Advanced, Overlooked Ancient European Culture Arrives in America

By Andrew Moseman | December 1, 2009 3:35 pm

thinker220You know all about the Greeks and Egyptians, and perhaps even the Hittites and Olmec. But a new exhibit featuring dazzling remains of a sophisticated yet largely unknown culture that predates them all has arrived on American soil. New York University’s Institute for the Study of the Ancient World has opened “The Lost World of Old Europe: The Danube Valley, 5000-3500 B.C.

The people showed remarkable advancement for their time. They mastered large-scale copper smelting, the new technology of the age. Their graves held an impressive array of exquisite headdresses and necklaces and, in one cemetery, the earliest major assemblage of gold artifacts to be found anywhere in the world [The New York Times].

Because these people lived before the invention of writing, we don’t know how they referred to themselves and their settlements; many scientists simply use the term “Old Europe.” It’s also difficult to determine how homogeneous the culture was, or whether Old Europe qualifies as a full-blown civilization. At its peak, around 4500 B.C., said David W. Anthony, the exhibition’s guest curator, “Old Europe was among the most sophisticated and technologically advanced places in the world” and was developing “many of the political, technological and ideological signs of civilization” [The New York Times].

The settlers are thought to have moved north from the shores of the Aegean Sea in present-day Greece, and to have established homesteads along the lower stretches of the Danube River and near the Black Sea. Archaeologists say they brought domesticated cattle and sheep with them, and engaged in rudimentary agriculture. They had a thriving trade network between settlements, and shells from the Aegean Sea, which were used in jewelry, seem to have been traded far and wide.

Gold animal figurines, tools, and terra cotta “mother goddesses” also dot the exhibition. The spectacular artifacts now on display, on loan from more than 20 museums in Romania, Bulgaria, and Moldova, have never been exhibited before in the United States [Science, Origins blog]. “The Lost World of Old Europe” will stay on display in New York City until April 25.

Related Content:
80beats: X-Rayed Mummies Show That Ancient Egyptians Had Heart Disease
80beats: For Ancient Rome, Buried Treasure Means an Empire in Crisis
80beats: First Europeans Mastered the “Stone Age Swiss Army Knife” Early On

Image: Marius Amarie. These figures, produced by some Old Europe craftsperson, were made between 5000 BC and 4600 BC.

  • Dennis

    That’s “Hittites”.

  • Andrew Moseman

    Thanks for catching the typo, Dennis. Fixed.

  • patricia martin

    Have you looked into the ancient Frisian Cultures? And, who their enemies were…where they came from, and how these ancient Women Ruled Culture stayed in power…Peacefully for thousands of years!
    Read the book entitled:
    Read it several times, the “LOST” histories of ancient Europe are there…including the 7 foot women warriors, and who the ancient and most famous “Sea King…Jon” was…where exactly the ancient Goddesses came from…plus, the gripping tale of a massive Earth Event, which changed the faces of coastal ancient Europe…Read about their laws, and their migrations into lower Europe…
    It’s quite a cliff-hanger!
    There are answers here in this grand ancient book, which will amaze you!

  • Angie

    Noted. Thank you Patty. The world needs more women like you.

  • Pat Sock

    Have you read the book explaining how the ancient Romans were so technologically advanced that they were able to build the Great Pyramids of Egypt? And they were ruled by Peaceful Wise Women in a peaceful utopia! Read the book entitled the “Deutsches Misstbuch”! It will change your understanding of history!

  • Maria Wagner

    the figurines seem to resemble Cycladic ones.
    But the whole “civilization” seems to be a further development from the one in Anatolia in Catalhoyuk of 6000BC, and earlier ones in Gobekli Tepe.

  • willa snoz

    Maria is right about continuity from Gobkli Tepe to Catalhoyuk and these people. How it happened is till being debated.

    The other posts mention some of the most fascinating hoaxes of the nineteenth century. Those are quite fun.

  • Gebeleizis

    @Maria Wagner
    Actually it’s the other way around: the ones in Anatolia represent a further development from the Danube CIVILIZATION (I don’t understand why the inverted commas were necessary), which is the most ancient in the world. The Celts are considered their “younger brothers” and to this day there are many resemblances between Irish and Romanian traditions. The earliest human bones have been discovered in the same area, and many other artifacts as well. They are believed to be the the direct descendants of the Atlantes. Maria Gimbutas’ studies bring valid arguments in this respect. She’s one of the few archaeologists who seek for truth and respects logics and science.


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