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Chernoles culture or Black Forest culture (Чернолесская культура) is an Iron Age archaeological unit dating ca. 1025–700 BC. It was located in the forest-steppe between the Dniester and Dnieper Rivers, in the Black Forest[uk] (Черный лес) of Kirovohrad Oblast in central Ukraine. This location corresponds to where Herodotus later placed his Scythian ploughmen. From 200 BC, the culture was overrun by the arrival of Germanic and Celtic settlers to the region.
Chernolesian settlements include, both, open and fortified sites surrounded by multiple banks and ditches. Houses were usually surface-dwellings and of substantial size, ~ 10 x 6 m. Artifacts found in settlements include stone and bronze axes, weapons, bronze ornaments, and iron tools. Cult wheat, barley and millet were staples. The economy was agricultural with added stockbreeding. Bronze artefacts betray significant contacts with Scythian nomads, and finds of finer ceramic wares suggest contacts with Thrace and Black Sea Greek colonies. Inhabitants practiced biritual burials: inhumation under barrows and cremation in urnfields (the latter predominated in later periods).
Classical Chernoles period finished c. 500 BC, corresponding to a simplification in the material culture, interpreted to represent a pauperization due to the political domination of the forest-steppe communities by Scythians. In these latter stages, we see an increase in fortified settlements, perhaps representing a defensive measure against the nomads (with earthen ramparts, ditches and timber walls). Despite the difficulties, settlement density actually increases, and the socio-cultural traditions continued.
- Ellen D. Reeder, Esther Jacobson, Scythian gold: treasures from ancient Ukraine. San Antonio Museum of Art - 1999 - p. 352