The Chernoles culture is an Iron Age archaeological unit dating ca. 1025–700 BC. It was located in the forest-steppe between the Dniester and Dnieper Rivers, in what is now northern Ukraine.



Chernolian settlements include, both, open and fortified sites surrounded by multiple bankcs and ditches. Houses were usually surface-dwellings and of substantial size, ~ 10 x 6 m. Artefacts found in settlements include stone and bronze axes, weapons, bronze ornaments, and iron tools. Cult wheat, barley and millet were staples. The economy was agricultural with added stockbreeding. Bronze artefacts betray significant contacts with Scythian nomads, and finds of finer ceramic wares sugest contacts with Thrace and Black Sea Greek colonies. Inhabitants practiced biritual burials: inhumation under barrows and cremation in urnfields (the latter predominated in later periods).


There is general agreement that Chernoles culture was largely continuous with the preceding Komarov and Bilogrudivka cultures, albeit with increased Scythian influences. In turn, the Komarov culture developed out of local eastern Corded Ware traditions which were enriched by stimuli from the central European Tumulus and Transylvanian Otomani cultures. Gimbutas argues that there existed a cultural continuity which spanned back to the arrival of the Indo-Europeans.

Classical Chernoles period finished c. 500 BC, corresponding to a simplification in the material culture, interpreted to represent a pauperization due to the political domination of the forest-steppe communities by Scythians. In these latter stages, we see an increase in fortified settlements, perhaps representing a defensive measure against the nomads (with earthen ramparts, ditches and timber walls). Despite the difficulties, settlement density actually increases, and the socio-cultural traditions continued. From 200 BC, the archaeological picture changes dramatically, with the arrival of Sarmatian, and later, Gothic groups to the region.

Ethnic affinityEdit

The culture is of particular interest to those seeking the ethnogenesis of the Slavs in the forest steppe. Indeed, the location corresponds to where the most archaic Slavic hydronyms are found, according to supporters of Trubachev. This location also corresponds to where Herodotus later placed his "Scythian ploughmen". Dolukhanov and Gimbutas argue that they were agricultural proto-Slavic communities. Dolukhanov proposes that the previously homogeneous cultures of the forest-steppe and mixed forest zones, representing a continuum of Balto-Slavic communities, began to disintegrate by the late first millenium BC. The stimulus for such a differentiation was an increased reliance on more sophisticated types of agriculture in the forest steppe, whilst more northerly communities used primarily stock-rearing with added swidden ("slash-and-burn") agriculture. With the inclusion of forest-steppe communities into the "Scythian network", the evolution of proto-Slavic stock began.


ru:Чернолесская культура uk:Чорноліська культура

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