Faculty Scholarly Dissemination Grants


Burial As Boundary Marker At Verteba Cave, Western Ukraine: Establishing Identity


Anthropology Department


College of Liberal Arts and Sciences


Medicine and Health Sciences


Twenty three skulls and numerous post-cranial elements associated with the Trypolie culture (known as the Cucuteni in Romania and Moldova) were excavated in 2008 and 2012 at Verteba Cave in Western Ukraine. Human activity at the site dates between 3951-2620 cal B.C., with a peak around 3500 BC. Archaeological finds point to a decline in the local population during the peak period. Burials from the peak period and earlier are extremely limited most found in isolation buried beneath house floors. Verteba Cave and Bilshivitsi Village (an above ground site ~50 km northwest of Vertebra) are now known to be the only two sites with multiple inhumations from this period in Ukraine. It has been theorized that human remains were cremated and the ashes spread on agricultural fields, although no supporting evidence has been found. The remains at Verteba suggest a new burial ritual. Two theories attempt to explain how the decline in the local population is tied to the new burial ritual. The first theory states that immigrants were moving into the area bringing with them new technologies causing intergroup conflict while the second theory suggests local intra-populational violence over increasing use in agricultural resources. Multiple cranial depression fractures and cut marks on the cranium provide evidence for interpersonal violence, while presence of very few pottery fragments from the Baden culture suggest inter-group interaction but not immigration. Increasing reliance on agricultural domesticates and the small amount of out-group pottery provide evidence for the intra-group violence theory.

Conference Name

American Anthropological Association Annual Meeting

Conference Location

Chicago, Il

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