Trypillian Civilization 5400 - 2750 BC


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Trypillians and us

There were numerous attempts to establish ethnic origin of Trypillians, however, till present there are no established views on this problem.

Mykola SUSLOPAROV, ethno-linguist

Here is the brief historiography of this issue.

In the 90s of the XIXth century the outstanding archaeologist V.Khvoika expressed the following thought: residents of the Trypillian settlements, discovered by him, had been the greatest Slavs ever. He arrived at the conclusion that Middle Naddniprianschyna had been the ancient motherland of all Slavs.

However, according to the archaeologist P. Tretiakov "there are serious grounds to believe that the main forebears - the most ancient Proto-Slavs - were not among the Trypillians, as V.V.Khvoika thought, but among the Northern farming tribes that lived in the IVth and IIIrd millennia B.C. in the forested regions between Middle Dnipro and Oder. As for the lower Danube and Trypillian tribes, a number of Soviet, Polish and Romanian archaeologists believe that they are forebears of the Trakian group of tribes that were different from Slavs but eventually were absorbed by the latter".

The concept of ethnic origin of Trypillians is looked upon in more detail by T.Passek. Trypillians have been classified as Proto-Slavs (V.Khvoika) and Trako-Frigians (R.Schtern and others) and Kelts (K.Schugardt) and, at last, Tocharians (O.Mengin and others).

From the Passek's material, we believe it appropriate to cite the following: "In the early nineteenth century, not long after V.V.Khvoika's works were published [...], M.F.Biliashevskyi in one of his articles dedicated to archaeological excavations in Trypillia expressed his conviction that V.Khvoika's conclusion as to the nationality of creators of the Trypilska Culture is wrong. According to M.F.Biliashevskyi, "culture came from the South across the Aegean Sea and Sea of Marmara from the Asian coast or across the Mediterranean Sea from Finikia of Egypt, and the ornamented ceramics suggest some oriental influence."

O. Spytsyn and V.Horodtsov also insisted on the oriental origin of the Trypilska Culture. O.Spytsyn believes the highly developed culture (of Kyiv archaeological sites) to originate in the Orient, namely, in Asia.

The Soviet period authors also expressed their opinions about the ethnic origin of Trypillians.

In 1921 academician M.Marr made a brief remark: "South Caucasus Etruscans, having made a way station in Lido, moved across the Mediterranean Sea to the Apennine Peninsular, and their relatives from the Northern Caucasus, Lasgs and Pelasgs moved by the Northern way, across the Black Sea, or along its Northern coast, and arrived at the Balkan Peninsular."

Three years later this problem was touched upon by O.Sobolevskyi in his Russo-Scythian Studies: "If we see the ancient Pelasgs as ancestors of Kimers and Scythians- Hellenes, of kin to them (to our point of view), we shall understand a lot in the works of Gerodotus and Strabon."

A somewhat earlier quotation from the Sobolevskyi's works reads as follows: "If we recognize Scythians-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 Gerodotus's Kimers."

Both statements of Sobolevskyi are of conditional nature. To my point of view, Trypillians should be recognized as ancient Pelasgs (at least partly) - forebears of Kimers - rather than Kimers themselves. Such assumption better agrees with chronology.

From among the modern foreign authors I would like to note P.Kechliar (1938, 1943). In his article On Pre-Greek Strata of Languages and People he singles out the following strata: 1) Anatolian, 2) Danubian or Pelasgo-Etruscan, 3) Greek, 4) Venetian and 5) Ilirian, which should be distinguished from Venetian. The scholar believes that "main characteristics of the Ilirian language - three derivative suffixes of proper names - unite the Pre-Greek language with the Etruscan language, and both in Italy and Greece those should be included in the same linguistic stratum; therefore we may assume that on the territory of the Illirian language there was a substratum, related to the Etruscan language." It unites the Etruscan, Tirenian, Pelasgian and Retian languages in one "retro-Tirenian field of the Proto-Indo- European language."

In his work Kechlar gives the name of Pelasgs to the most ancient Greek tribe in Hellas.

Now let us summarize all of the above. We have to state that modern scholars do not recognize Trypillians as Proto-Slavs.

True, there are many grounds to doubt Khvoika's view. For example, some drawings on the slabs of Kamiana Mohyla (Stone Grave) may be taken for Keltic inscriptions. However, Kelts could hardly have been on the territory of Northern Prychornomoria in the second millennium B.C. At the same time Pokorny views Tocharians as part of Trako-Frigians. We may add, that one of the Pre-Greek linguistic and ethnic strata is the Danubian or Pelasgo-Etruscan stratum...

I think that any information relating to Pelasgs of Northern Prychornomoria should not be left unattended. On the contrary, it should be most carefully examined.

So, as a hypothesis I shall identify Trypillians and Pelasgs.

The latter, as distinguished from the Pelasgs of the Greek and Roman Epoch, should be called Proto-Pelasgs. The correctness of this assumption is to be confirmed, when inscriptions on the Trypilska Culture items are deciphered.

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