The temple pediment from Trușești

5th millenium B.C.
Modeling, oxidant burning
110x100 cm

    The temple pediment from Trușești

    Texts: Dr. Dragomir Nicolae Popovici; photo: George Nica

    Inv.no: 15904. Dating: 5th millennium B.C. Material: clay. Dimensions: 110x100 cm. Technique: modeling; oxidant burning. Discovery place: Trușești - Țuguieta Hill.

    In 1961 the archeological dig from Trusești – Țuguieta (Botoșani County) was complete. It was the biggest prehistoric settlement ever fully explored in Romania. Apart from the numerous settlements, the beautifully painted Cucuteni ceramics, discovered in large quantities, the tools and ornaments, the excavations also reveal a few complexes, unique for this part of Europe. Clay models could be observed in several dwellings, which indicate a complex spiritual life and above all a manifestation of a very active social life.

    Dwelling no. XXIV revealed a unique religious complex in Europe. The clay mold displayed certain aspects relevant to the complex universe of the Cucuteni community. The two characters represented here suggest a universe having the human being in a central position, invested with cosmic attributes, each detail pointing to a particular world view. Strong evidence indicates that this community played an important role in phase A of the Cucuteni culture, during the 5th millennium B.C., being perhaps an important religious center for that time.

    Inside dwelling XXIV, in the central area, a monumental shrine was discovered, unique until now in the area of the Cucuteni culture. Study of the remnants suggests that it had a vertical position. However, due to the deliberate demolition of the structure, through arson, it collapsed on the floor.

    The structure of this piece reveals that it was organized on two levels, an upper and a lower one. On its upper side two human characters are represented, of different sizes, their heads shaped as a cup, each wearing a pendant around their necks with their arms in praying position. 

    The two characters are joined in the middle section through a cavity representing, most likely, pregnancy. Groups of three columns are placed on each side of the cavity, and above there are three other stylized columns. In front of the shrine there are remnants of an unspecified structure, either a table or a bench, and parts of another decorated plaque, probably from another shrine.

    Even though researchers’ opinions differ with respect to some details, there is unanimity about the general meanings. Thus, it can be seen that the most important discoveries made in this settlement are connected to the community’s spiritual life and suggest that the site played an important role for the A3 Cucuteni communities found in the region and can, therefore, be considered a tribal centre. The religious buildings represent unique findings in the cultural complex of Cucuteni-Trypillian and are a reference model. They reveal the cult practice attaining to the Great Goddess and the divine couple. The religious buildings we have been referring to represent exceptional and at the same time important findings within the Cucuteni-Trypillian cultural complex. They prove that the cults of the Grand Goddess and of the divine pair were practiced by Cucuteni communities.



    In the centre of the big depression of the Jijia river, also known as the Moldavian Plane, the sometimes fast and sometimes slow waters of the Jijia flow not far from the hill which from ancient times locals have called  the Țuguieta Hill. Bounded by the Dorohoi Valley on one side, and Bahlui steppe, on the other, the area is a genuine entrance way, by which many lost population have past. The hills which are covered by forests, the rivers, the multitude of wild animals and the rich pastures have outlined a suitable environment for human development.  

    Archaeological remains prove that some 4000 years ago the hill was inhabited for about a century and a half by a Cucuteni community. During the interwar period, ground research and small surveys were conducted by N. Constantinescu, C. D. Vasiliu, Radu Vulpe (professor at Iași University) and A. Nițu (his assistant), most of the findings being housed by the Antiquities Museum in Iasi. After World War Two, professor I. Nestor initiated an ample archaeological survey which aimed at studying a large part of the Jijia Valley in order to have a better grasp of the various human habitations, as well as their evolution.

    This ample project started in 1951, being carried out until 1959 and was resumed in 1961, when the investigation was also completed. A large group of researchers from the Moldavian Museum of History, the History and Archeological Institute of the Iași Branch of the Romanian Academy, under the supervision of professor M. Petrescu-Dîmbovița, was able to explore an area of three hectares, the biggest prehistoric settlement ever researched until present date in Romania. Ninety-eight settlements were discovered, 93 of them dated to phase A of the Cucuteni culture, when the living area was larger, and five to phase B of the Cucuteni culture, but also 62 annexes and 196 pits with multiple functionality.

    In the end it could be established that there were most likely three successive stages of habitation, all dated to stage A of the Cucuteni culture. Although the number of contemporary houses (30 for each stage), decreases significantly, it can be stated, nonetheless, that this prehistoric village was both important and large. The study of mathematical statistics on the shapes and ceramics decoration led to the following conclusions: in the first stage (Cucuteni A3) the buildings were constructed in the central area and there was also a religious building; in the following stages, the settlement extended eastward and westward. In this stage it can be observed that the buildings were placed around a small square. During their evolution, the annexes with remnants of ovens were situated in the western part of the settlement. 

    The study of ceramics, stone, silex and horn tools along with grinders and skeletal remains, belonging to different animal species, wild and domestic, also demonstrates the practice of trades and occupations, such as the cultivation of land, husbandry, spinning and weaving, hunting, all suggesting the existence of a diverse economy, adapted to existing resources.

    The settlement had a moat placed on the East side, where lays the access path to Țuguieta. Its plan has the shape of an arc, curved to the east, with a funnel-shaped profile, with a variable depth (between 1 – 2.6 m) and width (between 1.6 – 5 m). The discovery of several settlements with interior complex structures made it possible for them to be considered religious constructions. As a result the settlement was categorized as an important one, perhaps a genuine cultural center of the Cucuteni communities in this area. There is no carbon dating data for any of the surveyed structures. However, it is estimated that phase A3 of the Cucuteni culture corresponds to a settlement whose evolutionary phases can be placed in the interval 4350-4150 CAL B.C. 



    In the central area of the settlement was discovered a structure that, based on its location, received the number XXIV. Usually, a structure of this type would have had a resistance structure made out of tree trunks, whole or split, with branches in between, but also reed stalks or rush placed in between. Then, the whole structure was covered in clay that was made out of water mixed with chopped plant stalks and chaff. The floor was also made out of a wooden structure, usually split tree trunks covered with clay mixed with finely grained sand, carefully finished.

    This building in particular has pieces of burnt adobe, about five cm thick with reed traces that cover an area of 45 sq.m. Following their removal, the inventory consisted of ceramic fragments, the majority of them with a tri-chromatic picture (red, white and black). Particularly interesting is the fact that the platform is not made out of split tree trunks, used relatively frequent, but out of wooden beams, perpendicular to the long axis of the construction, demonstrating a greater concern for this structure.

    Inside, in the west wing, a religious building was discovered, of about one square meter, made out of clay that had had in the upper part the differently sized busts of two characters. Several other clay fragments lead to the conclusion that other structures existed as well. However, they could not be reconstituted. 

    Remnants of other constructions (sthat were stuck to the walls and had traces with imprints of straw and wooden stakes), placed at about 3.5 meters in the south-western corner were interpreted as annexes. Inside there were a few ceramic fragments, remnants of plate ovens, three percussions, also animal bones and a few rocks. This would allow for the hypothesis that these buildings were used in connection with the ceremonies organized in in the main structure.