The Trypillian culture. Introduction.
© Dr. Mykhailo Videiko,
R esearch Officer, Archaeology Institute
of the National Science Academy of Ukraine,
Scientific Director, Trypillian Museum in Trypillia
Seven thousand years ago, hunting tribes inhabited
much of Eurasia. In the midst of these developments, like oases,
grain-growing civilizations began to develop on the Balkan Peninsula.
On the eastern edge of this grain-growing region there emerged the
Trypillian civilization, that of the ancient farmers of Ukraine.
The Trypillia culture prevailed in the forest-steppe
region of Ukraine, from the upper Dniester River on the west to
mid Dnipro River on the east.
Thus far about 2000 Trypillian sites have been
found in Ukraine. These include settlements, burial grounds and
barren grounds. Archaeologists have been investigating this ancient
civilization for more than a hundred years. They have found thousands
of masterpieces of ancient art and artifacts, which help to illuminate
the ancient history of this culture.
Establishing settlements on the open forest-steppe
assisted the people of Trypillia to increase their population and
improve their wellbeing. The known settlements were not permanent
as the Trypillians periodically moved. These ancient farmers cultivated
wheat, barley, peas and legumes. According to paleobotanists, these
crops were pure and the fields where in use for long periods of
time. Crops were harvested using sickles with silicon inserts.
Spore-pollen analyses provide us with the opportunity
to describe the flora, which surrounded Trypillia settlements 6000
years ago. Plantain grew near houses and along roads; nettle around
settlements. Slopes of ravines were covered with rich motley grass,
red mallow, white bindweed and pinks. Cornflowers displayed their
blue color among wheat fields. Stands of willows, alder and nut-trees
could be seen above steams and creeks. The oak and hornbeam woods
were inhabited with bison, deer, wild boars, bears, wolves, foxes
Trypillian people cut down thousands of trees
using stone and copper axes to build their dwellings. At the beginning
their settlements were small, from seven to fourteen buildings,
but with time cities with thousands of structures appeared. The
houses had wire frame-columnar construction. The walls were made
of wood or rods, and then coated with a mixture of clay and bran.
This type of dwelling originated during the Trypillia epoch and
exists in the forest-steppe regions of Ukraine even today.
We have found clay models of dwellings and temples
made by the Trypillians. Among these are both single and double
storied models. Long-term excavations have proved the existence
of many-storied structures during the Trypillia epoch. Floors were
made of wood and coated with clay, much like the walls. The second
floor was used as living quarters, the ground floor for household
purposes. The floor and the walls were painted with red and white
colors and decorated with geometrical ornamental patterns to protect
the inhabitants from evil spirits. Inhabited rooms were heated with
open fire and stoves. There was a long clay bench along one of the
inside walls to store crockery. Often there were clay mortars near
the bench, with built-in stones for grinding grains into flour.
A single rounded window was located in a wall opposite to the entrance.
Opposite the window there was also a rounded or cruciform clay altar.
The altar was painted red and decorated with a spiral ornamental
pattern. A typical Trypillian dwelling occupied an area from 60-100
up to 200-300 sq. meters. In addition to the dwellings, public buildings
and temples have also been found
One of the mysteries of the Trypillia culture
are the remnants of thousands of burned buildings found by archaeologists.
Among the ruins can be found, tens to hundreds of vessels, statuettes
of people and animals, tools, and bones of animals and, sometimes,
of people. Initial evaluation of this culture by V. Khvoika concluded
that these ruins were "homes of the dead". Other archaeologists
have tried to prove that these burned ruins were just normal dwellings.
But modern researchers feel it makes sense to combine both of these
conclusions. It is now believed that for a long period of time these
structures served the people as temples, houses, and barns. But
after a period of time, all structures became "houses of the
dead" - shelters for the souls of ancestors. All these wonderful
vessels, tools, meat of sacrificial animals became a rich offering
to the spirits of their ancestors. It was necessary to burn out
such houses, as well as the entire settlement, and then to move
on to another location, to new fields and lands, having left the
old fields to the ancestors. This custom, which is a thousand years
older then the Trypillia culture, came from the old pre-civilization
of the Balkans where the first farmers of Europe settled. This cycle,
consecrated by a thousand year old tradition, consisted of construction
of new structures and settlements every 60-80 years.
The periodic resettlement required strong community organization
utilizing the collective efforts of all its members. Such activity
can be compared to the construction of channels and dams in the
Ancient East. This high level of organization assisted the Trypillians
in establishing the first cities in Europe between 5000 and 4000
B. C. When “history began in Sumer", ruins of tens of
Trypillian cities, between the Bug and Dnipro rivers, were already
covered with rich grasses of the Forest-Steppe.
The largest Trypillian cities existed over six thousand years ago.
Their size is amazing: hundreds of hectares in area, thousands of
dwellings, and a population estimated at 10,000-15,000 people. The
strong fortification, which was made of hundreds of two and even
three-story buildings densely attached one to the other, protected
the inhabitants. The population of these cities was engaged primarily
in agriculture, although there were also craftsmen such as potters,
blacksmiths, and weavers.
When scientists search for roots of the
people who lived on the territory of Ukraine, they look to Trypillian
times. Trypillia is the first bread, the first metal, the beginning
of a new philosophy in the area that is now known as Ukraine. The
creators of the Trypillia civilization made an important contribution
to Ukrainian tradition as well as to the formation of European civilization.