The 2009 Season

The Project’s first field season was successfully completed in August 2009. The aims of the season were to test a wide range of methodologies in the field in order to demonstrate the feasibility of the research design for phasing of the structures on a Tripolye mega-site. The mega-site selected for this season was Nebelivka, in Kirovograd Oblast, approximately half way between Kyiv and Odessa. During this season, eight methods were tested:

In addition, the Project successfully completed much of the post-excavation and post-fieldwalking sorting and preliminary quantification of pottery, daub and other finds. The remainder of the post-excavation processing of finds took place at the Kyiv Institute of Archaeology during 2009–2010.

The Nebelivka mega-site

According to Shyshkin’s (1973; 1985) aerial photography, Nebelivka shows ten rows of houses covering some 250–300 ha. The site is bounded on three sides by gulleys with streams. Fieldwalking over the South East field revealed high surface densities of Tripolye pottery and daub, covering 300 m North–South. Dense crop cover prevented an estimate of the East-West dimensions of the site.

Geophysical survey

Geophysical plot of Nebelivka mega-site, 2009 seasonGeophysical plot of Nebelivka mega-site, 2009 season

The geophysical survey by Durham University Archaeologial Services used a Bartington Grad 601-2 gradiometer to cover almost 15 ha. (165 30-x-30m grid squares) in five working days. The high-resolution plot revealed a total of over 60 burnt structures, some 10 ‘unburnt houses’, and some 20 dark ‘pit’ features. The features were organised in a highly structured form, perhaps along ‘streets’. Three of the four North – South rows were interrupted by a gap on the same orientation, in one of which was located the largest yet known Tripolye structure (60m x 20m) (Hale et al. 2010).

General view of the Southeast part of the Nebelivka mega-site from EastGeneral view of the Southeast part of the Nebelivka mega-site from East

Intra-site gridded collection

Daub densities, Nebelivka gridded collectionDaub densities, Nebelivka gridded collection

An intra-site gridded collection of surface material at Nebeklivka was made to provide a check on the distribution of magnetic anomalies in the geophysical survey. This collection took the form of a timed pick-up within 128 30-x-30m grid squares of 30 person-minutes per square. Preliminary analysis of this rich data set confirms the visual impression of a high proportion of squares with burnt features also containing much daub. The analysis of the intra-site gridded collection formed the basis of Mr. Joseph Roe’s Durham University undergraduate dissertation (Roe, n.d., since revised for publication in the Tripillia Civilization e-journal, Roe et al., in press).

Coring for daub

The coring of 16 burnt structures and three ‘pits’ was completed in three days with a team of four. It was a measure of the accuracy of the geophysicists’ grid that every magnetic anomaly was found where expected. The burnt features in the Northernmost part of the grid were located at greater depth than those in the Southern sector, suggesting better preservation in the Northern zone.

Excavation

Nebelivka House A9, after excavationNebelivka House A9, after excavation
Detail of burnt daub, Nebelivka House A9Detail of burnt daub, Nebelivka House A9
Anthropomorphic fired clay figurines, Nebelivka House A9Anthropomorphic fired clay figurines, Nebelivka House A9

The complete excavation of one burnt structure (House A9) and the sampling of two further burnt structures was completed in the three-week season (Chapman et al. 2010; Чепмен и др.2010; Chapman & Videiko 2011). House A9 (236 m2) was completely excavated by Dr. Videiko’s team. The remains of the rectangular building, nearly 18 m by 4.5–5.6 m in width, consisted of a mass of burnt daub (termed ‘ploshchadka’ in Russian) found at depths of 0.25–0.4m. A large quantity of pottery was recovered from House A9, together with smaller numbers of figurines as well as lithics and animal bones.

Daub and pottery samples were recovered from the partial excavation of two other houses. Bucket flotation of 25 samples from the burnt house yielded a very small quantity of burnt plant remains, including two seeds of Triticum sp. (identified by Dr. Charlotte O’Brien, Durham University Archaeological Services).

Sample collection

The 14C sample collection was divided into trench operations, daub coring and off-site wet-sieving. A total of 17 samples was collected from excavated House A9. A total of 24 dates has been returned so far – 19 from Kyiv and 5 from Poznań. The results of the valid dates are presented below:

ContextMaterialLabBefore Present
House A9 (Sample 1)BonePoz-325495010 ± 40
House A9 (Sample 9)DaubPoz-325535180 ± 60
House A9 (Sample 6)Cereal grainPoz-325525030 ± 40
14C dates for Nebelivka, 2009 season

This small set of 14C dates for the excavated House A9 shows a reasonably tight cluster of dates for the period Tripolye B2 as confirmed by the pottery typology. The other dates were produced by the conventional radiocarbon dating method, with insufficient concentrations of organic matter for accurate results.

Fieldwalking

Location of fieldwalked areas, summer 2009Location of fieldwalked areas, summer 2009
Fieldwalking in the Nebelivka micro-region, 2009Fieldwalking in the Nebelivka micro-region, 2009
Fieldwalking Area x, with surface scatter of Tripillian sherdsFieldwalking Area x, with surface scatter of Tripillian sherds

The fieldwalking team was able to cover 10 fields, totalling 55 ha in 66 person-days – an intensity of 120 person-days/km2. A total of four prehistoric barrows and one Late Bronze Age ‘hill-fort’ was discovered. Dispersed scatters of Tripolye sherds occurred in five fields, suggesting that the land near the mega-site was used for intensive agriculture rather than settlement. Whether or not these Tripillia sherd scatters constituted ‘manuring spreads’ is a matter for further investigation.

Peat coring

Dr. Kremenetski’s peat coring team based their work on the peat database established since the 1950s at the Ukrainian Geological Survey. Two sites were successfully cored to depths of 3m: Lisiche Balka, a small fen site 60 km East of Nebelivka, and Onoprivka, an equally small basin close to the mega-site of Vesely Kut.