Depictions of Birds in the Cucuteni–Tripolye Civilisation


  • L. Bejenaru,

    Corresponding author
    1. Institute of Archaeology, Romanian Academy – Iaşi Branch, Iaşi, Romania
    2. Faculty of Biology, Alexandru Ioan Cuza University, Iaşi, Romania
    • Correspondence to: Luminiţa Bejenaru, Institute of Archaeology, Romanian Academy – Iaşi Branch, Iaşi, Romania.


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  • D. Monah

    1. Institute of Archaeology, Romanian Academy – Iaşi Branch, Iaşi, Romania
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    • Deceased


Notwithstanding the fact that few avian osteological remains have been found in the settlements of the Cucuteni–Tripolye cultural complex, birds seem to have played an important role in Cucuteni–Tripolye imagery. The earliest representation dates from the Precucuteni I phase, an ornithomorphic protome (a sculptural ornament in the form of a bird) on a vessel lid. Several vessels, known as askoï, depicting ducks exist from the Precucuteni II–Tripolye A and ornithomorphic askoï, statuettes, figurines, vessels and protomes were used during all the Cucuteni–Tripolye cultural complex phases. Starting with the Cucuteni A-B–Tripolye CI-CII phase, three-dimensional representations are supplemented by painted ornithomorphic images. They became widespread from this moment on, eventually becoming the predominant form of representation. On the face of it, ornithomorphic representations seem to be rare, but the authors managed to identify over 150 statuettes, figurines, vessels, protomes and painted images. Most of them seem to relate to ritual practices or to have cosmogonic significance. Some of the representations, but not many, are realistic enough to permit approximate species-level taxonomic identification. Most of the ornithomorphic representations are fragmentary, but the breakage may be due to deliberate, ritualistic fragmenting. They were also particularly concerned with the meanings of the ornithomorphic imagery. Taking into account the discovery conditions, the fragmentation of the artefacts and the themes depicted, the authors consider that most of the Cucuteni–Tripolye ornithomorphic representations played a key role in certain religious rituals. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.