Mysterious Cucuteni-Trypillian Culture of Ukraine

Located near the village of Trypillia in the Obukhiv District of central Ukraine’s Kiev Oblast, the ruins of Trypillia were discovered in 1893 and reported to the 11th Congress of Archeologists in 1897. This became the official date of the discovery of the fascinating Cucuteni-Trypillian culture, which is believed to have extended over an area of around 35,000 square kilometers, incorporating parts of present-day Moldova, Romania and Ukraine, between 5400 and 2700 BCE.

Prior to the discovery of Trypillia in the late 19th century – a time when great archeological discoveries were taking place in various parts of the world – it seemed that Eastern Europe had made no notable prehistoric contributions to the development of so-called civilization in the region. But all this changed in 1893 as archeologists started to explore the ruins of these ancient settlements and discovered that the Cucuteni-Trypillian culture had established cities to accommodate up to 15,000 inhabitants, being some of the largest settlements in Neolithic European history (7000 BCE-1700BCE). Moreover, there were many such settlements, spaced around three to four kilometers apart, from the Dniester and Dnieper regions to the Carpathian Mountains. Originally referred to only as Trypillian culture, it was later changed to Cucuteni-Trypillian to include the Romanian name for the ruins.

Archeological treasures recovered from these sites include statuettes of both men and women, weapons and other items made of copper and other metals, intricately patterned earthenware and clay building materials. The female statuettes have featureless faces, while the males have oval, elongated faces with prominent noses and deep-set eyes. Some of the statuettes are naked while others are clothed, with the styles of clothing changing over the years, and the females wore their hair in different styles.

The illustrations on decorative items and other artifacts retrieved confirm that the people living in these settlements farmed the land using ploughs, produced handicrafts and had a form of religious belief regarding mankind’s origins and the afterlife. Researchers have noted that there are indications that the inhabitants of these settlements would burn the entire village every 60 to 80 years and then build on top of the ruins. There is no explanation for this practice, but one location in Romania has as many as thirteen levels of foundations that were built upon.

As with many archeological discoveries, there are more questions than answers with regard to the Cucuteni-Trypillian culture, and archeologists continue to dedicate their time and energies to unraveling the mysteries of the past in this picturesque region of Ukraine.