Tag Archives: Trypillians

Proto-Indo-European speakers of the Late Tripolye culture as the inventors of wheeled vehicles

Proto-Indo-European speakers of the Late Tripolye culture as the inventors of wheeled vehicles: Linguistic and archaeological considerations

Suggesting the Cucuteni-Tripolye as the source of PIE. Something I did wonder once after seeing a pretty old wheeled toy from that area. They were the most advanced civilisation (not too strong a word, they had small cities) of Neolithic Europe, and were one of the first cultures to use metal.

Cucuteni-Trypillian cow-on-wheels, 3950-3650 B.C

One of the more interesting points from it was that word for wheel you find in other languages seems to have a root in the PIE word to turn/rotate. As far as I know, the worlds oldest wheel is 5,300 BP, dragged up from a Slovenian Marsh.

Jim Mallory (1989: 163), on the other hand, goes a long way towards the here proposed solutionwith the following observations:

“Tomas Gamkrelidze and Vyach[e]slav Ivanov… have noted that … Proto-Indo-European *kwekwlo- bears striking similarity to the words for vehicles in Sumerian gigir, Semitic *galgal-, and Kartvelian *grgar. With the putative origin of wheeled vehicles set variously to Pontic-Caspian, Transcasucasia or to Sumer, we may be witnessing the original word for a wheeled vehicle in four different language families. Furthermore, as the Proto-Indo-European form is built on an Indo-European verbal root *kwel- ‘to turn, to twist’, it is unlikely that the Indo-Europeans borrowed their word from one of the other languages. This need not, of course, indicate that the Indo-Europeans invented wheeled vehicles, but it might suggest that they were in some form of contact relation with these Near Eastern languages in the fourth millennium BC.”

Since the Trypillians weren’t that far at all from the steppes area, I can see this might have some validity. The Dniester site is just in my ‘had wheels’ at the right time zone, and the timing isn’t massively far off. This might allow a compromise between the 9,000 BP ‘first farmers’ and 5,500 BP ‘Kurgan’ theory, as they probably did speak the languge of the expanding farmers; that part of the world had a respectable demic wave from Turkey appear in it.


Just when was the wheel invented, and by whom?


Cucuteni-Trypillian cow-on-wheels, 3950-3650 B.C

I was curious, I’ve seen the invention of the wheel down as 3,500 BC in Sumeria. But this funky little ceramic toy from the Ukraine seems to be a bit older. I’ve seen claims that there’s proof the Trypillians used the wheel 6,500 years ago (reports of a copper axle and some museum exhibits) but I can’t substantiate them. There’s also what appears to be wheel tracks for a cart under a barrow grave in Flintbeck Germany about 3,600 years old, which would make a later invention in Sumer seem unlikely.

I’m not sold on a near Eastern origin of the wheel. The Cucuteni-Trypillians predate Sumer. Also, the language surrounding the wheel seems to be PIE, which would weigh against a Semitic origin. From this publication:

The very earliest presently known evidence for wheeled vehicles comes (in the form of wheeled animal-shaped cups and house models) from the Tripolye culture (phases B2 & early C1) (Gusev 1998; Burmeister 2004: 14f.). The slide-car pulled by oxen is widely assumed to have been the predecessor of wheeled vehicles, and it too is documented from the Tripolye culture (C1 and earlier, cf. Burmeister 2004: 21f.). The Tripolye culture is located in the middle of the earliest vehicle finds, in the forest-steppe with big trees needed for solid wheels yet with plains more trafficable than the forested central and NW Europe or the marshy Sumer, where slide-cars remained long in use.

Although the PIE language being forced on the Trypillians by invaders (suggested in paper) now seems unlikely, as it probably spread out with the first Neolithic farmers. At least, the 9k age for the expansion and northern Turkish origin of PIE would seem to suggest that.

There’s a page here about the worlds oldest wooden wheel found in Slovenia, about 5,200 years old.Seen below. The wheel was found in April 2002, together with a squared oak axle, in the remains of a pile-dwelling settlement.


The Trypillans

Archived item , not written by me.

The most ancient civilisation we know is Sumerian. It existed in the second half of the fourth millennium BC. Scholars call the years which preceded the Sumerians “prehistory,” and there are no material or written records believed to exist during this period. However, there was some oblique scarce knowledge passed by the Sumerians that they had come to Mesopotamia and Egypt most probably from the region of the Caspian Sea, because they refer to a city-state called Arrata in that area.

The early Sumerians brought with them a culture more complex and diverse that that of the locals. They cultivated land, used a wheel, had a domesticated horse, a potter’s wheel and perhaps even had writing, since it appeared shortly after they settled in Mesopotamia. Moreover, no traces of its origin have been found among local residents.

Many scholars agree that there should have been some developed pre-Sumerian civilisation. Little was known about such civilisations during the middle of the last century, although the Trypillian culture had already been discovered on the territory of modern Ukraine, it has not been referred to as “pre-Sumerian.”
By the end of the 19th century, in the steppe region of Ukraine, Vikenty Khvoyka, a Ukrainian archaeologist of Czech origin, found traces of an unknown ancient culture later named Trypillian , after the place of discovery. This year, the Ukrainian community celebrates the 110th anniversary of Khvoyka’s discovery, and today we possess thousands of artifacts. We know many facts about our remote ancestors who lived in the area now occupied by Ukraine and other Eastern European countries between 4,000 and 7,000 years ago.

Many fundamental scientific works studying the material culture of those times have appeared since. One of them is “Trypillian Civilisation”, compiled by researcher Mikhail Videyko. The title of his work is not accidental, as it was not a local separate culture of some tribe or a group of tribes, but a genuine civilisation. What other name can we apply to a society which lasted more than 5,000 years, domesticated horses, ploughed their land using tools and bulls, grew wheat and barley, bred cattle, invented and successfully used the wheel, processed copper and bronze, and was inhabited by between 400,000 and 2 million people? It was the most numerous and powerful civilisation of the ancient world – or at least it is believed to have been such.
Trypillians (historians sometimes call them “ploughmen”) lived in huge settlements, agriculturally based cities inhabited by as many as 20,000 people – which seems incredible, given the time. The settlements covered up to 25 square kilometers, and were composed of one- and two-story houses. There were public buildings as well, and they may have covered as much as 1,000 square meters.
After building and occupying a settlement for between 50 and 80 years, the residents set them afire and moved on, having exhausted the environmental resources. Because the Trypillians destroyed their cities, few relics were left behind for today’s archaeologists.

As we were first learning about the ancient Trypillians during the early 20th century, the first evidence was also emerging that the Trypillians who lived on Ukrainian soil were related to the Sumerians of Mesopotamia.
Anatoly Kyfishyn made the first solid connection between the two cultures when he deciphered pictograms on the so-called Stone Tomb in the south of Ukraine. These pictograms, chiseled into the walls of this unique artifact dating from 12,000 to 3,000 BC were samples of the early Sumerian writing. Ceramics created by the ancient Trypillians also bore Sumerian script, leaving no doubt that Sumerian writing originated with the Trypillyan civilisation. The pictograms on the Stone Tomb clarify the origin of inscriptions made during the 12th to third millennium BC. So Sumerian writing, the first writing in the history of mankind, is a product of the development of a human civilisation that for many thousands of years thrived in Europe and the Middle East.
As soon as similarities between the two forms of writing became known, previous contradictions were explained.
First, it became clear who brought a developed culture to the land between the Tigris and Euphrates. Second, scholars managed to discover traces of mass migration from Trypillia (also known as Koukoutenya) to the Middle East. The migration to Mesopotamia was probably due to climatic changes and demographic factors such as overpopulation, as the ancient technology of land cultivation and cattle-breeding required favorable climatic conditions and huge expanses of land. Finally, it was determined that the large Sumerian cities, including Ur, Uruk and Djamjet-Nasra were reflection of the huge Trypillian agrocities. Pre-Sumerians brought city-states and social structures characteristic of Trypillians to Mesopotamia. This structure, void of social, ethnic and tribal antagonisms, explains the extraordinary stability of both Sumerian and Trypillyan societies over long periods of time.
Today, scholars are trying to explain the disappearance of the Trypillian civilisation after 3,000 years.

The latest date puts smelted copper use to 5,500 BC in the Balkans


The Trypillians.

Archived item. Not written by me.

Archaeologists had not found early farming sites in eastern Europe until they discovered a number of them between the Dnieper and Dneister Rivers, which they identified as the Cutcuteni-Tripolye Culture. The first of those was the village of Trypillia, 50 km south of Kiev, Ukraine. Trypillian sites have been dated from 6000 BCE to 3000 BCE. These settlements seemto have been occupied for 50-70 years each, after which they were abandoned. It is not known why Cutcuteni-Tripolye Culture vanished after 3000 BCE, or why the settlements were often abandoned.Evidence shows that Trypillya tribes cut down forests and enlarged the steppe. Turning the steppe into grazing land invited invasions by Indo-European animal herders. The lack of diversification may have been another reason, since the villages depended on land farming more than domesticated animals. The climate may have become colder over time, or the soil may have worn out. Some evidence exists that the village had been burned, and archaeologists have a theory that the people may have burned down their houses before leaving to frighten invaders and wild animals.Ancient Trypillian farmers cultivated wheat, barley, peas, and legumes. According to paleobotanists, these crops were grown in fields that were used for long periods of time. Spore-pollen analysis shows that these plants were grown around settlements. Ravines were covered with rich motley grass, red mallow, white bindweed, and pinks. Cornflowers grew in the wheat fields. Willow, alder, oak, hornbeam, and nut-trees grew along woodland waterways. Bison, deer, wild boars, bears, wolves, foxes, and hares lived in the forests. Animal bones and artwork show that the Trypillian people raised cattle. Having a rich supply of wood, inhabitants cut down many trees for their dwellings.At the beginning their settlements were small, from seven to fourteen buildings, but with time somegrew into towns with thousands of buildings. Evidence of dwellings was found in floors of baked clay, which included both dwellings and barns. Houses show evidence of thatched roofs, earthen walls, and clay and bran coating on the walls. The floor space ranged from 50-160 square meters. The houses were complex, perhaps two-storied with walls of wooden stakes covered with clay. At some sites, houses were arranged in concentric circles. Larger houses—like longhouses—were occupied by families of several generations. Evidence of earthen storage benches and painted altars was found in some houses. The floors and the walls of some houses were painted in black, red, or white colors in geometrical ornamental patterns, which probably had a spiritual meaning. Communal houses of 200-300 square meters might have been shrines, with something like altars in them, which could accommodate a whole community gathered for a ritual. The early settlement occupied half of a square kilometer, and Trypillyan farmers tilled the land close to the settlement until it was exhausted, then moved on.

Improvements to land cultivationand development of crafts led to increases in population. Some settlements began to grow into towns divided into streets and blocks, with some two-storey houses, which were connected by bridges at the second floor. Some later settlements may have had 15,000 residents. To clear fields for farming, Trypillian people used stone and copper axes. Sickles with silicon (flint) inserts were used to harvest crops. Clay or stone mortars for grinding harvested grain into flour were found in the houses. Evidence or crafts such as metallurgy and metal-working, pottery, and weaving was found. Copper tools and weapons, pottery bowls, flint arrowheads, and a variety of bone points, needles, and tools were also found around the site. Stone tools included axes, knives, and spindle whorls.

Metal was used to produce weapons (axes and daggers), bracelets, rings, pendants, and amulets. Trypillians used molded and forged metal products. Most tools were produced from flint, stone, animal horns, and bones. Residents made vertical looms and a potter’s furnace. Crude pottery with no decoration served for cooking. Archaeologists found fancier pottery jars and other vessels, and footed beakers that show painted decoration with intricate swirled and geometric designs. These designs may indicate worship of the sky, sun, and rain. Tree-of-life images on pottery, horned animals for handles on vessels, and brown and black painted designs on pale yellow background show reverence for nature, magic, and use of symbolism. Figurines in the form of seated women were very common at Trypillian sites. “Tokens,” beads, or clay shapes incised with geometric designs might be a form of pictograph used for counting.

As far as can be surmised, they seemed to be a matriarchal society with a mother goddess.