The Wonderland of the Cucuteni-Trypillia Culture

In the 6th millennium BCE, agricultural technologies start to spread throughout Europe. This process was a background for the appearance of several ancient agrarian cultures.

On the territory of South-Eastern Europe, the Cucuteni-Trypillia culture was one of the most significant. It emerged in the second half of the 6th millennium BCE because of interaction between various Neolithic groups in the Carpathian-Balkan region. 

Female Figurine (Fragment) (4100 - 3600 ВСЕ) by UnknownNational Museum of the History of Ukraine

The culture existed for over 2,500 years. In different times, the tribes of Cucuteni‑Trypillia settled in the forest-steppe territory from the Carpathians in the west to the Dnipro River valley in the east, and from Volhyn in the north to the lowlands of the Danube and Black Sea in the south.

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Model of a house 3D (3600 - 3200 ВСЕ) by UnknownNational Museum of the History of Ukraine

Trypillia settlements consisted of tens, hundreds, and even thousands of buildings (dwellings).

During the period of the culture's greatest expansion, proto-cities emerged with an area of 100–400 hectares. Fortifications appear in such settlements. It indicates the need for protection from the aggression of other tribes of the Cucuteni–Trypillia or foreigners. Inside the settlements, single-story and two-story dwellings were built. 

Model of the Temple (4100 - 3600 ВСЕ) by UnknownNational Museum of the History of Ukraine

Ceramic models depict the appearance of these buildings and the details of their interiors. The Cucuteni–Trypillia tribes had a tradition of leaving settlements and resettling elsewhere once every 50–70 years. They burned the previous dwellings. 

The basis of the economy of Cucuteni–Trypillia tribes comprised cultivation and animal husbandry. They grew wheat, barley, millet, legumes, and flax. The inhabitants of the Cucuteni–Trypillia settlements also engaged in gathering in a way of utilizing the resources of the forests and meadows. The breeding of cattle was the most widespread form of animal husbandry. Lesser roles were given to the breeding of sheep, goats, and pigs, as well as the keeping of horses and dogs.

Cow Figurine, Unknown, 3600 - 3200 ВСЕ, From the collection of: National Museum of the History of Ukraine
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Deer Figurine, Unknown, 3600 - 3200 ВСЕ, From the collection of: National Museum of the History of Ukraine
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Hunting and fishing played a crucial role in providing meat, fur, and raw materials for tools and ornaments (bones, teeth, and horns) for the farmers. The Cucuteni–Trypillia tribes hunted deer, roe deer, elk, wild boar, bears, foxes, wolves, beavers, badgers, hares, and the like.

Top of the Mace, Unknown, 4100 - 3600 ВСЕ, From the collection of: National Museum of the History of Ukraine
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Adze-axe, Unknown, 4300 - 3600 ВСЕ, From the collection of: National Museum of the History of Ukraine
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The carriers of the Trypillian culture used a variety of tools to satisfy their economic needs. They made it from flint, various types of stone, bone, horn, wood, and even metal. Flintknapping was a separate craft. 

Part of the Khálepia Hoard. Part of the Khálepia Hoard.National Museum of the History of Ukraine

The Cucuteni–Trypillia tribes valued high-quality flint. That is why they traded and transported flint over significant distances, as well as stockpiled it.

The appearance of the first samples of combat weapons on the territory of Ukraine is associated with the spread of Cucuteni-Trypillia tribes.

War Pick (4100 - 3600 ВСЕ) by UnknownNational Museum of the History of Ukraine

The raw materials used for the production of Cucuteni–Trypillia weapons included not only the traditional ones for previous periods such as hard stones, flint, bone, and horn but also a completely new material like copper.

The Trypillian warrior’s weaponry consisted of various elements such as bows with arrows, javelins, adze-axes, axes-hammers, maces, war picks, and daggers. Bows and arrows, javelins, and flat adze-axes had dual functions. It could be used both for hunting or household purposes and in battle.

The wonderland of Cucuteni-Trypillia is revealed in pottery. The tribes of this culture made vessels by modeling and decorated them with incised ornamentation that was filled with white or red paste. Another way was to decorate the outer or inner surface of the vessel with mineral paints. Relief ornamentation in the form of the application of the elements of animal or human figurines was also widespread.

Fragment of the Vessel (4100 - 3200 ВСЕ) by UnknownNational Museum of the History of Ukraine

The diversity of themes depicted on the vessels is impressive. It ranges from simple geometric patterns to complex compositions with plants, animals, people, and entire phenomena (hunting scenes, grazing, etc.)

Goblet, Unknown, 3600 - 2750 ВСЕ, From the collection of: National Museum of the History of Ukraine
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Monocular-shaped Vessel, Unknown, 4400 - 4200 ВСЕ, From the collection of: National Museum of the History of Ukraine
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Binocular-shaped vessel 3D (4100 - 3600 ВСЕ) by UnknownNational Museum of the History of Ukraine

The diversity of the ceramic forms is significant. There are bowls, pots, pear-shaped vessels, craters, jars, amphorae, lids, binocular and monocular vessels, and more. Binocular and monocular vessels were undoubtedly used in rituals.

Female Figurine (3200 - 2750 ВСЕ) by UnknownNational Museum of the History of Ukraine

The marker of Cucuteni-Trypillia culture is the ceramic anthropomorphic (i.e., human) and zoomorphic (animals) figurines. Female statuettes are prominently represented in Cucuteni-Trypillia plastic art.

Bull Figurine (3600 - 3200 ВСЕ) by UnknownNational Museum of the History of Ukraine

Among the animals, they imaged cattle, goats, pigs, deer, bears, and birds 

Anthropomorphic figurine in a vessel. General photo (4100 - 3600 ВСЕ) by UnknownNational Museum of the History of Ukraine

Undoubtedly, plastic art reflects the spiritual life of the Cucuteni-Trypillia tribes, particularly the fertility cult. Figurines were used for rituals or served as amulets.

Goblet, Unknown, 4100 - 3600 ВСЕ, From the collection of: National Museum of the History of Ukraine
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Monocular-shaped Vessel, Unknown, 4100 - 3600 ВСЕ, From the collection of: National Museum of the History of Ukraine
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Female Figurine, Unknown, 3600 - 3400 ВСЕ, From the collection of: National Museum of the History of Ukraine
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Amphora with Anthropomorphic Handles, Unknown, 3200 - 2750 ВСЕ, From the collection of: National Museum of the History of Ukraine
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The decoration systems of vessels and plastic art may constitute a symbolic system intended for “communication with higher powers”. In this case, all these images are associated with sacred activities.

Credits: Story

Research and text: Oleksandr Naumenko
Project Сurator: Olga Puklina
Technical implementation: Oleg Mitiukhin, Oksana Mitiukhina, Liudmila Klymuk
Text editor: Oleksandr Naumenko
Translation: Dmytro Mitiukhin
Selection of exhibits: Oleksandr Naumenko 
Photographer: Oleg Mitiukhin, Dmytro Klochko
Head of the 3D digitization project: Dmytro Matiash
Photographer: Serhiy Revenko
3D designer: Vitaly Yevsovich

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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