Who Ruled over Europe During The Neolithic – The Cucuteni Culture
History almost always has a sense of irony if looked at from a high enough vantage point. In what is now the poorest region of Europe, one of the most advanced cultures had flourished during the Neolithic period of history. Somewhere between 6,000 to 3,500 BC, an area roughly the size of 140,000 sq mi, which now make up northeastern Romania, Moldavia and large parts of western Ukraine were home to the Cucuteni culture.
Named after the village of Cucuteni in Iasi county, Romania, the first evidence of their existence was discovered back in 1884. Later excavations have unearthed over 3,000 other sites throughout the region, raging from small villages to “vast settlements consisting of hundreds of dwellings surrounded by multiple ditches”; the largest settlements of the Neolithic period ever found. The largest had an astounding 2,700 structures. One particular settlement in Bacau county, Romania is shown to have been rebuilt over older, burned-down buildings, 15 times over, in a time-span of several centuries.
People of the Cucuteni civilization were quite advanced, practicing animal husbandry, agriculture and fishing, in addition to hunting and gathering. Like in many earlier cultures, women did the stay-at-home jobs like weaving, pottery, milling grain and baking bread. Men, as you would expect, made tools and went hunting. Their settlements were build close to water bodies, with the most found being concentrated mainly in the Siret, Prut, and Dniester river valleys. Some houses were even two stories high and presented themselves with many storage areas for different foods and grains.
Like many other prehistoric civilizations, the Cucuteni culture made their dwellings in the form of hovels, being partially buried as to prevent invading forces from spotting them. This technique also offered insulation from the elements in both winter and summer. Among the many artifacts found throughout these settlements, there was also a toy bull with wheels for feet, suggesting that they knew about the wheel. Even though the oldest official wheel to have ever been found dates back 5150 years ago, this toy is several centuries older and it is a high chance that the Cucuteni people were the first to invent it.
Many advanced examples of pottery and jewelry have been unearthed, with some of them exhibiting the yin-yang and swastika symbols. These date at least 1,000 years prior to these symbols emerging is Asia, especially in China and India. Various sculptures and figurines point out that the Cucuteni culture was worshiping a cult of goddesses and a possible indication to their society being matriarchal. This means that women held positions of power, inheriting and transferring property, instead of men.
It is almost impossible to say what caused their eventual demise as the most advanced civilization in Europe, but archaeological evidence seems to indicate that it wasn’t war or invading forces. Since no military weapons have ever been found among these sites, it is somewhat safe to say that these people, like today, were not particularly warmongering and didn’t suffer a fate based on it. The most probable culprit is climate change which progressively made the region colder and more arid.