Trypillian Civilization 5508 - 2750 BC

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Trypillians created their first cities in Europe between 5,400-4,000 BC. Their large settlements, so called Trypillian proto-cities, had emerged around 4,200BC and existed until 2,750BC. The largest cities presently known to archeologists were located near towns Talianky (area close to 450ga), Maidanetske (200ga), Dobrovody (250ga) and Nebelivka (300ga) village in Cherkassy region. Some settlement areas were originally determined and mapped from the air by magnetic photography.

The largest Trypillian cities existed over six thousand years ago. Their sizes amaze: they covered area of hundreds hectares, they had thousands dwellings, the number of inhabitants was over 10,000 or even 15,000 people, which is much larger than ancient Babylon or Rome. Hard work and continuous traditional relocations to new places required strong organization of a community, collective efforts of all its members. The cities were built with structural fortification created by hundreds two- and even three-story buildings densely attached one to another and formed as a ring surrounding the city for protection of their inhabitants, probably more from wild animals than human enemies. The population of cities was engaged mainly in agricultural activity, but they had specialized craftsmen like potters, black-smiths and weavers.

One of the most unique way-of-life of people from Trypillian culture was their tradition to burn their cities and relocate to new places. This tradition helped archaeologists to discover Trypillian cities, because burned ceramic changes its magnetic properties and can be detected with the help of present day technology. Inside of this burned cities were found hundreds of vessels, statuettes of people and animals, tools, bones of animals and, sometimes, even burned people among ruins. The discoverer of the Trypillian culture, V. Khvoika considered these remains to be a "home of the dead". Later, archaeologists tried to prove that it was normal agricultural necessity to burn cities and move-on to another land. But they could not answer the question - why trypillians had to burn all good tools and animals? The secret was not completely uncovered. The modern researches think that we have to combine both points of view and they offer the following explanation.

Trypillians lived at one place for some time. The surrounding structures served them as houses, barns or temples. But at a certain moment of time (we do not know how this moment was determined) all structures were considered to become a "habitation for dead" and they had to be given as shelters to the souls of the ancestors. At this moment trypillians burned everything to the ground. They burned all their wonderful vessels, tools and even animals. Everything was sacrificed to the spirits of their ancestors. Why trypillians believed that it was necessary to burn all houses, complete settlements, and move-on to another place, to new fields and lands, to a new beginning, having left old fields to the ancestors we may never know? But we know that for more than two thousands years, during the existence of Trypillian civilization, from the Carpathian Mountains to the Dnipro River, people kept this tradition, this way-of-life.

Some researches consider that this custom existed even before Trypillian culture, close to one thousand years before, in the old pre-civilization of Balkan, the first farmers of Europe. Maybe Trypillians brought this custom from the Balkans to the territory of present day Ukraine and kept it for thousands of years longer. One "cycle of life", that starts with coming to a new place until complete burning of the settlement and moving to another place, had approximately 60-80 years span.

For more info about specific Trypillian settlements in Ukraine you can download PDF file here to view with Acrobat Reader.

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L01. Old Europe. 7,000-3,500BC L02. Map of the largest Trypillian settlements L03. The largest Trypillian settlements were located in the geographical center of Ukraine.

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L04. Locations of the largest settlements in Cherkassy region L05. Geomagnetic picture of Maidanets. One square is 100x100 meters. L06. Model of Maidanets settlement from Trypillian museum.

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L07. Fragment of reconstruction of Trypillian proto-city near Maidanets