views updated


The Tripolye culture site of Kolomischiina is located to the west of the Dnieper River, near the modern village of Halepye, about 35 kilometers south of Kiev, Ukraine.

Tripolye culture settlements within the modern boundary of Ukraine number about one thousand. The sites vary in size from about 4 to 400 hectares, and at the smaller end of the range they consist of small hamlets of a dozen or so houses. The site of Vladimirovka, on the right bank of the river Siniukha (a tributary of the southern Bug River), has five concentric rings encompassing 162 houses on a site that covered an area of about 900 by 800 meters. Larger settlements have houses and associated structures numbering in the hundreds, and at the Ukrainian site of Majdanets'ke, some twelve hundred to seventeen hundred buildings, or perhaps more, have been identified through aerial photographic and site surveys.

On the basis of about sixty-five radiocarbon determinations the entire span of the Tripolye culture is known to encompass the period c. 5500–2300 b.c. During the middle and later phases of Tripolye culture development, between c. 4500–3500 b.c., settlements were located either on the floodplains of the region's rivers or on promontories formed by higher terraces of these rivers. Though undated in absolute terms, the settlement of Kolomischiina is placed in the Tripolye periods B–C1, between c. 4500–3000 b.c., and the site is located on a typical promontory. Tripolye settlement sites in Ukraine, predictably, were usually located close to a spring or water source.

Kolomischiina is a relatively small settlement, consisting of thirty-nine buildings arranged in two concentric circles. Despite its small size, this settlement layout would still have provided a measure of defense for the inhabitants.

The area covered by the site known as Kolomischiina is defined by the dimensions of the outer ring of buildings, which consisted of thirty-one structures in a circle (or more accurately, an ellipse) of 160 by 170 meters diameter. An inner circle had a diameter of 70 by 75 meters, and contained eight structures. The houses all have their entrances facing toward the center of the site. Larger settlements of the Tripolye culture in Ukraine have been defined as covering 250 hectares (Dobrovody), 270 hectares (Majdanets'ke), and up to a maximum of 3.5 by 1.5 kilometers (Talljanky).

Despite its modest size, Kolomischiina is a significant site in the history of the investigations into the nature of Tripolye occupation sites. Prior to the implementation of the "Tripolean expedition" in 1934, a series of archaeological surveys and excavations aimed at enhancing knowledge of the Tripolye culture in the Ukraine; excavations of Tripolye culture sites had been of only limited scope, encompassing either trench or small area excavations. Due to the limitations imposed by these investigations, many conclusions relating to the precise nature and function of these sites remained tentative and unconfirmed. This was especially the case in relation to the interpretation of the fired clay or plaster platforms found on settlement sites. Earlier excavators had concluded that these features were ritual in nature. The new excavations at Kolomischiina confirmed that these platforms (ploshchadki in Russian) did in fact represent the foundations of rectangular houses or buildings built on the ground surface. This building technique contrasts to that of earlier periods, where the houses were "sunk" about 0.9–1.0 meter below the ground level.

During the excavations at Kolomischiina about 13,000 square meters of the site were excavated over a five-year period. The excavations indicated that the central area of the settlement may have been used for stock keeping and possibly as a site for festivals or ceremonies. Concentrations of animal bone, pottery, and plaster were found in proximity to the dwellings or structures. In the northeastern part of the settlement a thick cultural layer (possibly middens)—comprising Unio shells, the bones of both wild and domesticated animals, and fish remains, along with similar material to that found closer to the dwellings, such as pottery fragments, pieces of plaster, and some broken tools and fragments of clay figurines—were excavated. The clay figurines featured various domesticated animals and human figures, primarily females. Pottery was decorated either with various incised impressions and stamps or, in later periods, with the application of paint motifs using white or black paint in spiral forms and with the application of red, black, and brown colors. Regional variability in pottery decoration is evident in the north and eastern areas of the Tripolye cultures distribution.

T. S. Passek interpreted the ploshchadki at Kolomischiina as large rectangular houses built of wattle and daub supported on a framework of wooden posts, with many ovens or kilns. These houses or structures were rectangular in plan, up to 30 meters long and 5–8 meters wide, and often about 100–120 square meters in area. Of the thirty-six dwellings at Kolomischiina, twenty-two were constructed in the above style. The structures had floors constructed from wood and clay, the latter mixed with chaff (chopped hay or straw). The fired clay was laid out in long, rectangular "rolls" or "bricks," with the gaps between them sealed by unfired clay.

Although this layer often covered the whole floor area, in certain buildings—such as building N1 at Kolomischiina—it only covered a part of the house. The clay floors are interpreted as being used in those parts of the dwellings that were used for the drying, preparation, and storage of grain.

The fired clay floors also provided a base, which was reinforced by additional layers of up to 0.2 meter in thickness, for the ovens and kilns of the large houses. The additional clay plates raised the ovens above the floor by up to 0.3 meter. At Kolomischiina these structures were shown to be rectangular in shape, about 2 by 1.8 meters or 2.0 by 2.2 meters and between 1.6 and 2.0 meters in height, and with the front walls painted red. It appears that the larger houses were portioned off, so that individual family units had their own designated living space. In each of these "apartments" the group had its own oven, grinding stones, storage vessels, and food preparation and eating vessels.

Clay models of houses have been recovered from sites such as Kolomischiina II (on the middle Dnieper River), and these reflect the general form of the houses exposed through excavation. Other clay models from Novye Rusešty and Rassokhovatka suggest that some Tripolye houses may have been two-story structures. The expansion of settlement indicates expansion of population into the latter stages of the Tripolye culture. The settlement of Kolomischiina, as discussed above, is placed in the Tripolye periods B–C1, between c. 4500–3000 b.c.: a time when the economy, population and material culture inventory of this culture reached its zenith.

See alsoSlavs and the Early Slav Culture (vol. 2, part 7).


Dolukhanov, Pavel M. The Early Slavs: Eastern Europe from the Initial Settlement to the Kievian Rus. London: Longman, 1996.

Ellis, Linda. The Cucuteni-Tripolye Culture: A Study in Technology and the Origins of Complex Society. BAR International Series, no. 217. Oxford: British Archaeological Reports, 1984.

Passek, T. S., and E. Yu. Krichevskyi. "Tripolskoe poselenie Kolomiischina (Apat rekonstrookchii)" [The Tripolye culture site of Kolomischiina: An attempt at reconstruction]. Kratkie Soobshcheniia o Doladakh I Polevykh Issledovaniiakh InstituteIstorii Materialno Kultury 12 (1946): 14–22.

Malcolm Lillie