Neolithic Ukraine: the true origin of democracy?


Archaeologists discover that large Neolithic settlements in Ukraine could have functioned as a place of social gathering, debate and democratic assemblies.

Although the huge constructions of Tripolye (Ukraine) were recently identified through aerial photographs in the mid-twentieth century, today it is known that thousands of people lived there around 3,000 BC, and they are recognized as the Neolithic settlements of Maidanetske.
The Cucuteni-Tripolye culture that created them, which also extended to modern Moldova and Romania, used furnaces for ceramic works, had animal sleds, and possibly invented the wheel. Although little is known about the social functioning of communities, archaeologists are analyzing the architectural layout of the sites to better understand them: the structure of the settlements really matters in terms of social organization.
"The number of possible geometric shapes for settlements is not so high," Aleksandr Diachenko, an archaeologist at the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine specializing in Triploye culture, told Atlas Obscura.

Reconstruction of the mega-settlement Maidanetske Cucuteni-Trypillian, Ukraine

Maidanetske was the size of the first Mesopotamian cities: it did not occupy more than 250 hectares. It was built in the form of concentric rings, about 250 kilometers south of Kiev. A team of Ukrainian and German archaeologists examined the distribution of the 3,000 buildings and determined that 13 large structures probably functioned as places for public events and fulfilled some social function, perhaps hosting meetings of a political nature.

"The spatial arrangement of settlement plans suggests a unique social configuration," Robert Hofmann, an archaeologist at the Institute of Prehistory and Protohistory at the University of Kiel in Germany, told Atlas Obscura, and lead author of the study conducted by the team.

"The coexistence of 10,000 (± 5,000) people was only possible through sequential (democratic) decision-making processes, carried out at different social levels," he added. According to Atlas Obscura, the great community of Maidanetske depended on these civic centers to function; They were Neolithic trading rooms, for all kinds of prehistoric problems.
The researchers believe that most of them could house more than 1,000 people at a time. Maidanetske was clearly an organized place, and persisted for 350 years.
Archaeologists speculate that, over time, larger meeting spaces became more important than smaller ones, which fell into disuse. Hofmann suggests that changes in social organization – perhaps increasingly centralized in a way that discouraged or suppressed participation – were unsustainable.

"The case of Tripolye's mega-sites seems to be an example (…) of how humans should not govern. The dysfunctionality of social institutions, lethargy and lack of democratic participation contribute to the deterioration of the social fabric in a human society, "summarized the archaeologist.

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