CRC 1266 - Scales of Transformation

Research activities 2016-2019

Research Strategy

Within the distribution area of human groups with the label 'Tripolye', pronounced regional differences are visible, which among other things concern the size and density of settlements, material culture and potentially also environment and subsistence. For example, so-called mega-sites or giant-settlements with a size of 100 ha or more are almost exclusively concentrated in the area between the Southern Bug and Dniester (study region A), while settlements west of the Southern Bug and Dniester are in the most cases significantly smaller (study regions B and C).

Map with study regions A-C
Fig. 1. Map with study regions A-C and localisation of research activities carried out within the framework of subproject D1 "Population agglomerations at Tripolye-Cucuteni mega-sites" including preliminary work.

In order to understand the phenomenon 'Tripolye' and the spatial variability of Tripolye agglomerated settlements as broadly as possible, our investigations are carried out on different spatial scales in three study regions in different parts of the Tripolye-Cucuteni complex: 1) In each of these study regions, the local settlement development, the subsistence and economic base and the influence on the environment of the settlement are examined in selected key sites using an interdisciplinary approach. 2) Studies at the micro- and meso-regional level aim at the reconstruction of settlement systems and dynamics associated with the formation and decline of large agglomerated settlements. 3) The comparison of trajectories in different study regions offers a macro-regional perspective.

The application of medium to large scale magnetic surveys was the main criterion for the selection of key sites and the backbone of a graduated excavation and sampling strategy. This methodology aims to interlink magnetic plans and targeted excavations of trenches and test trenches, enabling the identification of patterns in the partly extremely large settlements.

Radiometric dating (study regions, A-C)

Related to the different research activities of the project, a total of c. 290 new 14c-datings from verified contexts were dated throughout the entire project duration (including preliminary works) and research area. These new dates contribute decisively to a better understanding of the dynamics of mega-sites and smaller sites in the process of formation and disintegration of agglomerated Tripolye settlements (Müller et al. 2016a; Rud et al. 2019; Ţerna et al. 2019; Hofmann et al. 2019; Ohlrau in press). The attempt has been made to obtain datable samples and classifiable find material from each key site, either by field work or by accessing material from archives.

Archaeological fieldwork 2016

Field research in the key site Maidanetske (study region A)

In cooperation with the Boris Grinchenko Kyiv University (Misha Videiko) and the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences (NASU) (Vitalii Rud, Natalia Burdo), field work was continued in the summer 2016 at the key site Maidanetske, which had already been started as part of extensive preliminary work (e.g. Rassmann et al. 2014; Ohlrau 2015; Müller et al. 2017;   Müller et al. 2016b; Kirleis/Dal Corso 2016; Kirleis/Dreibrodt 2016; Ohlrau in press).

Aerial photograph of the 200 ha large key site Maidanetske with open trenches of the excavation campaign 2016
Fig. 2. Aerial photograph of the 200 ha large key site Maidanetske with open trenches of the excavation campaign 2016. (photo: R. Ohlrau)

Investigation of a Copper Age assembly house from the time around 3750 BCE in the settlement of Maidanetske, Ukraine
Fig. 3. In intensive teamwork and with modern documentation methods, a Ukrainian-German research team is investigating a Copper Age assembly house from the time around 3750 BCE in the settlement of Maidanetske, Ukraine. (photo: CRC 1266)

During the excavation campaign in 2016, unbuilt areas were evaluated following the systematic examination of residential buildings and associated pits in different parts of settlement during the preliminary work. For comparison, test trenches were examined in the circumferential ring corridor and in the unbuilt area in the centre of the settlement. The archaeological, pedological, geo-chemical and botanical evaluation of these trenches might give insights into the question for which purposes the unbuilt area in the centre of the settlement could have been used.

Interpretation of the archaeomagnetic plan of the Maidanetske site with excavation trenches of the campaigns 2013 (50-79), 2014 (80-103) and 2016 (110-116)
Fig. 4. Interpretation of the archaeomagnetic plan of the Maidanetske site with excavation trenches of the campaigns 2013 (50-79), 2014 (80-103) and 2016 (110-116). Areas with the letters A-D refer to the areas investigated in 2016. (digitisation: R. Ohlrau)

For the first time in Maidanetske, a ditch visible in the archaeomagnetic plan was examined, which ran in a striking manner parallel to the ring corridor of the settlement. The investigations and analyses have shown that the trench actually consisted of a sequence of short ditch segments constructed at a very early stage of the settlement (Ohlrau in press).

A major focus of the field activities moreover consisted in the excavation of a so-called mega-structure located in the ring corridor of the settlement: The extremely well visible location, the single-storey architecture with an open inner courtyard and the relatively small amount of finds compared to domestic houses indicates a special character of this building structure as a not permanently inhabited place for different integrative activities and the negotiation of communal decisions (Hofmann et al. 2019).

Aerial photograph of the uncovered megastructure in section 111
Fig. 5. Aerial photograph of the uncovered megastructure in section 111. The distribution of daub remains shows a roofed part, an open courtyard and an enclosure wall. (photo: R. Ohlrau)

Distributions of different activity zones can be identified within the megastructure
Fig. 6. Based on analyses of find distributions different activity zones can be identified within the megastructure. (after Hofmann et al. 2019, PloSOne, Fig. 11)

Archaeological investigations at other sites (study region A)

Synchronous with the excavations in Maidanetske, archaeomagnetic surveys were carried out in Maidanetske and two other sites of the region (Kosenivka, Grebenyukiv Yar). Moreover, small excavations in Moshuriv 1 and Vitiivka focused on function and dating of these sites in the process of formation and decline of large agglomerated Tripolye settlements.
 

Archaeo-botanical fieldwork 2016

In summer 2016 excavation was carried out at the  Trypillia (or Tripolye) mega-site of Maidanetske in central Ukraine. Samples for botanical macro-remains and phytoliths have been collected from several archaeological contexts, including (Fig. 7a & b) a large collective building (“mega-structure”, Hofmann et al. 2019), and the central area of the site (Fig. 7c). Flotation has been carried out regularly during excavation (Fig. 7d). For phytolith analysis, samples from archaeological contexts (Fig. 7e. samples organization) as well as samples from modern steppe vegetation have been collected (Fig. 7f & g. Stipa awns). The pollen archive tested in 2016 bared scarce pollen preservation.

Archaeo-botanical fieldwork in summer 2016
Fig. 7 a-g. Different illustrations of the archaeo-botanical fieldwork in summer 2016. (photos: M. Dal Corso & W. Kirleis)
 

Archaeological fieldwork 2017

Archaeological surveys in the regions near Talne, Novoarchangelsk and Kryzhopil (study regions A & B)

Two surveys were conducted in the spring of 2017 in the vicinity of the towns of Talne and Novoarchangelsk in the Southern Bug-Dnieper interfluve (Study Region A) and in the vicinity of Kryzhopil (study region B) in cooperation with colleagues from the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences. With the aim of collecting new data on the development of settlement plans, the surveys included archaeo-magnetic prospections, test excavations and surface collections.

Working situation during magnetic survey in Vilshanka
Fig. 8. Working situation during magnetic survey in Vilshanka. (photo: G. Salefski)

In both study regions we focused on the investigation of medium to large sites from the beginning of the sequence of Tripolye agglomerated settlements, which provide information on the genesis of the characteristic ring-shaped Tripolye settlement layout. In the vicinity of the modern towns of Talne and Novoarchangelsk the three settlement sites Chychivka, Vesely Kut and Volodymyrovka were surveyed each to a significant extent and material for radiometric dating was obtained by test trenches. Through this survey a comprehensive sequence of settlement plans from the entire sequence from Tripolye A-C2 is now available in study region A, when we include other magnetic surveys carried out since the Soviet era.

Because of its peripheral location aside from large Tripolye mega-mega-sites, the state of research in the Kryschopil region was much more incomplete. During our survey, in Ternivka, Vilshanka and Zabolotne three settlement plans from earlier Tripolye stages and three settlement plans from the late Tripolye period in Gariachkivka and Krynychky were archaeomagnetically investigated. In addition, investigations were carried out at the Voroshilivka settlement on the Southern Bug River. Overall, the settlement plans of study region B show striking differences to the layout of settlements in the Uman region and remarkable similarities to settlements in the west of the Tripolye cultural complex.

Excavation in Trostiyanchyk (study region B)

In cooperation with the Archaeological Institute of the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences (Vitalii Rud)  and the Vinnytsia Pedagogical University (Viktor Kosakivskyi), excavations were carried out in the small (3 ha) Tripolye BII settlement Trostyantschyk located in a tributary valley of the Southern Bug River, located on a protected promontory.

In addition to the investigation of a ditch, several highly magnetic anomalies were in the focus of our investigations, which were considered as possible remains of pottery kilns. The investigations addressed, among other things, the question of when and under what circumstances specialised two-chamber kilns for pottery production were invented, which regularly occur in Tripolye-Mega sites and which became subsequently to the dominant kiln type for millennia (Korvin-Piotrovskiy et al. 2016; Rud et al. 2019 [in press]).

Conservator Slava Fedorov uncovering a vessel in a pit of the settlement Trostiyanchyk and restored vessels of the same settlement
Fig. 9. Conservator Slava Fedorov uncovering a vessel in a pit of the settlement Trostiyanchyk and restored vessels of the same settlement. (photo: V. Rud)

The settlement Trostiyanchyk was fortified by two parallel ditches
Fig. 10. The settlement Trostiyanchyk was fortified by two parallel ditches. (photo: V. Rud)

Field research in Stolniceni (study region C)

In cooperation with the High Anthropological School Chişinău (Stanislav Ţerna) and the Roman Germanic Commission Frankfurt a. M. (Knut Rassmann), extensive field work was carried out from July to September at the key site Stolniceni near Edineţ in the northwest of the Republic of Moldova with an international team. This 30 ha site presents one of the largest settlement in the region.

Different categories of contexts were excavated during our investigations: In the north of the settlement, the excavation of a Copper Age pottery complex was continued. A pottery kiln and a potter's house were uncovered, including several pits, an outside working area and numerous ceramic vessels and tools. The excavations also included the exploration of a fortification trench, test trenches in several burnt houses and pits and the exploration of a circular 'ash-mound-like' waste area outside the settlement (Ţerna et al. 2019).

Excavation of a Copper Age potters workshop in Stolniceni 2017
Fig. 11. Excavation of a Copper Age potters workshop in Stolniceni 2017. (photos: S. Ţerna, K. Radloff)

A team of geophysicists from subproject G2 participated in the field work in Stolniceni: Their aim is to develop improved evaluation methods for archaeomagnetic plans through refined and combined application of geophysical methods.

Conduction of electrical resistivity measurements in Stolniceni
Fig. 12. Conduction of electrical resistivity measurements in Stolniceni. (photo: Erica Corradini)

Geographical survey in Maidanetske (study region A)

In cooperation with the Borys Grinchenko University Kyiv (Mykhailo Videiko), a team of geographers of the University of Kiel around Rainer Duttman and Stefan Dreibrodt carried out investigations on soil genesis and landscape development in a valley near the key site Maidanetske. Among other things, the colleagues succeeded in identifying and sampling an archive for the reconstruction of long-term landscape processes in the confluence area of this creek into the Talianka River. The analysis of these archives showed no coincidence of the Copper Age settlement activities and erosion but clear coincidences between erosion and Holocene climate anomalies (Dreibrodt et al. 2019).

Investigation of a pedological trench in Maidanetske
Fig. 13. Students and staff of the Geographical Institute of the Kiel University investigate a pedological trench in Maidanetske. (photo: R. Duttmann)

Geophysical survey in Maidanetske (study region A)

As in Stolniceni, a team of Kiel geophysicists from the G2 subproject applied various geophysical methods at the Maidanetske key site. By combining these methods, archaeological findings and magnetic plans should be more precisely interpretable. For the Maidanetske site, a method was developed which use excavation results to calibrate and interpret archaeomagnetic plans. This method allows the estimation of daub masses and the differentiated evaluation of different construction methods of buildings.

Laboratory activities

Simultaneously with the field work in Maidanetske, the documentation of finds from the 2016 excavations in Maidanetske and other Tripolye sites took place in the Tripolye Museum Lehedzyne. This included the sampling of ceramics for residue analyses (cooperation with sub-project E1) and of human bones from Sharin und Kosinivka for aDNA analysis (cooperation with sub-project F4).
 

Archaeo-botanical in summer 2017

In summer 2017 excavation was carried out at the Cucuteni site of Stolniceni in northern Moldova. Among the excavated contexts there are also a dwelling (Fig. 14a) and a pit (Fig. 14b). Flotation on sediment samples (10 l each) was carried out in the field (Fig. 14c, Fig. 14d. sieve with 300 μm-mesh), and continued in spring 2018 (Fig. 14e, Fig. 14f), when the Pre-Cucuteni site of Nicolaevca was excavated (Fig. 14h). A field-laboratory was established in Stolniceni for preliminary sorting of the macros (Fig. 14g). Phytolith samples (ca. 20 g each) have been collected as well.

Archaeo-botanical fieldwork in summer 2017
Fig. 14 a-h. Different illustrations of the archaeo-botanical fieldwork in summer 2017. (photos: M. Dal Corso & W. Kirleis)

In summer 2017 at the modern village of Stolniceni it has been possible to observe the modern pastures (Fig. 15a) and storages for hay fodder and straw (Fig. 15b, Fig. 15 c). Some interviews have been also carried out that focused on the traditional building techniques involving plant temper such as Secale straw (Fig. 15d). Many houses in the village are built with mudbricks (Fig. 15e), which substituted the older wattle and daub technique. Only one abandoned house was still present that was built with wattle and daub technique (Fig. 15f. the wall, Fig. 15g. the ceiling).

The modern village Stolniceni in summer 2017
Fig. 15 a-g. Different illustrations showing the modern village of Stolniceni in summer 2017. (photos: M. Dal Corso)
 

Archaeological fieldwork 2018

Survey in the micro-region around Kryzhopil and in Bilyi Kamin near Chechelnik (study region B)

Under direction of Vitalii Rud (NASU), the survey activities in the Krychopil microregion were continued in spring 2018 and extended to the Bilyi Kamin site in the Chechelnyk microregion. Our activities included the archaeomagnetic survey of six sites, the excavation of a test trench in Bilyi Kamin and systematic surface collections in the Krychopil microregion.

View on the site Bilyi Kamin during the survey in March 2018
Fig. 16. View on the site Bilyi Kamin during the survey in March 2018. (photo: V. Rud)

In summary, the different survey activities reveal significant regional differences between study regions A and B as well as within study region B. While in the micro-region Chechelnik several large settlements are located relatively close to each other and also one of the few mega-sites in the region west of the Southern Bug River existed (Bilyi Kamin, c. 100 ha) , in the micro-region around Krychopil settlements of the mega-site period are completely missing.

For the mega-site Bilyi Kamin, the archaeo-magnetic survey reveals how the settlement was built in a terrain with considerable height differences. Irregularities in the settlement layout were accepted in order to be able to place three monumental communal buildings on top of a promontory, visible from afar (Rud et al. 2019; Hofmann et al. 2019).

Excavations in Bilyi Kamin (study region B)

With the aim to gain materials for dating, typo-chronological investigations and comparative functional, architectural and economic investigations, excavations were carried out at the key site Bilyi Kamin in June and July. A burnt dwelling and its find inventory were completely excavated and two neighbouring houses were explored by small test trenches (Rud et al. 2019).

Uncovering a burnt Tripolye house in Bilyi Kamin
Fig. 17. Uncovering a burnt Tripolye house in Bilyi Kamin. (photo: V. Rud)
 

Archaeo-botanical fieldwok in summer 2017 and spring 2018

In summer 2017 and spring 2018, besides excavations and flotation, surveys were carried out in the landscapes in order to find archives for palynology (Fig. 18a, Fig. 18 b) and to check the modern vegetation. In the areas around the sites arable land (Fig. 18e. the arable weed Adonis aestivalis, Fig.. 18f. sunflowers) and pastures (Fig. 18d. meadow wiith Linum usitatissimum) prevail, with patchy of dry grassland vegetation (Fig. 18c. feather-grass) in sunny slopes.

Archaeo-botanical fieldwork in summer 2017 and spring 2018
Fig. 18 a-e. Different illustrations of the fieldwok in summer 2017 and spring 2018. (photos: M. Dal Corso & W. Kirleis)
 

Archaeological fieldwork 2019

Archaeological survey in the Uman-Talne Region (study region A)

In cooperation with the Boris Grinchenko University Kiev (Mihailo Videiko) and the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences (NASU) (Vitalii Rud), exploratory excavations were carried out in the sites Apolianka, Rohy, Moshuriv 2, Talne 3 near the modern towns of Talne and Uman during spring. In continuation to earlier magnetic surveys (Rassmann et al. 2014; Ohlrau/Rud 2019), the main aim of these field activities was to gather materials for radiometric dating, typo-chronological studies and scientific analyses.

Colleagues from the Tripolye Museum Lehedzyne visiting the excavation in spring 2019
Fig. 19. Colleagues from the Tripolye Museum Lehedzyne visiting the excavation in spring 2019. (photo: V. Rud)

Excavations in the Kryzhopil region (study region B)

In cooperation with colleagues from the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences (NASU) (Vitalii Rud) and the Vinnytsia Pedagogical University (Viktor Kosakivskyi), excavations were carried out in three settlements of the period Tripolye BI-BII situated in the Kryzhopil micro-region (Haryachkivka 3, 7 and 8).  Among other things, these investigations were aimed at obtaining samples for dating and typo-chronological investigations. In addition to burnt houses, several pits and highly magnetic anomalies of pottery kilns from the Roman period were investigated. From a pit associated with a supposed public building (mega-structure) a copper remnant from the Tripolye period was found.

Excavations in the key site Stolniceni (study region C)

With an international team, again, extensive excavations were carried out at the key site Stolniceni in August and September 2019. These field activities focused on the detailed investigation and scientific sampling of several large pits associated with different categories of domestic and communal buildings. The pits showed complex biographies and contained extremely rich find inventories, the evaluation of which provided various proxies for the reconstruction of chronological, functional, social and economic processes.

Overview over parts of the Stolniceni sites
Fig. 20. Overview over parts of the Stolniceni sites with two pits during the excavation 2019. (photos: S. Ţerna, K. Radloff)

Laboratory activities

In order to be able to adequately interpret the results of residue analyses of ceramics carried out in a pilot study with colleagues from the E1 subproject, recent milk and fat samples from cattle, horses, sheep and goats were collected in Ukraine and Moldova.

Milk samples from recent sheeps, goats and horses shall help to identify the residues in copper age vessels
Fig. 21. Milk samples from recent sheeps, goats and horses shall help to identify the residues in copper age vessels. (photos: M. Shatilo)

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