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Mega-Sites and Micro-Practices

Ordinary Meeting of Fellows (Fellows and Guests Only)

Mega-Sites and Micro-Practices: Issues of Scale in Ukrainian Archaeology

John Chapman, FSA, and Bisserka Gaydarska

It is now recognised that Trypillia mega-sites of the Ukraine and Moldova were the largest settlements in 4th millennium BC Europe – the largest as big as the first Near Eastern cities. The first 40 years of investigation of the Trypillia mega-sites (1971 – 2008) gave an understanding of broad planning principles but also provided exaggerated site sizes, little detail on intra-site grouping and no indication of intra-site phasing. On the basis of these results, Fletcher (1995) characterised Trypillia mega-sites as the major world exception to his limit to agrarian settlement size. The key questions for current mega-site studies include: how did such massive sites develop, how were they maintained and why did they collapse?

In the last five years, a methodological revolution has occurred, with high-precision magnetometry providing detailed settlement plans. This shows the diversification of mega-site planning through the identification of nine new elements:- internal ditches, palaeo-channels, roads, kilns, regularly occurring household clusters, pit clusters, bounded unbuilt spaces and larger ensembles of houses, as well as large public buildings. These new elements reveal a far greater degree of internal spatial ordering than was ever detectable on the older plans and facilitate an improved understanding of social space at the neighbourhood as well as the community level. These approaches are exemplified at the mega-site of Nebelivka.

Key researchers: John Chapman, Mikhail Videiko, Bisserka Gaydarska, Duncan Hale and Natalia Burdo