Cherniakhov Culture

Cherniakhov Culture


an archaeological culture that flourished from the turn of the third century to the turn of the fifth century in the forest steppe and steppe, from the lower Danube in the west to the left bank of the Dnieper in the east. It is named after a burial ground near the village of Cherniakhov in Kagarlyk Raion, Kiev Oblast. In Rumania, the Cherniakhov culture is called Syntana-de-Mures.

The settled agricultural and stock-raising tribes of the Cherniakhov culture lived in large unfortified settlements; dwellings, both ground-level and subterranean, were arranged in rows. The area of some ground-level houses, probably belonging to large patriarchal families, exceeded 100 sq m. Land cultivation was characterized by improvements of the plow and ralo with iron tips (seeRALO), the probable use of oxen and horses as draft animals, and an increase in the number of cereals cultivated; increasingly more land was placed under cultivation. Ironworking, blacksmithing, bronze casting, stonecutting, and bone carving were well developed, with artisans working mainly to order rather than for the open market. Pottery (bowls, pitchers) was generally made on a potter’s wheel. Trade with nearby Roman centers flourished. Imported items, such as amphorae in which wine and olive oil were transported, glass goblets, and, more rarely, red-laquered vessels, both intact and in fragments, were found at all sites of the Cherniakhov culture. Roman coins were used in internal and external trade. Certain features of the Cherniakhov culture were formed under the influence of late classical culture.

In the funerary rites of the Cherniakhov culture, both cremation (fields of burial urns) and inhumation were practiced, with the latter predominating. The majority of researchers believe that the Cherniakhov culture was formed by tribes of differing ethnic origin (Dacians, Sarmatians, Germans, late Scythians and Venedy-Slavs), mentioned by ancient authors as living in the area that the culture occupied. The theory of the polyethnic background of the Cherniakhov culture is corroborated in particular by the presence of local differences in house construction, pottery, and burial rites. The theory that the Cherniakhov culture was destroyed by the incursion of the Huns in the late fourth century is the most probable, although there is also a hypothesis that it eventually evolved into the ancient Slavic culture and even the ancient Russian culture.


Cherniakhovskaia kul’tura. Moscow, 1960. (Materialy i issledovaniiapo arkheologii SSSR, no. 82.)
“Problemy izucheniia cherniakhovskoi kul’tury.” Kratkie soobshcheniia Instituía arkheologii, fasc. 121. Moscow, 1970.