Settlement in Ukraine by members of the genus Homo has been documented into distant prehistory. The Neanderthals are associated with the Molodova archaeological sites (43,000–45,000 BC) which include a mammoth bone dwelling. Gravettian settlements dating to 32,000 BC have been unearthed and studied in the Buran-Kaya cave site of the Crimean Mountains.
Around 10,000 years ago the world's longest river emptied glacier melted water through the Don and the Black Sea. From springs in Gobi it flowed along the Yenisei, which was then dammed by northern glaciers. Through the West Siberian Glacial Lake flowed about 10,000 km; It was longer than any river known today.
The late Neolithic times the Cucuteni-Trypillian Culture flourished from about 4500–3000 BC. The Copper Age people of the Cucuteni-Trypillian Culture resided in the western part, and the Sredny Stog Culture further east, succeeded by the early Bronze Age Yamna ("Kurgan") culture of the steppes, and by the Catacomb culture in the 3rd millennium BC.
During the Iron Age, these were followed by the Dacians as well as nomadic peoples like the Cimmerians (archaeological Novocherkassk culture), Scythians and Sarmatians. The Scythian Kingdom existed here from 750–250 BC. Along with ancient Greek colonies founded in the 6th century BC on the northeastern shore of the Black Sea, the colonies of Tyras, Olbia, Hermonassa, continued as Roman and Byzantine cities until the 6th century.
In the 3rd century AD, the Goths arrived in the lands of Ukraine around 250–375 AD, which they called Oium, corresponding to the archaeological Chernyakhov culture. The Ostrogoths stayed in the area but came under the sway of the Huns from the 370s. North of the Ostrogothic kingdom was the Kiev culture, flourishing from the 2nd–5th centuries, when it was overrun by the Huns. After they helped defeat the Huns at the battle of Nedao in 454, the Ostrogoths were allowed by Romans to settle in Pannonia.
With the power vacuum created with the end of Hunnic and Gothic rule, Slavic tribes, possibly emerging from the remnants of the Kiev culture, began to expand over much of the territory that is now Ukraine during the 5th century, and beyond to the Balkans from the 6th century.
In the 7th century, the territory of modern Ukraine was the core of the state of the Bulgars (often referred to as Old Great Bulgaria) with its capital city of Phanagoria. At the end of the 7th century, most Bulgar tribes migrated in several directions and the remains of their state were absorbed by the Khazars, a semi-nomadic people from Central Asia.
The Khazars founded the Khazar kingdom in the southeastern part of today's Europe, near the Caspian Sea and the Caucasus. The kingdom included western Kazakhstan, and parts of eastern Ukraine, Azerbaijan, southern Russia, and Crimea. Around 800 AD, the kingdom converted to Judaism.
In the 5th and 6th centuries, the Antes Union was located in the territory of what is now Ukraine. The Antes were the ancestors of Ukrainians: White Croats, Severians, Polans, Drevlyans, Dulebes, Ulichians, and Tiverians. Migrations from Ukraine throughout the Balkans established many Southern Slavic nations. Northern migrations, reaching almost to the Lake Ilmen, led to the emergence of the Ilmen Slavs, Krivichs, and Radimichs, the groups ancestral to the Russians. After an Avar raid in 602 and the collapse of the Antes Union, most of these peoples survived as separate tribes until the beginning of the second millennium.