The Living Goddesses

The Living Goddesses


By (author) Marija Gimbutas, Edited by Miriam Robbins Dexter

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  • Publisher: University of California Press
  • Format: Paperback | 306 pages
  • Dimensions: 175mm x 259mm x 20mm | 544g
  • Publication date: 12 January 2001
  • Publication City/Country: Berkerley
  • ISBN 10: 0520229150
  • ISBN 13: 9780520229150
  • Illustrations note: 78 b/w illustrations, 1 map
  • Sales rank: 196,015

Product description

The Living Goddesses crowns a lifetime of innovative, influential work by one of the twentieth-century's most remarkable scholars. Marija Gimbutas wrote and taught with rare clarity in her original--and originally shocking--interpretation of prehistoric European civilization. Gimbutas flew in the face of contemporary archaeology when she reconstructed goddess-centered cultures that predated historic patriarchal cultures by many thousands of years. This volume, which was close to completion at the time of her death, contains the distillation of her studies, combined with new discoveries, insights, and analysis. Editor Miriam Robbins Dexter has added introductory and concluding remarks, summaries, and annotations. The first part of the book is an accessible, beautifully illustrated summation of all Gimbutas's earlier work on "Old European" religion, together with her ideas on the roles of males and females in ancient matrilineal cultures. The second part of the book brings her knowledge to bear on what we know of the goddesses today--those who, in many places and in many forms, live on.

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Author information

Marija Gimbutas (1921-1994) was Professor of European Archaeology at the University of California, Los Angeles, and Curator of Old World Archaeology at what is now the Fowler Museum of Cultural History. She is the author of Goddesses and Gods of Old Europe, 7000-3500 b. c. (California, 1982) and coauthor, with Joseph Campbell, of The Language of the Goddess (1995). Miriam Robbins Dexter, who holds a Ph.D. in Indo-European studies from UCLA, is a lecturer in the Honors Collegia and in the Program in Women's Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles. She is author of Whence the Goddesses: A Source Book (1990).

Review quote

"Wide-ranging and fascinating, "The Living Goddesses "should intrigue the curious and delight most feminist scholars."--"Library Journal"

Editorial reviews

Another contribution to the much-ballyhooed theory of matriarchal prehistory, by the late feminist pioneer Gimbutas (Archaeology/UCLA; Goddesses and Gods of Old Europe, not reviewed). Gimbutas built a career around her controversial claims that before Indo-European warriors invaded around 4400 B.C., "Old Europeans" from Ireland to Italy enjoyed an agrarian, peaceful, goddess-worshiping existence. Their aesthetic standard was higher than that of other cultures of the period, with sophisticated architecture, complex linear language, and advanced farming techniques. Their religious rituals centered on birth and regeneration, with female reproductive images occupying prominent roles. Many archaeologists have criticized Gimbutas's techniques and interpretations, noting that she reads more into the physical evidence than is supportable. Are all circles eggs, for example, and is every triangle a pubic image? At times, Gimbutas's claims, which she reiterates in this volume, nearly completed before her death in 1994, border on the ridiculous, as when she argues that the bull - generally a symbol of patriarchal dominance - was really a woman-centered image for the Old Europeans because the bull's head and horns resemble the female uterus and Fallopian tubes. The latter half of the book moves to a discussion of social structure, with Gimbutas maintaining that Old Europeans had much greater respect for women's rights than their Indo-European successors. However, Gimbutas sometimes engages in a circuitous logic, claiming at once that women were socially respected because Old Europeans worshiped the goddess and that they worshiped the goddess because women were already regarded so highly. Also, Gimbutas conflates all Neolithic cultures into one "Old European" entity, missing the diversity of religion and practice among them. The book is well-written, and much credit must be given to editor Dexter (a lecturer in women's studies at UCLA), for tying together Gimbutas's last works in an eloquent manner. Full of intriguing possibilities, but Gimbutas's work is too wedded to theory and ideology, rather than to archaeological evidence, to be ultimately persuasive. (Kirkus Reviews)

Back cover copy

"The quintessence of decades of research. . . . It excellently illustrates the various manifestations of the Goddess in the Minoan world and in ancient Greece, among the Etruscans and the Basques, in Celtic, Germanic, and Baltic religion. . . . For sure, the ideas of Marija Gimbutas about the 'Old European' civilization are controversial, but they are built on strong arguments and valid bases, which make it indispensable for her dissident colleagues to take heed of her writings."--Edgar Polome, Editor of the "Journal of Indo-European Studies"The overall view of 'Old Europe' Marija Gimbutas presents is not only readable but spellbinding. . . . Archaeological findings, folklore, and historical texts, including images and texts from ancient Greece and the ancient Near East, are drawn on, and together they produce a coherent, seamless imagery."--Kees Bolle, University of California, Los Angeles