imagoromae.com/cucuteni_EN.ashx Until 31 OCTOBER 2008 : As a world premiere, in Rome, at the Palazzo della Cancelleria, there takes place the exhibition presenting the magnificent ancient civilization of Cucuteni – Trypillia. This exceptional event became possible due to the collaboration between Romania and Ukraine, for the first time, in the historical and cultural field, as well as due to the special contribution of the Republic of Moldova. cucuteni5000.utm.md. >> See Photo Gallery
Cucuteni – Trypillia emerged and developed on territories spreading over about 350.000 sq km, with thousands of settlements of various dimensions. The full identification, by archaeological discoveries, of certain settlements demonstrated that this civilization, agricultural by excellence, included not only the usual villages, with several tens of houses, but also had centres of huge dimensions, with surfaces between 150 and 450 ha, containing hundreds and even thousands of constructions, out of which some were very large. Within such centres it was noticed the existence of a clear ordering of the constructions, thus becoming possible to use the concept of “prehistoric city”. Such giant settlements (those discovered especially in the basin of the Southern Bug were referred to by this phrase) had a definite structure, with constructions placed either in concentric circles (forming squares, meant for public activities), or in parallel ranges or groups. Within such sites, there are huge constructions, more than 300 m long, with two storeys and several rooms. Sometimes, the walls and ceilings were decorated with drawings, painted with black and red. The clay benches and other such elements of interior design were also decorated with complicate drawings, using vivid colors.
It is possible that some of the statuettes found in the archaeological excavations represented important personages, who would live in those “palace”, situated in the central area of such “prehistoric cities”. The faces of men are long, with outlined noses. On the contrary, there were found several feminine statuettes without any mask on their face and this is one of the mysteries of the Cucuteni – Trypillia culture. The number of masculine statuettes is much smaller in relation to the feminine ones, and they are all characterized by the oval shape of the face or a mask. Most of the feminine statuettes are gracious, with long feet, some are represented naked, some others are represented wearing a seemingly festive costume. The main reason why the feminine statuettes are “faceless” is not clear, but it can be connected to a certain ritual. A more detailed study shows that the masks were representing certain animals (sheep, pigs, reptiles, turtles, snakes and birds, among which cocks, hens, storks, hawks, ducks and other sacred birds). Why was the face covered and the body was not? The research of the statuettes pointed out that various parts of the women’s bodies were tattooed, especially the belly and the back. The most frequent ornaments were the spirals, rhombi and snaky lines – The Tree of Life. Some of the statuettes still showed traces of red and black paint, which show details of vestments. The most frequent ornament seems to have been the skirt with fringes, of various lengths. Aprons were also present. Recent studies indicate a change, in time, in women’s dressing style. They would have started wearing clothes tight to the body and even something similar to the shorts. These clothing items were decorated with spirals and serpentines (snakes). The statuettes and personages depicted on the pots indicate the fact that women were also wearing red boots. The hairstyles were varied. The representations on the pots indicate that the women’s hairstyles consisted in the hair being gathered together on the top of the head with two plaited braids. Anyway, they were particularly combed for special occasions.
The basic occupations of the Cucuteni – Trypillia populations consisted in plant cultivation and animal husbandry. Archeo-zoological studies demonstrated that, among the animals, there were the bovines, which predominated followed by the ovines and porcines, the horse being probably also domesticated at those times. Specialists in paleo-botanics showed the existence of various types of wheat, barley, rye, vegetables, the vine and various fruit trees being also grown (cherry tree, plum tree etc.). Their agriculture was advanced for those times, the primitive plough (furrower) using the animal power, in order to labor the lands. The Cucutenian-Trypillian population would use kilns for firing the ceramicware. In the nowadays Ukrainean village of Vesely Kut (Angolo allegro, The Happy Corner– a suggestive name for the village) there were found remains of sophisticated kilns, dated to that period. Similarly, in Ariuşd, in the southeast of Transylvania, there was found an area with developed kilns, with two separate rooms, which allowed to reach high temperature values, necessary to the firing in depth of the ceramic items. The pots were of various types and styles, decorated in at least 20 manners. In the settlement of Nebelivka, neighboring the giant site of Maydanetsky, archaeologists identified what could be called the oldest set of ceramicware in the east of Europe, with plates, dishes and kilns similarly decorated and belonging to the same set. The qualitative ceramicware was the work of specialized craftsmen and was one of the prestigious items, intensively traded within intercommunity changes. Metallurgists of the Cucuteni – Trypillia culture knew various procedures of copper processing, but also of obtaining alloys, such as the one of copper and silver. To a smaller extent, gold was also being processed, being meant for creating prestigious jewelry. Metal items sometimes accumulated within treasures (such as those discovered in Ariuşd, Hăbăşeşti, Brad, Cărbuna, Horodnica etc.). Thus, the treasure of Ariuşd (Romania) contained 1992 copper items, and the treasure of Cărbuna (Rep. Moldova) brought to light 444 metal items; the treasures of Ariuşd and Brad (Romania) also contained golden items. The important settlements of the Cucuteni – Trypillia civilization (named by the people of the present days “small fortresses”, given their dominant position) show fortification systems which consist in ditches and earth and stone ramparts, as well as of palisades of thick beams. During the last phases of evolution, the large settlements of the proto-urban type in the eastern area (Trypillia) extended their fortifications to all around the inhabited perimeter, raising sometimes even stone elevations. Such fortifications were to defend the sites and treasures they contained, both from the attacks of neighboring communities, and from those of the nomad pastoral tribes, infiltrating in the areal Cucuteni – Trypillia coming from the steppe regions.
Map of European Neolithic at the apogee of Danubian expansion, c. 4,500-4,000 BC.
Archeologists, physicists and paleo-botanists, involved in the study of the Cucuteni – Trypillia culture, discovered that one of the causes of the decline of this civilization, during its last phases of evolution, consisted not only in the destructive character of such external attacks, but especially in the progressive worsening of the ecological situation, felt on wide areas of Eurasia. Still, the complex causes of the disappearance of the Cucuteni – Trypillia culture have not been fully elucidated yet. Similarly, there are no clear indications as for the language the creators of this civilization were using, although there are opinions stating that it is here that one should search for the origin of the Indo-European language. The Cucuteni – Trypillia civilization crossed several phases of evolution, differently designated in the specialized literature of Romania and former Soviet Union. In their most ancient phase, Cucutenian-Trypillian dwellings were rather small, some even partly buried. In the middle phase, the dimensions of the settlements and houses increased,. During the last phase, the ornamentation of the ceramics is more refined, sometimes displaying even representations of mythological scenes. Similarly, more and more specialized weapons appear, be them of metal (daggers, axes with crisscrossed arms), or of stone (ship-like axes, arrowheads and spear points), which show that the warlike concerns occupied a more and more important place in the life of such communities.
The religion and cults practiced treated, as shown in the archaeological data preserved to the present, topics such as the cosmogony and the afterlife. Among the most developed cults one can notice the one of Mother Earth (the one assuring fertility and fecundity), the one of the Celestial Bull and the one of the Fire (as celestial attributes). Artifacts of foreign origin found in the archeological excavations suggest the existence of trade exchanges, both intercommunitary, and with other tribes of the centre and southeast of Europe, as well as with the steppe areas, the Caucasian ones and those of Central Asia. At present, we rather possess questions than answers about this important civilization of the Eastern Europe, Cucuteni – Trypillia, and this can only increase the aura of mystery around this civilization, but the continuous research and maybe a sensational discovery which might occur in the future shall elucidate, at least partly, the historical destiny of such population.
Europe in ca. 4000-3500 BC – European Late Neolithic
thefullwiki.org/Vinca_Culture The Vinča Culture derives its name from the village of Vinča, located on the banks of the Danube, 14 km downstream from Belgrade (at the 1145th nautical kilometer), where one of the largest and most significant prehistoric Neolithic settlements in Eastern Europe was discovered in 1908 by an archaeological excavation team led by Miloje M. Vasić, the first schooled archeologist in Serbia. Vasić excavated a large collection of prehistoric objects of art which are located today in the collections of museums and universities throughout the world. In the sixth millennium B.C., the Vinča culture covered the area of the Central Balkans which is bordered by the Carpathian Mountains in the north, by Bosnia in the west, by the Sofia Plain in the east and the Skopje Valley in the south.
Architecture : In the older Starčevo settlement, located in the deepest layers of Vinča, mud huts with tent roofs were discovered in which the settlers of the Starčevo-culture lived and were also buried. During the period of the Vinča Culture, houses were erected above ground with complex architectural layouts and several rooms, built of wood that was covered in mud. The houses in the settlement are facing northeast – southwest, with streets between them. Other settlements include Divostin, Potporanj, Selevac, Pločnik, Predionica Liobcova and Ujvar.
Economy : Beside agriculture and the breeding of domestic animals, the Neolithic settlers of Vinča also went hunting and fishing. The most frequent domestic animals were cattle, although smaller goats, sheep and pigs were also bred. The settlers of Vinča cultivated grain (einkorn and emmer, some barley). A surplus of products led to the development of trade with neighboring regions which supplied salt, obsidian, or ornamental shells (spondylus). The local production of ceramics reached a high artistic and technological level. Objects fashioned out of bones, horns and stone indicate great skill and dexterity of the craftsmen who produced tools for all branches of Vinča economy. At Bele Vode and Rudna Glava in Eastern Serbia copper ore was mined which they began fashioning with fire, initially only for ornamental objects (beads and bracelets).
Culture : Lady of Vinča, the best example of traditional Vinča art. Recent excavations by the Prokuplje and National museums at the 120 hectare site of thePločnik settlement have shed considerable light on the Vinča culture. The Pločnik settlement flourished from 5500 BC until it was destroyed by a fire in 4700 BC. The findings suggest an advanced division of labour and organization. Vinča houses had stoves and special holes specifically for rubbish, and the dead were buried in cemeteries. People slept on woollen mats and fur and made clothes of wool, flax and leather. The figurines found not only represent deities but many show the daily life of the inhabitants while crude pottery finds appear to have been made by children. Women are depicted in short tops and skirt wearing jewellery. A thermal well found near the settlement might be evidence of Europe’s oldest spa. The preliminary dating of a Pločnik metal workshop with a furnace and copper tools to 5,500 BC, if correct, indicates the Copper Age could have started in Europe 500 years or more earlier than previously thought. The sophisticated furnace and smelter featured earthen pipe-like air vents with hundreds of tiny holes in them and a chimney to ensure air goes into the furnace to feed the fire and smoke comes out away from the workers. Copper workshops from later periods thought to indicate the beginning of the Copper Age were less advanced, didn’t have chimneys and workers blew air on the fire with bellows.
Spiritual life : The Neolithic settlers of Vinča ascribed great importance to spiritual life as is reflected by the enormous number of cult objects (figurines, sacrificial dishes, anthropomorphic and zoomorphic dishes). Their artistic and stylistic development was conditioned by the teachings of old settlers, as well as by contacts with neighboring peoples and their beliefs. Anthropomorphic figurines have a characteristic dignified stance and their number (over 1000 examples at Vinča alone) exceeds the total number of figurines discovered in the Greek Aegean. Shrines were discovered in Parṭa Transylvania with complex architectural designs. Some figurines and ceramic dishes discovered in the broad region spanning from Gornja Tuzla to Tǎrtǎria bear signs which some scholars suppose to be primitive forms of writing (see Old European Script). Indeed, if the inscriptions on the Tărtăria tablets are pictograms, as Vlassa argued, they would be the earliest known writing in the world. This claim however remains controversial; many experts consider the Tǎrtǎria finds to be an example of proto-writing rather than a full writing system.
Decline : During the middle of the fourth millennium, the entire region of the Vinča Culture underwent stagnation, followed by deep crises and a decline in cultural and economic development. The people of Vinca culture, are likely I2a1 in Haplogroup I, who may also formed the Cucuteni-Trypillian culture. I2a1 are still in living there today, reaching the peak in the Western Balkans, most notably in Dalmatia (50-60%) and Bosnia-Herzegovina (up to 75%), especially in the Croat population of Bosnia and Herzegovina 
Bibliography John Chapman, The Vinča culture of South-east Europe: studies in chronology, economy and society. Oxford: British archaeological reports , BAR international series 117, 1981.
Gimbutas, Marija A. (ed.) “Neolithic Macedonia as reflected by excavation at Anza, southeast Yugoslavia.” Los Angeles: Institute of Archaeology, University of California, 1976. OCLC# 3073058
Related topics Up to date as of August 19, 2010
- Linear Pottery culture
- Cucuteni-Trypillian culture
- Starčevo culture
- Boian culture
- Funnelbeaker culture
- Corded Ware culture
- Lengyel culture
- Yamna culture
Vinča signs (Sometimes called the “Old European script”.)