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Cucuteni-Trypillia: Eastern Europe’s lost civilisation

The story of Trypillia, as it is commonly known, started 7,000 years ago in what is now Eastern Europe, primarily Moldova, Romania and Ukraine. Excavated settlements offer modern archaeologists one of the earliest known examples of urbanisation and suggest a population that exceeded one million people.

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The people of Trypillia “managed to implement almost all technological innovations of their time,” said Videiko. Advanced kilns supported sophisticated pottery decorated with patterns and colour. Construction techniques allowed for buildings as large as 700sq m. Found objects indicate a culture that worshipped goddesses.
Trypillia research was initially embraced by the Soviet Union, which funded archaeological projects. Communist officials seized on parallels between the impressive ancient civilisation and Marxist ideology that promoted a classless society with no private ownership. It was thought that “Trypillia was a wonderful illustration of a pre-class, classless society or primitive communism,” said Videiko. But when indications that Trypillia may not have been the classless utopia it first appeared, things quickly changed.

“As archaeologists are digging more, they start discovering megasites of Trypillia civilisation. They start finding all these huge buildings. And the question arises: Could this all be done by a classless society?” said Videiko.

In the years that followed, researchers who challenged the official propaganda were deemed enemies of the state. Archaeologists fled, and some were convicted as members of a terrorist spy organisation. Books that furthered the study of Trypillia were published outside the country, but, said Videiko, “Those books never reached Ukraine. They were researching something but almost no one here knew about it. Those who knew, remained silent.

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