Thursday, 19 September 2019

Borges-like dreaminess

From The Horse, the Wheel, and Language by David W. Anthony:

The Cucuteni-Tripolye culture first appeared around 5200—5000 BCE and survived a thousand years longer than any other part of the Old European world. Tripolye people were still creating large houses and villages, advanced pottery and metals, and female figurines as late as 3000 BCE. They were the sophisticated western neighbors of the steppe people who probably spoke Proto-Indo-European.
Cucuteni-Tripolye is named after two archaeological sites: Cucuteni, discovered in eastern Romania in 1909, and Tripolye, discovered in central Ukraine in 1899. Romanian archaeologists use the name Cucuteni and Ukrainians use Tripolye, each with its own system of internal chronological divisions, so we must use cumbersome labels like Pre-Cucuteni III/Tripolye A to refer to a single prehistoric culture. There is a Borges-like dreaminess to the Cucuteni pottery sequence: one phase (Cucuteni C) is not a phase at all but rather a type of pottery probably made outside the Cucuteni-Tripolye culture; another phase (Cucuteni Al) was defined before it was found, and never was found; still another (Cucteni A5) was created in 1963 as a challenge for future scholars, and is now largely forgotten; and the whole sequence was first defined on the assumption, later proved wrong, that the Cucuteni A phase was the oldest, so later archaeologists had to invent the Pre-Cucuteni phases I, II, and III, one of which (Pre-Cucuteni I) might not exist. The positive side of this obsession with pottery types and phases is that the pottery is known and studied in minute detail.