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Durham University

Department of Archaeology


Publication details for Professor John Chapman

Gaydarska, Bisserka, Nebbia, Marco & Chapman, John (2020). Trypillia Megasites in Context: Independent Urban Development in Chalcolithic Eastern Europe. Cambridge Archaeological Journal 30(1): 97-121.

Author(s) from Durham


The Trypillia megasites of the Ukrainian forest steppe formed the largest fourth-millennium bc sites in Eurasia and possibly the world. Discovered in the 1960s, the megasites have so far resisted all attempts at an understanding of their social structure and dynamics. Multi-disciplinary investigations of the Nebelivka megasite by an Anglo-Ukrainian research project brought a focus on three research questions: (1) what was the essence of megasite lifeways? (2) can we call the megasites early cities? and (3) what were their origins? The first question is approached through a summary of Project findings on Nebelivka and the subsequent modelling of three different scenarios for what transpired to be a different kind of site from our expectations. The second question uses a relational approach to urbanism to show that megasites were so different from other coeval settlements that they could justifiably be termed ‘cities'. The third question turns to the origins of sites that were indeed larger and earlier than the supposed first cities of Mesopotamia and whose development indicates that there were at least two pathways to early urbanism in Eurasia.