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The Tripolye house, a sacred and profane coexistence!

Francesco Menotti (Basel University)


The latest phase of the Tripolye culture in the Ukraine is characterised by the development of so-called giant settlements. Understanding the layout of these vast villages and the internal division of the houses is germane to recognizing the identity, social order and beliefs of this fascinating culture. The lack of ‘public’ infrastructures within the settlements ‘forced’ the Tripolians to include all aspects of everyday life in their own ‘private’ premises. The dwellings’ harmonious internal division reflects the importance of people’s social interaction (oven, working space, sleeping area), as well as their link to the unknown (ceremonial altar). As a result, not only is the house a combined expression of sacred and profane architecture, but it becomes a ‘living’ entity itself, with its own biography. The house is born, lives along with people, and dies. Setting the dwelling on fire before abandoning it is seen as a ritual enactment of ‘cremating’ the dead!