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Durham University

Department of Archaeology


Publication details for Professor John Chapman

Chapman, John (2017). The Standard Model, the Maximalists and the Minimalists: New Interpretations of Trypillia Mega-Sites. Journal of World Prehistory 30(3): 221-237.

Author(s) from Durham


The currently prevailing view of the Trypillia mega-sites of the fourth millennium BC has been the dominant model for over 40 years: they were extra-large settlement examples of the Childean ‘Neolithic package’ of permanent settlement, domesticated plants and animals, and artifact assemblages containing polished stone tools and pottery. Trypillia mega-sites have therefore been viewed as permanent, long-term settlements comprising many thousands of people. This view of these extraordinary sites has been identical whatever the various opinions on their urban or other status. In recent mega-site publications, a maximalist gloss has been put on this standard view—with population estimates as high as 46,000 people (Rassmann et al. in J Neolit Archaeol 16: 96–134, 2014). However, doubts about the standard view have been emerging over the past two decades. As a result of the last six years’ intensive investigations, a tipping point has been reached, with as many as nine lines of independent evidence combining to create such doubts that the only logical response is to replace the standard model (not to mention the maximalist model) with a version of the minimalist model that envisions a less permanent, more seasonal settlement mode, or a smaller permanent settlement involving coeval dwelling of far fewer people (the ‘middle way’). In this article, I seek to construct an evidential basis for the alternatives to the standard view of Trypillia mega-sites.