EARLY URBANISM IN PREHISTORIC EUROPE?:
THE CASE OF THE TRYPILLIA MEGA-SITES
The Trypillia mega-sites in Ukraine are some of the largest sites in 5th – 4th millennium Eurasia, despite which they have been neglected in research into urban origins. The Project seeks to deliver field data and interpretation on a scale never attempted on mega-sites, whose very size (up to 450 ha) makes them difficult to investigate. The central methodological issue is how to place the 1,000 - 2,000 structures on a mega-site in a sequence, so as to demonstrate how many houses were occupied at the same time and permit the building of an accurate demographic site model. The Project has formulated a novel methodology to solve this problem, which it successfully tested in the field at the mega-site of Nebelivka, in Kirovograd Domain. The Project has also identified a number of wetlands near the mega-site for testing the scale of human impact on its environment. In these ways, the project will make a breakthrough in the understanding of Tripillia mega-sites and our understanding of the origins of complex societies and urban settlement in Eurasia.
This AHRC-funded 5-years (2012-2016) research project takes as its starting-point the Trypillia (Russian 'Tripolye') mega-sites of Ukraine – the largest sites in 4th millennium BC Europe, termed 'proto-urban' by local archaeologists, and the only exception to Roland Fletcher's (1995) limits of agrarian settlement growth. The project objective is to understand how and why Trypillia sites expanded in this unprecedented way, In summer 2009, a preliminary season co-directed by Drs. Mikhail Videiko and John Chapman focused on the 220 hectare mega-site of Nebelivka, Kirovograd domain, enabling the production of a 15 hectare geophysics plot with over 50 burnt structures and a small number of unburnt structures, as well as pits and other anomalies. Coring of burnt structures was successful in recovering organically-rich daub for direct 14-C dating. On the basis of these results, the AHRC made a Research Grant for a four-year Project (February 2012–January 2016).
The 2012 Season
Following the award of an AHRC Research Grant, as well as the award of a National Geographic Society Research Grant for the excavation of alarge burnt structure at Nebelivka, the Project has fixed on a six-week summer season, running from mid-July to the end of August 2012. The objectives of the 2012 seasons are as follows:
- The excavation of the Nebelivka 'mega-structure', involving Total Station 3D recording of all architectural remains and finds, soil micro-morphological study of daub and soils, and flotation of 100% sample of the soil;
- Geophysical prospection of a further 150 ha of the mega-site;
- Mechanical coring of 100 burnt structures to recover daub containing charred plant remains;
- Intensive, systematic fieldwalking of a further 20 km2 of the Nebelivka hinterland;
- Pollen coring in the stream-beds adjacent to the mega-site and in more distant peat-bogs;
- Soils investigation of the Nebelivka site and hinterland;
- Post-excavation and post-fieldwalking processing of pottery, animal bones and other finds;
- Recovery of charred plant remains from excavated and cored daub.
Future Plans: Travelling Exhibition and Conferences
The Project will create and disseminate a museum exhibition presenting the principal results of the Project's research, to run in 2015/2016. Five Ukrainian museums have agreed to host the exhibition: the Kyiv Archaeological Museum; the Kyiv Domain Archaeological Museum at Trypillia; the Ivano-Frankivsk Museum; the Archaeological Museum of Institute of Archaeology (Kyiv); and the Kharkov University Museum of Archaeology & Ethnography.
In addition, up to eight museums from Eastern and Western Europe have given preliminary consent to hosting the exhibition: the National Museum of Archaeology and History, Chişinau (Moldova); Neamţ County Museums (Romania); the Varna Regional Archaeological Museum (Bulgaria); one of the Budapest Museums (Hungary, under discussion); the Kraków Archaeological Museum (Poland); the Mannheim Museum (Germany); the Ashmolean Museum (Oxford, under discussion); and Durham University Museums.
Two international conferences are planned to disseminate the results of the Project research: one in Kyiv in April 2015 and a second in Durham in January 2016.
Co-authored refereed articles:
Chapman, J., Gaydarska, B. & M. Videiko, 2010. Rozvidki u Novoarhangelskomu r-ni. Arheologichni Doslidzhennya v Ukraini 2009: 457
Chapman, J. & M. Videiko, 2011. The Tripillia culture mega-site near Nebelivka: summer 2009 season. Praehistorica (Prague) XXIX: 79 – 94.
Charmley, C., Videiko, M. Yu., and Chapman, J. (in press). Investigating Tripolye settlement patterns in Cherkassy, Ukraine: distribution and rank-size. (To appear in Trypillia Civilisation Journal: http://www.trypillia.com)
Hale D., Chapman J., Swann N., Videiko M.,Villis R. 2010. Early Urbanism in Europe? Geophysical Survey at Nebelivka, Ukraine// Recent Work in Archaeological Geophysics. The Geological Society. 15th December 2010. Abstracts. – London, 2010. – Pp.35-36.
Roe, J., Hale, D. N., Videiko, M. Yu., Gaydarska, B., Burdo, N. & Chapman, J., in press. Spatial analysis of intra-site surface collection data from the Tripolye mega-site of Nebelivka. (To appear in Trypillia Civilisation Journal:http://www.trypillia.com)