, plant, house)” (Videiko, Trypillian Civilisation in the Prehistory of Europe). Below I have constructed a list of some examples of ornament-symbols and their meanings. By no means exhaustive, these are those which occur frequently in relevant literature:

 Snake – wisdom; dragon snakes twined around the throne (where female figurine is seated) represent the motifs of holy marriage (Chmykov); a strip of carpet on the floor imitates a striped snake – the protector (Umansky); personification of river of life – eternal movement (Umansky); a moon deity (Burdo).
 Rhombus – the magic crossed rhombus symbolizes a fertile field (Umansky).
 Helix – represents heaven (Umansky).
 Marriage – is signified by the two signs (helix and rhombus) together: the marriage of heaven-father and earth-mother (Umansky).
 Wolves – a symbol of the eclipse. It was believed that the world would come to an end when the sun or moon fell into the maw of a beast (wolf, dog). In another legend, at the end of the world, one wolf will swallow the sun and another will clutch at the moon with its teeth (Chmykov).
 Spiral - depict the mystical journey to the centre, where illumination, wisdom and insight will be found (Goodman, p.122); protective against evil (Umansky),
 Tree-flower -  symbolizes the fertility Goddess ‘the tree of life’ (Umansky). The flower Goddess sanctifies the most important thing in the house – the fire or the stove (Umansky). Often a luxuriant flower is painted in her honor, against the white-washed wall just above the family hearth, to invoke the goddess’s protection.
 Circle  - Symbolizes spirit. Describes the whole cosmos – everything which is spiritual, everything that is embraced by the vast realm of the heavens (Goodman, p.17). A ditch is dug around a village or field to protect his crops and ward off evil (Umansky).
 Concentric circles – magic concentration symbol of sacral space (Burdo).
 Cross/Square - We should observe that the cross, or the square (both of which consist essentially of 4 elements) symbolize the heavy realm of matter, the four directions of space, the four elements and so on” (Goodman, p.38); representative of the four elements (Fire, Air, Earth and Water) which were once believed to form the basic material of the physical world (Goodman, p.17)
 Fish - The two fishes represent the soul and the spirit swimming in the sea which symbolize the body (Goodman, p.120)
 River – Souls of dead grandparents flow in the river towards the Goddess of Fertility, who sends them to the wombs of mothers to be reborn as the bodies of their grandchildren (Umansky).
 Vertical Lines: - Symbolizes spirit. Describes movement from above (Heaven) to below (Earth) or Heaven to Hell (Goodman, p,17).
 Horizontal Lines -  Symbolizes matter. Describes movement from west to east. It describes movement in time, as well as the direction from past to future (Goodman, p.17).

As well as using ornamentation for protective reasons, it was also used to invoke good wishes for fertility, a characteristic (whether linked with bringing forth life either with people or with the land) which was much revered: thus women as keepers of the secrets of fertility (the archetypal earth mother) were highly regarded. Amongst the excavations, many goddess[5] statuettes were recovered, often sitting on thrones. This essentially points to an egalitarian type of society, that honored both male and female deities, in the context of their religious worship. It also correlates to the proposal that Shlain makes about the role of women in Neolithic communities: “during a long period of prehistory and early history both men and women worshipped goddesses, women functioned as priests, and property commonly passed through the mother’s lineage” (Introduction, 1998).

From the 1980’s onward, Kyiv based archaeologist Nataliya Burdo assisted in the identification of Goddess statuettes that reflected the three stages of life (Madonna – Goddess with Child, Goddess-Cortex, Goddess-Matron), as well as anthropomorphic statuettes that the Great Goddess is associated with: the Moon Goddess, the Cow Goddess and the Bird Goddess. The fertility-Goddess cult is further expanded by the location of cave temples, where silhouettes of the naked Goddess were impregnated into the stone-wall (Bilche Zolote, see Appendix 2, under related entry).

 Mokosh is universally accepted as the goddess of fertility in all the regions now defined by Slavic populations. The origins of the name stem from the words: mother + earth. This links in with “an old poetic concept of fertility of our soil – the mother syra (soggy) soil, and as it happens, the seed can only grow in the soggy soil” (Umansky). Shlain describes that Trypillian attitudes were similar to contemporary communities: “in the emerging civilizations, a mother Goddess was the principal deity: in Sumer she was Inanna, in Egypt she was Isis, in Canaan her name was Asherah, in Syria she was Astarte, in Greece, Demeter, in Cyprus, Aphrodite. They all recognized her as the Creatrix of life, nurturer of young, protector of children, and the source of milk, herds, vegetables, and grain. Since she presided over the great mystery of birth, people of this period presumed She must also hold sway over the great bedeviler of human thought – death. ( p.6, 1998).

The personification of Mokosh in ancient Trypillia – via these goddess statuettes – were used in a variety of rituals. Kochkin (2004) says that there are several known processes in which goddess statues were used. Firstly they were associated with magical rites including initiation ceremonies. There is evidence that others were used in seasonal land farming rituals, which seemed to correlate with fertility festivities. Others were deigned to assist and protect women who were pregnant and giving birth. The last category were in the role of  protector of children. These goddess statues were found in the graves of children – they were part of the family’s property and it was considered that the goddess will look after the child during the passage into the next world.

 4. Speculations on the fate of the Trypilska Kultura

At the peak of its civilization, it is estimated that the Trypiltsi numbered close to 1,000,000 people in an area of 190,000 km2 (see Appendix 3). This population of agriculturalists, potters, blacksmiths, weavers had continued a fairly peaceful existence for close to 3000 years, and suddenly they disappeared. What happened to this civilization, and what was its legacy? The first question is difficult to answer, and there are several alternative hypotheses.

Vikentiy Khvoika’s original hypothesis was that the Trypillian settlements of the Middle Naddnipryanschyna had been the ancient motherland of all Slavs. This has provoked a lot of debate, and people have tried to classify the Trypillians variously as Proto-Slavs (V. Khvoika), Trako-Frigians (R. Schtern and others), Celts (K. Schugardt), and Tocharians (O.Mengin and others). T. Passek, M. Biliashevkiyi, O. Spytssyn and V. Horodtsov are convinced that the highly developed culture of the Trypillians “came from the south across the Aegean Sea and the Sea of Marmara from the Asian coast, or across the Mediterranean Sea from Finikia of Egypt, as the ornamented ceramics suggest some oriental influence” (Susloparov, 2004). M. Marr (1921) conforms to this theory: “relatives of the South Caucasus Etruscans, the Lasgs and the Pelasgs, moved by the Northern Way, across the Black Sea, or along its Northern coast, and arrived at the Balkan Peninsular” (Susloparov, 2004). Marija Gimbutas is in agreement, as  “recent research shows that proto Indo-Europeans embarked on an enormous expansion into Europe and the Near East from the Steppes of Eurasia. The first movement from South Russia to Ukraine and the lower Danube basin occurred some time before 4000 BC” (Gimbutas, p.17, 1972). This correlates with the theory of movement from the Causcasus region across the Black Sea, and then northward into the territory that is now Ukraine.

O. Sobolevskyi defined their probable identity: “If we see the ancient Pelasgs as ancestors of Kimers and Scythians-Hellenes, and if we recognize Scythian-Hellenes as descendants of the early Greek colonists who got mixed with Kimers at their Dnipro and Dnistro-adjacent territories, we may see the representatives of the Trypilska Culture as Herodotus’ Kimers[6]” (Susloparov, 2004). In Book 4 of the Histories, Herodotus describes a peaceful nation of Kimers-Cimmerians, but who were hostile to the imposition of foreign customs, and who were eventually pushed back to the coast of the Black Sea and Crimea. It is possible these people were the distant relatives of our Trypiltsi.

Anthropologist Marija Gimbutas talks about the conflict of two types of cultures in the period around 3,000 BC. She notes (p.19, 1971) that with the coming of the Kurgan Proto-Indo-Europeans, who were semi-nomadic pastoralists with patrilineal and patriarchal social systems, the great Neolithic civilizations of the 4-5th millennia disintegrated. They included:

        Cucuteni-Tripolye civilizations in Western Ukraine and Moldova;
        Gumelnitsa in Southern Rumania, Bulgaria and Eastern Macedonia;
        Vinca in the Central Balkans;
        Butmir in Bosnia;
        Bodrogkeresztur in the Tisza Region;
        Lengyel in the middle Danube Basin.

She states that “typical kurgan elements that derived from the steppes include: pastoralism with some agriculture, hills/forts, small villages with small rectangular houses, specific burial rites in house-like structures, and simple unpainted pottery decorated with cord impressions, stabbing or incisions. Their economy, habitation patterns, social structure, architecture, and the lack of interest in art were in sharp contrast to the local Cucuteni-Tripoye and Funnel-Necked Beaker cultural elements” (p.20, 1971).


Shlain describes the social change that coincided with the disappearance of  Trypillian and other Neolithic communities: “the Great Goddess began to lose power. Systematic political and economic subjugation of women followed; coincidentally, slavery became commonplace. Around 1500 BC there were hundreds of goddess-based sects. By the 5th century AD they had been almost completely eradicated, by which time women were also prohibited from conducting a single major Western sacrament” (p.10, 1998). Shlain hypothesizes that it was with the advent of literacy, social change leant to a hierarchical, patriarchal outlook, embracing a male, monotheistic god in all major world religions (Christianity, Judaism, Islam). He proposes that image-based Neolithic communities which were more egalitarian, were in direct conflict with the patriarchy of literate communities. He quotes anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss in support of his argument, who challenged literacy’s worth: “the only phenomenon which, always and in all parts of the world, seems to be linked with the appearance of writing… is the establishment of hierarchical societies, consisting of masters and slaves, and where one part of the population is made to work for the other part” (Shlain, p.12, 1998).


Was the Trypillian civilization a matriarchal state? There is no evidence to say that it was or it wasn’t. It is typical of many Neolithic cultures that were characterized by their settled, agricultural economy, egalitarian attitudes, respect of nature, love of art. It did not feature a hierarchical structure, and therefore in this sort of society, slave-owning was unheard of. Unfortunately the embracing of a patriarchal administration lead to many superficial and structural social changes. The religious iconography completely censored women: the Goddess of Fertility was supplanted by a flower, and then later by a more masculine ‘tree-of-life’ symbol, the concept of God and his helpers were all male, religious ornamentation favored male oriented symbols (such as the cross indicating the four elements of earth, sky, water, fire) as opposed to the feminine symbols (eternal circle, river of life). Anthropologists talk about the Fertility Goddess figure being rehabilitated into the iconography of the Madonna, Mother of Christ, but unlike her original role, she plays a secondary and passive role.


5. Trypillian Motifs in Contemporary Ukrainian Culture:

A long time ago, the Trypiltsi had joined their ancestors in the next world, however many of their ideas, attitudes and symbols have been preserved to the times of contemporary Ukraine, even though the worlds we inhabit, are so vastly different from each other. Art has been preserved in many forms and is a common thread linking the past to the present. Many features of the Trypilska Kultura can be easily found in the practice of  today’s contemporary folklore both in Ukraine and in the diaspora; through this we can trace a definitive and identifying line right back to the cultural influence the Trypiltsi exerted on us – as our ancestors.


Reminiscent of ancient nature worship, many traditional Ukrainian folk-songs contain specific references and opening sequences illustrating the natural world. In these sort of songs, the opening lines draw a picture of a natural setting with all the features of mountains or roads, trees, running water, little animals or birds twittering nearby.  It is as if to pay respect to nature, and then to move on and tell the story of the romance, or the parting, or the philosophical thoughts one is having. Examples of such songs are Oy u Hayu Pry Dunayu, Viye Viter, Teche Voda Kalamutna, Po Toy Bik Hora.


Sometimes an element of nature is used as the central allegory in the whole song. In Chotyry Rozhy, a woman indicates how the four colors of the roses reflect the fortunes of love in her life (pink-romance, red-love, yellow-disagreement, white-parting). In Zorya Moya Vechirnaya (taken from a poem by Taras Shevchenko), a princess finds herself in a foreign land, and she sees in her conversation with the evening star, memories of her far away home, and her only moments of release from her melancholy.


Lastly, they can be classified with respect to the seasonal cycle. Zhenchychok is a song originating in springtime, indicating the lively playfulness of a prancing grasshopper. Hahilky are songs inspired by nature and the rebirth of spring that are sung and danced after the traditional Easter Sunday service. Oy Na Hori, Tam Zhentzi Zhnut’ is really a song that introduces an army of Cossacks who will be passing through the village. But is starts off by saying, ‘hey look up there, the zhentsi are cutting the wheat (in the old days with scythes)’. This was a job normally done as part of the harvesting season, so it is clearly a song originating in the summer part of the cycle. U Karpatakh Hodyt’ Osyn, relates to autumn, and interestingly personifies non-human elements – it is as if autumn is walking around himself. Metelytsya is an instrumental dance that is played at a very fast tempo to imitate the fury of the snowstorm that it is named after. Shchedrivky are New Year season songs, celebrating the Ukrainian New Year on the 14th January. Shchedryk is the most well-known of these songs.


Folk dancing, khorovod and hahilky are all forms of Ukrainian dance (the latter two accompanied by the participants’ singing). “Ritual dance symbols reproduce the magic signs of the circle, parallel bee-lines, meandering labyrinth, and wavy line snake. These figures, which are among Trypillian ornamental magic symbolism are elements of ritual dances” (Burdo, 2004).


In the religious festivals which seemingly have supplanted the old traditions, there seems to be echoes of Trypillia. The internal chamber of the church is dressed in the ancient embroideries painstakingly made for them by members of the sisterhood. The men might produce beautiful woodcuts, or as in the case at Homebush-Flemington, a beautiful wooden model of the Church exterior architecture. At Easter time, women furiously bake pasky, and prepare a beautiful basket of food, which symbolizes all the gifts on the new Spring season, and those from which they would be fasting, or which would be in low supply. People design multi-colored pysanky, invoking ancient symbols, only to give them away as gifts as a sign of friendship and love. Before midnight on Easter Saturday everybody leaves the church and make a circular procession around the church. Having left the church largely draped in black, when it is re-entered precisely after midnight, it is a display of light lit candles, bright embroideries, beautiful flowers and joyful singing. It seems reminiscent of the symbolism of the magic circle, and its rebirth and life-affirming rituals.


Just as the church is adorned with traditional ornamentation, contemporary houses in Ukraine evidently have followed the unique habit of colorfully adorning the exterior borders of the house walls. In many villages as you drive by, wavy patterns meander along the borders of the house walls. And inside the house, the luxuriant flower Goddess is painted on the serving spoons, and perhaps also on some dishes and ceramic vases as well.

Perhaps in that house you will also find some books; perhaps there is at least one by Mykola Hohol. In his short stories, where he illustrates the fantasy and rich folklore of Ukrainians, he draws on the source of ancient Trypillian symbolism  – In Viy, a story about a confrontation with a terrible beast, the young seminarist Khota defends himself, by drawing the magic circle around himself, which protects him from the onslaughts of the evil witch. Drawing on the mythology behind the end of the world, Hohol describes, how the devil disguised as a wolf, one night comes to steal the moon in Nich Proty Rizdva.


6. Closing Comments

For most people, the Trypilska Kultura is something that is familiar, but yet at the same time they will conclude that they do not know much about it. However, its artistic expression, its mysterious symbols, its vibrant colors render it simultaneously attractive and full of mystique. Much of the symbolism of the ancient Trypillia is alive and well in the ornamentation of our embroidered shirts, implements, ceramics and souvenirs, tablecloths, rugs and blankets, our houses, schools and churches. Umansky recognized the comfortable yet paradoxical relationship between the paganism of Ancient Trypillia and the modern Christian Church: “both home and church icons are decorated with embroidered rushnyks. The relation between orthodoxy and paganism is quite noticeable here: the Christian Church respects the remains of ancient naïve faith. It understands the deep feelings for nature, native land, old customs and national culture beneath the surface. Christianity had once defeated the faith of early ploughmen. Now however, the Church consecrates the ancient original Ukrainian art that depicts the nation’s own face and civilization – distinctive from those of other Indo-European nations” (2004). There leaves no doubt, that the starting point of Ancient Trypillia is indeed the spiritual and cultural birthplace of Ukraine, and all that is Ukrainian.


Appendix 1:
Chronology Listing Key Archaeologists Active in Trypillia Civilization Study

G. Ossovsky * (1880)    -           Zalishchyki  
Vikentiy Khvoika** (1890’s) -   Trypillia, Veremiya , Shcherbanivka, Kolomyjschina, Rzhyschiv (1900)
V. Domanitskyi (1899)  -           Glybochok  
M. Himner (1911)          -            Popudnia
V. Kozlovska (1916-26)    -        Sushkivka
L. Kozlovska (1922)          -         Buchach, Nezvisko (1926)
P. Kurinnyj (1925-26)        -        Tomashivka
J. Zhurowski (1930)           -        Zalishchyki
O. Kandyba (1938)              -       Shipintsi,  Zalishchyki (1930)
O. Cynkalowski (1939)  -            Bodaky
Y. Zakharchuk (1940)         -        Bodaky
S. Bibikov (1945-50)               -    Luka Vrubiletska, Grebeni (1960-64)
M. Makarevih (1947-49)        -      Sabatinivka, Gaivoron (1960)
V. Danilenko (1947-49)   -            Sabatinivka, Berezivka, Gaivoron (1960)
K. Chernysh (1951-54)      -          Nezvisko
K. Chernysh (1952-54)       -         Bodaky
I. Sveshnikov (1956)            -         Bilche Zolote
G. Vlasova (1956)              -           Bilche Zolote
M. Shmaglij (1956-58)       -         Troyaniv, Dobrovody (1974-84), Maydanets (1981-89)
T. G. Movsha (1960-70)      -         Zhvanets, Dobrovody (1974-84)
O. Tsvek (1968-1982)         -         Vesioliy Kut
I. Zaets (1969-1980)           -         Klishchiv
Y. Maleev (1970)              -            Ushchilivka
V. Zbenovich (1972-75)     -          Bernashivka
V. Kruts (1971)             -                 Tallianki
N. Burdo (1981-1989)       -           Maydanets
S. Ryzhov (1984-1995)         -       Glybochok
V. Stefanovich (1993)          -         Vilkhivets
M. Videiko (1993)              -            Vilkhivets, Grygorivka, Rzhyshchiv (1994)

(*) late 19th Century and early 20th century archaeologists included (where otherwise unspecified):
J. Shombathy,  R. Kindle.  F. Volkov,  T. Passek,  E. Pavlovich,  G. Ossovki,  I. Sveshnikov,  A. Kirkor,  V. Demetrykevich,  M. Sokhatskij, A. Shneider, R. Kindl, K. Hadachek, G. Childe, P. Kravets, V. Tsibeskov ** V. Khvoika’s team of expert archaeologists included:
Kyiv – S. Magura, V. Petrov, M. Makarevitch, N. Kordysh, K. Korshak
Moscow – T. Passek
St. Petersburg – E. Krichevsky

Appendix 2
Dr M. Videiko’s summary of  Trypillian Culture Excavations (Videiko, 2000, Kyiv)

1.Chernivtsi Region

  • Shipintsi (Kicman district) exc[7]. 1938: ruins of houses, earthenware, ceramics.
  • Darabany (Khotin district): two-level Trypillian settlement (dated mid 5th-early 4th mil.BC).
2. Khmelnitski Region

  • Bilche Zolote, settlements & Verteba Cave (Borshchiv district) exc. 1956: pottery, flint knives, copper artefacts, clay figurines, Trypillian cemetery, cave labyrinth including Goddess silhouette embedded in rock.
  • Zhvanets (Kamyanets-Podilsky region) exc.1960-70:   production complex (two level furnaces and place for clay mixing), ancient houses, ceramics, table, painted vessels, semi-spherical plates, pots and vessels (painted red and black, in semi-ovals, strips, images of people and animals).
  • Luka Vrublivetska  (Kamyanets-Podilsky region) exc. 1945-50: clay figurines.
3. Ternopil Region

  • Koshilivtsi (Zalishchiki district) exc. late 1890’s: painted pottery and figurines.
  • Zalishchiki (Zalishchiki district) exc. 1880, 1927, 1930: three settlements containing burnt houses and beautiful polychrome pottery.
  • Buchach (Buchach district) 1922: four earth-houses, large number of pottery, flint and stone tools, clay figurines. End of 5th-Early 4th mil. BC.
  • Bodaky (Zbarash district) exc.1939, 1940, 1952-54, 1991-1998: remains of burnt houses, painted pottery and flint workshops, flint tools (blades and flat axes).
4. Ivano-Frankivsk Region

  • Nezvisko (Obertyn district) exc. 1951-54: 2 levels of settlements. First level (second part 5000 BC) included dwellings and pits including pottery decorated with polychrome painting and incised lines. The next level (beginning 4000 BC) included Trypillian graves containing painted bowls and examples of copper metallurgy.
5. Vinnitsa Region

  • Bernashivka (Murovani-Kuylivtsi district) exc. 1972-75: dwellings and pits with large amounts of painted pottery (second part 6000BC according to isotype dating).
  • Sandraky (Khmilnik district) exc.1949-1950: settlements from Bronze Age and Trypillia civilisation.
  • Klishchiv (Tyvriv district) exc. 1969-80: settlement including 46 houses including 500 wonderful vessels, decorated with incised and painted ornament.
6. Zhytomir Region

  • Troyaniv (Zhytomir region) exc. 1956-1958: 35 Trypillian dwellings of different types.
7. Kirovohrad Region

  • Sabatinivka (Ulayanivski district) exc. 1947-49: settlement of early Trypillia culture, three houses and pits, many clay figurines and their thrones.
  • Berezivka (Ulayanivski district): discovered ruins of 20 houses and earth-houses with large amounts of beautiful pottery  and clay figurines, traces of trade relations with Balkans and Steppe communities (middle 5th mil. BC).
  • Mogilna (Gaivoron district) exc. 1960: Settlements of the Neolithic period. Earliest Trypillian settlement finds.
  • Volodymyrka (Novo-Arkhangelsk district) exc. 20th century (unspecified): remains of 17 different dwellings most two-storied, including a living room on the second floor, clay model of a temple (decorated in red, white and black), small clay figurine of old woman, many beautiful Trypillian vessels and figurines.
  • Nebelivka (Novo-Arkhangelsk district) exc. 1981:oval plan settlements with streets and blocks in centre, set of 5 small painted vessels and bowls.
8. Cherkasy Region

  • Popudnia (Uman district) exc. 1911: 40 houses, painted pottery and clay model (showing internal structure) of house in ruins.
  • Dobrovody (Uman district) exc. 1974-84: remains of 5 large two-storied dwellings, settlement her was one of thirty largest Trypillian proto-cities.
  • Yatranivka (Uman district): Triangular-plan settlement (magnetic analysis) featuring fragments painted pottery, clay figurines found on surface.
  • Sushkivka (Uman district) exc. 1916-26: remains two-storied buildings, clay model of Trypillian dwelling with details of interior and collection of anthropomorphous figurines.
  • Tallianki (Talne district) exc. 1981: 2 streets, remains of 26 two-storied houses, explored barrows with graves, some graves from late Bronze Age.
  • Maydanets (Talne district)exc. 1981-89: one settlement including remains of three dwellings and two earth-houses; another settlement including two-storied dwellings, fortifications, sanctuaries, unique collection of painted pottery and figurines.
  • Vesioly Kut (Talne district) exc. 1968-1982: remains of dwellings and houses of craftsmen (one a pottery producer, the other a stone-tool maker).
  • Tomashivka (Talne district) exc. 1925-26: remains of houses with large amounts of pottery, painted dishes, clay conical mould for pottery.
  • Gordashivka (Talne district): remains of two houses and interesting collection of pottery, decorated with paint and incised ornament.
  • Talne (Talne town) exc. 1990: two small settlements including seven houses, which belonged to 4th mil BC Maydanets ‘city’.
  • Glybochok (Talne district) exc.1899, 1984-1995: more than 1000 dwellings arranged in two ovals, settlements includes  fortified entrance.
  • Vilkhivets (Uzvenigorodka district) exc. 1993: large two-storied dwelling, plus another settlement. Scythian pottery (5th-6th century AD).
  • Grygorivka (Kaniv district) exc. 1963, 1993: two-story houses, few temporary earth-houses, two sites of fishers and hunters found on Dnipro bank, traces of economic activity connected with products of Dnipro river and valley, Scythian fortifications, two large Kyiv Rus settlements.
9. Kyiv Region

  • Trypillia (Obukhiv district) exc. 1897-1899: sites near town with remains of burnt clay and molded pottery, decorated with incised and painted ornament.
  • Veremiya (Obukhiv district) exc. 1897-1899: eight Trypillian settlements.
  • Shcherbanivka (Obukhiv district) exc. 1899, 1934-1935: first settlement of Trypillian people in Dnipro region (2nd part 5th mil. BC), pottery with incised decoration, evidence of imported painted pottery from western Trypillian regions.
  • Khalepie/Kolomyjschina (Obukhiv district) exc. 1934, 1939: Eight Trypillian culture sites, including one settlement of 37 houses in a circle with 3 dwellings in the centre.
  • Grebeni (Kagarlyk district) exc. 1960-64: remains of 26 houses in Vasilyshin Yar, traces of early Slav settlements, fortified site of Zarubinetska culture, barrow cemetery.
  • Yushki (Kagarlyk district): settlement at Kuryache Pole.
  • Rzhyschiv (Kagarlyk district)exc. 1900, 1994: four settlements, remains of two houses and one pit, interesting collection of clay figurines, 40 objects belonging to a temporary village (possibly a seasonal site for fishing).
10. Odesa Region
  • Usatove (Usatove) exc. 20th century (unspecified): ancient settlement, carved sanctuaries and cemeteries, excavated mounds with megalithic constructions, rich graves of Early Bronze Age, imported daggers from Anatolia.

  •  Mayaki (Mayaki): ditches filled with layers of loam and charcoal, fragments of pottery, animal bones, shells; traces of fireplaces at different levels; cemetery.

Appendix 3: Characteristics of Trypilska Kultura

(Source: Palamarchuk)


Period Trypilska Kultura Comparative Civilisation Territory Population
First half 4000 BC Spread of land animal farming tribes of early Trypillian period in Podniprovya, Pobizhya, Podnistrovya Oldest Sumer settlements in… Invention of irrigated farming in Lower Egypt 150,000km 2 30,000
Start 3000 BC Middle Trypillian period in Podniprovya (between South Buh and Mid Dnister). Trypillian proto-city state of Minoan-Crete type. Earliest slave-owning nations in Dvorichya   100,000 – 120,000
3000 BC - Late Trypillian period in mid Poch (Volynia), Podnyzhya, South Prychornomorya Minoan-Crete city state in  Hellenic. Late Kingdom in Egypt. 190,000 km 2 1,000,000


[1] As well as in parts of Moldova and Rumania.
[2] Ancestrally, the link between between the Trypillian civilization and today’s Ukraine is also evident in the uninterrupted process of landcare and farming of a common area for millennia. This however, while relevant, is not in the scope of this paper.
[3] By the time of the great Ukrainian discovery, Vikentiy Khvoika was already a widely respected and decorated archaeologist, having received awards at exhibitions in Romny, Kharkiv, Paris in 1889 (source: e-museum)
[4] A list of archaeologists who were active in the study of the Trypillian culture during the past century is presented in Appendix 1.
[5] As well as male god statuettes – however the sheer number of female goddess statues was striking.
[6] Sic: Cimmerians.
[7] excavated (abbr.)


Burdo, N., The Sacred and the Magical in the Trypillian Civilization, article in retrieved from 21/1/2004.

Chmykov, M., Global Cataclysm Through the Eyes of Trypillians, article in IndoEurope magazine, retrieved from 21/1/2004.

Gimbutas, M., The Slavs, pp,19, 20. Thomas and Hudson Ltd, London, 1971.
Goodman, F., Magic Symbols, pp17, 20. London, Brian Todd Publishing House Limited, 1989
Kochkin, I., The Question of Multifunctional Clay Female Goddess Statuettes in the Trypillian Religious Cult, in Ukrainian,  article retrieved from 21/1/2004.
Lockyer, J. N. The Dawn of Astronomy, pp. 2, the Massachussetts Institute of Technology Press, Massachussetts, 1964
Shlain, L. The Alphabet versus the Goddess: the Conflict between Word and Image, pp.10, 12, Penguin Books, London, 1998
Susloparov, M., Trypillians and us, article, retrieved from 21/1/2004.
Umansky, O., Ukrainian Cosmos Mirrored in the Trypillian Ornament: Under the Aegis of the Universe, article in IndoEurope magazine, retrieved from 21/1/2004.
Videiko, M., Trypillian Civilisation in the Prehistory of Europe, UKMA NAN article  retrieved from 14/1/2004.
Videiko, M., The Trypillian Culture: Introduction, Archaeology Institute National Science Academy of Ukraine, article  retrieved from 14/1/2004.
Videiko, M., Settlements of the Trypillian Culture in Ukraine: A Short Guide, Kyiv, 2000, article  retrieved from 14/1/2004.

Other Sources:

Dictionary: Collins English Dictionary & Thesaurus, p. 61, Harper Collins Publishers, Glasgow, 1998
E-Museum: retrieved from  14/1/2004
Internet article: (Unnamed author) Seven Thousand Years of Trypillian Civilization,
article  retrieved from  18/2/2004.

About the author

Natalie Taranec
 is a second generation Ukrainian born in Sydney, Australia. Her parents immigrated to Australia in the late 1940’s. Natalka’s mother Raissa is from Rivne, and her father Mykola from Poltava region.

She had a lengthy association with Plast, and was a longtime member of the all-female bandura ensemble Lastivka. With the other members of the group she participated in a concert tour of Ukraine in 1994, which played in the various concert halls of  Kyiv, Ternopil, Rivne, Lutsk, Lviv.

With a background in the health system, Natalka is completing Bachelor studies in International Health, and a Diploma of Languages (Ukrainian). In 2003, she received the Arakadii Novicky Prize for proficiency in Ukrainian language. In 2005, she plans to travel to Ukraine as part of an exchange programme to study at the Ukrainian Kievo-Mohylianska Akademiya.

Currently Natalka works for the Powerhouse Museum (an applied arts and science museum in Sydney) in Research and Evaluation. In the past, she has worked with the Ukrainian welfare sector to write a report on the migration and settlement experience of Ukrainian migrants. During the Olympics, Natalka was attached to the Georgian Olympic team, as a Team Assistant, which she enjoyed immensely. She currently also tutors newly arrived migrants in English. She now translates and writes articles for the UK published Ukrainian monthly magazine Obraz.

In her ‘spare’ time, she plays bandura at parties, thinks about art, and is interested in world cinema and literature.