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Says Utne Reader: "UCLA archaeologist Marija Gimbutas turned historical scholarship on its head in the '70s and 80s with research that depicted peace-loving, co-operation-based Goddess-worshipping societies in ancient Europe-- which were overrun in the Neolithic era by Indo-Europeans who imposed patriarchal order. Gimbutas' vision of an earth-friendly, feminine-centered spirituality has sparked religious awakening; an estimated 400,000 Americans now declare themselves neopagans, and many more with feminist or environmentalist leanings are helping revive Goddess worship."

Marija Gimbutas was listed in the Utne Reader's list of "The 20th Century: What's Worth Saving?"


Marija Gimbutas pages:  
Marija's Bio
 / Publications / What's the Debate? / Memorial /  Marija Resources 
 

About Marija Gimbutas

What allows a person to see what nobody else can see? What forces in a life create a woman who can speak her truth with passion and hold her own against ridicule and criticism?

When Marija Gimbutas died in 1994 she was already considered by many to be one of the most influential and controversial archaeologists of this century. At a time when most scholars of ancient history confined themselves to recording and describing data, she dared to look for meaning. Her interpretations engage fundamental issues: Is war inevitable? Have men always dominated women? What are the true roots of Western culture?"
I do not believe, as many archaeologists of this generation seem to, that we shall never know the meaning of prehistoric art and religion."
-- Marija Gimbutas
Marija followed the trail set in the early 19th century by female archaeologists like Jane Ellen Harrisson and historian Matilda Joslyn Gage -- women who dared to challenge the findings and criteria favored by the "establishment" of their times. Like Galileo and other "heretics," Marija Gimbutas has also shaken the foundations of her society.
"Agricultural people's beliefs concerning sterility and fertility, the fragility of life and the constant threat of destruction, and the periodic need to renew the generative processes of nature are among the most enduring. They live on in the present... The Goddess-centered religion existed for a very long time... leaving an indelible imprint on the Western psyche."
-- Marija Gimbutas
Marija followed the trail set in the early 19th century by female archaeologists like Jane Ellen Harrisson and historian Matilda Joslyn Gage -- women who dared to challenge the findings and criteria favored by the "establishment" of their times. Like Galileo and other "heretics," Marija Gimbutas has also shaken the foundations of her society.

Gimbutas' findings reveal an ancient widespread culture which flourished throughout Europe between 6500 and 3500 BCE, in the era historians call the Neolithic. This civilization was radically different from images of kings, warriors, and conquering gods that previously dominated our view of the past. "This was a long-lasting period of remarkable creativity and stability, an age free of strife. Their culture was a culture of art." -- Marija Gimbutas

Her excavations and interpretations show, at the dawn of civilization, a society stretching across Europe from the Danube to the North Sea in which women had high status and power along with men. Egalitarian and peaceful, "Old Europe" existed for thousands of years without war. Hundreds of female figurines were found. Paintings, sculptures of birth-giving goddesses, pottery figures of bird headed deities and sacred serpents all honored the regenerative powers of nature.

"The Goddess in all her manifestations was a symbol of the unity of all life in Nature. Her power was in water and stone, in tomb and cave, in animals and birds, snakes and fish, hill, trees, and flowers."
-- Marija Gimbutas

Born in Lithuania, Gimbutas grew up steeped in that country's rich folk tradition of stories, songs and mythology. Her education, pursued in Lithuania and as a refugee in war-torn Europe, included a broad range of languages, linguistics and archaeology. In the United States, she originally concentrated on the Bronze Age of Eastern Europe and was widely acknowledged as an expert in this area. When she turned to the Neolothic era, Gimbutas brought unique interdisciplinary skills to her reconstruction of culture and religion. Not content to simply catalog data, she insisted that archaeology must tackle questions of meaning and interpretation.
"Archaeological materials are not mute. They speak their own language. And they need to be used for the great source they are to help unravel the spirituality of those of our ancestors who predate the Indo-Europeans by many thousands of years."
-- Marija Gimbutas
Conventional scholars claimed that archaeology could only describe the material record of a culture. To theorize about religion was considered speculative, not scientific. Gimbutas not only dared to interpret, she maintained that to understand a culture as steeped in the sacred as Neolithic Europe, scientists must consider religion. By looking at thousands of artifacts, analyzing groups of symbols that reoccur frequently, and bringing in her extensive knowledge of mythology and linguistics, she discovered a rich symbolic language centered around the figure of the Goddess.
"The main theme of Goddess symbolism is the mystery of birth and death and the renewal of life, not only human but all life on earth and indeed in the whole cosmos."
-- Marija Gimbutas
Gimbutas' descriptions of the life affirming culture of Old Europe have sparked enormous controversy. Her theories have been widely acclaimed by feminists, by women and men in the growing earth-based spirituality movement, by artists, dancers, novelists, and by many historians and archaeologists. But they have also been attacked by other scholars, her methods criticized, and her interpretations denied. The debate is of far more than mere historical interest, for Gimbutas' work cuts to the heart of basic questions about human nature and possibilities. Are human beings innately aggressive and dominating, doomed to live in violence and destroy each other and the earth? Or are we capable of creating cultures based on co-operation and peace?
"Through an understanding of what the Goddess was, we can better understand nature and we can build our ideologies so it will be easier for us to live."
-- Marija Gimbutas
If her theories are correct, then peace, reverence for the earth and the honoring of life are not only human capabilities, they are the very underpinnings of European civilization itself.
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