Unveiling the Mother
Goddess from her
Black Earth Cover
It is awesome to think that while Sumerian culture had only begun developing and when the Egyptian pyramids were yet to be built, dozens of Trypilian towns in Ukraine had already sunk into oblivion and their ruins were covered with the grass of the forest-steppe stretching between the Dniester and Dnipro rivers.
Both the present and the future originate in the past. This is probably why adults begin to take more interest in the past. Similarly, a mature nation feels the need to elucidate its history and seek out its origins.
In our 12-year old independent Ukraine, such adults can travel through time in their own motherland. They only need to visit the village of Trypillya, not far from Kyiv. Archeologists and historians all over the world already know of this place and of the artifacts, excavated in this area, to be from one of the oldest civilizations on Earth.
A number of scientists hold that the ancestors of the Trypilians were nomadic tribes that came to the ancient Dnipro basin from the Mediterranean. Ukraine's fertile black earth prompted the Neolithic revolution — the first bloodless revolution in history — that marked the transition from livestock breeding on pastures to settled farming. The remnants of Trypilian settlements are scattered all over Ukraine and are even found in adjacent countries. This primordial civilization of grain growers flourished, particularly along the middle reaches of the Dnipro, where they formed the state of Aratta (Oriana).
Six thousand years ago life was in full swing in Aratta towns, the largest of which exceeded ancient Rome and medieval Kyiv, occupying up to 500 hectares and accommodating as many as 25,000 inhabitants.
This Trypilian culture was the earliest known civilization on the territory of present-day Ukraine. It was ruled by honored priests, who were held in high esteem by the population, and the civilization developed a kind of primitive democracy: excavations of Trypilian settlements revealed no trace of social stratification in society. Vast spans of black earth in the Dnipro basin were apparently enough for all the citizens of Aratta. At that time, a "golden era" in Ukraine's history, there were virtually no wars between the Trypilian tribes. Indeed, there was no cause for war: the soil was in abundance and waited for tillage.
The Trypilian culture existed from 5000 to 2000 BC and made an impact on all peoples that lived between the Balkans and Sumer. Historians believe that short black-haired Trypilians were assimilated by stately fair-haired Aryans who came to prehistoric Ukraine from Scandinavia. Yet even now, Ukrainian girls bear the alluring brown eyes, black eyebrows and waist-long plaits inherited from their Trypilian ancestors through the conservative female genotype.
Such implements as the plough, the sickle, the sledge and the cart, as well as grain, metal and fabric, were used on Ukrainian lands during the Trypilian era. Wheat, rye, oats and other domesticated plants familiar to modern Ukrainians have been cultivated on our soil from that time. It was in Oriana that the idyllic Ukrainian dream took its shape: a house surrounded by a cherry orchard, a cow, a horse and hens in the yard, a plot of land behind the barn, and a sweet pipe tune flowing over the village.
Women in Ukrainian villages still decorate their houses with Trypilian ornaments the meaning of which have long been forgotten. For thousands of years, Ukrainian carpets, towels, shirts and Easter eggs have borne the symbol of the eternal family tree, which is rooted in the Trypilian era. The ear of wheat- a life-giving symbol of native land — has graced folk art since the times of Aratta.
Prehistoric Trypilians left us wonderfully painted ceramics — pottery, jewelry, figurines, mockups of houses and even toys for children. Moreover, they passed down to us the cult of the Mother-Goddess, from which originated Ukrainian Berehynia — the protector of home and hearth, "kith and kin".
The Trypilian civilization was discovered by Vikentij Khvoika, a pioneering Ukrainian archeologist of Czech origin.
In the spring of 1893 peasants brought Khvoika pieces of ancient pottery and tools which they had ploughed out of fields near Trypillya. In the process of excavating the artifacts the young archeologist discovered the remains of a culture he called "Trypilian". Khvoika and his assistants unearthed and studied more than 1,200 Trypilian settlements all over Ukraine. The greatest number of artifacts was found on the Kaniv plateau, where the remains of Trypilian culture were lavishly scattered from Trypillya and Shcherbanivka to Rzhyshchiv and Ulianyky.
The Trypilian findings did not, of course, fit into the official historical-ideological paradigm in which Ukraine was assigned the role of the barbarian "periphery" to the Great Russian Empire. Therefore, we have only now begun to learn about the culture of those who dwelled our lands before.
Today the cause of Vikentij Khvoika and his archeological school has been taken up by Ukrainian scholars and devoted enthusiasts from the Kyiv-based "Kolo-Ra" Society. The Director of this Society, Oleksiy Tkachuk says, "Ukraine has a great obligation to all mankind to preserve the records of primordial Trypilian civilization and foster access to them." It is this desire to do good that brings concerned Ukrainians to archeological excavation sites and helps them overcome the wall of mistrust to endow Ukraine with the treasures of its ancient history.
Archeologists strive to restore the records of primordial Ukrainian civilization for posterity by means of historic reconstruction. It is a difficult task since our ancestors left neither pyramids nor temples with obelisks nor palaces; they made their huts and figurines from clay and carved pipes from wood. Alas, clay and wood cannot stand the relentless test of time.
One such archeological site appeared on the outskirts of Rzhyshchev quite unexpectedly, like a window to Ukraine's past. Young boys and girls — students from Rzhyshchev and Pereyaslav — were assiduously excavating what remained of the dwelling of ancient Trypilians. They say that a 3-meter layer of black earth is literally packed with Trypilian artifacts.
On my own visit I walked up to a recently excavated grain mill, knelt down in front of a heavy millstone and, pouring some grain on the "working table", tried to imagine the ancient woman who toiled over this primitive instrument. Lifting my eyes, I was barely able to suppress a cry of surprise: a woman stood nearby and smiled at me, as if across the ages, both intriguing and beguiling. She wore a wonderful linen dress girded by a whipcord belt with terracotta decorations, which exactly matched those of the long-dead Trypilian I was pondering. She and the others around her laughed at me in enjoyment at the effect their beautiful and ancient garb had produced on me. I have to thank Zinaida Vasina, a stagecraft and costume designer from the National Opera House and a famous Ukrainian restorer of ancient clothes, for this amazing reproduction of a millennia-old culture. While I sat there dumfounded she was beaming at me with joy from a few feet away.
There is a primitive oven near the grain mill which burns today as it did 7,000 years ago. The inhabitants of Oriana used such ovens for baking clay pots and figurines. Here those clay implements lie on the grass, raw and therefore white, and look very pretty against the background of green. The figurines of the Mother-Goddess are particularly eye-catching with their splendid and pure forms covered with magic tattoos. Such statuettes are found in every Trypilian house discovered, because at that time each house was a small temple to the cult of the Mother-Goddess. Lyudmila Smolyakova, who lives in Kyiv and specializes in restoring ancient ceramics, gives these pots and figurines a second life. Along with small statuettes identical to those found at excavation sites, Lyudmila has mastered the modeling of larger objects: she has made sculptures of goddesses to the size of human beings, and those statues now stand in the Trypilian public garden in Rzhyshchev. Her dream is to "populate" Kyiv parks with such sculptures.
Ukraine's rich archeological treasures need to be studied, popularized and protected and need to be saved from opportunism and ignorance. This needs to be done against the high probability that, for example, a figurine of the Mother-Goddess which has lain in the earth for several millennia will end up in the hands of "black" archeologists. It is now possible to buy a genuine Trypilian pot, which could embellish any museum collection, at the market in Cherkasy or Uman for just $3. It often happens in Ukraine that the remains of ancient burials sites and settlements perish under the blade of a bulldozer. The plundered records of ancient Olviya are still crying for protection… Specialists believe that the main reason for this state of affairs is the greed and ignorance of common citizens. Young Ukrainians familiar with the rich national history cannot but come out in defense of its records.
At present, the "Kolo-Ra" Society and the Institute of Archeology at the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine are setting up a cultural and educational archeological complex at the excavation site near Rzhyshchev. The interest in "journeys into the past" which is on the rise all over the world has finally reached Ukraine.
Luckily, the local authorities have understood the importance of this project for the education of Ukrainian youth. Rzhyshchev City State Administration decided to allocate 6 hectares of land for the creation of a "Trypilian city" — a complex of reconstructed settlements of the neolithic and bronze epochs, the times of Princes and Cossacks. Valeriy Tsybukh, Director of the State Tourist Administration of Ukraine, thinks that with time, Rzhyshchev has a chance of becoming a major tourist attraction in the country on the scale of Kamyanets-Podilskiy, Subotiv and Chyhyryn.
Reconstruction has been planned for 37 dwellings and domestic facilities in four settlements. Visitors to the Trypilian city will be shown patterns of ancient garments, decorations, hairdos and tattoos as well as the rites of our ancestors. A scientific museum center with a library and a conference hall will be built near the restored settlements. There are plans to build an international tourist center with a hotel for 100 visitors around this complex. The total cost of this project amounts to $3.15 million.
As much as UAH 1.8 million, over half the total sum, is expected to come from the Kyiv region budget. The rest is being sought among enthusiasts, domestic and foreign investors, new Ukrainian patrons of culture, tourist agencies, and publishing businesses, as the latter will print all available interesting publicity materials.
A one-day Trypilian tour, costing about UAH 50 per person, has already been developed. The tour runs from the original excavation sites near Trypillya to the suburbs of Rzhyshchev. Even the names of the sites are musical to Ukrainian archeologists: Ulianyky village, the Ripnytsia ravine, the Balyky tract, the Ivan-hora settlement — all of them bear witness to the significant discoveries of Trypilian artifacts.
It is hoped that on the chain of beautiful tourist sites adorning Ukraine, this tourist area will be a sparkling gem.. There is also a real chance that the site will become a part of the "Golden Ring of the Kyiv region," which runs along a small, but densely populated circuit: Kyiv-Trypillya-Rzhyshchev-Kaniv-Pereyaslav-Khmelnytskiy-Kyiv).
Records of Trypilian culture are in abundance between the Dnipro and Dniester rivers, so the development of the archeological sightseeing tour called "The Golden Ring of Ukraine" that runs through several regions of our country is under way. The ancient Trypilian Mother-Goddess is being revived and returned to her descendants.