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Marija Gimbutas by Kerbstone 52, at the back of Newgrange, Co. Meath, Ireland, in September 1989.

Marija Gimbutas (Lithuanian: Marija Gimbutienė) (Vilnius, January 23, 1921 – Los Angeles, United States February 2, 1994), was a Lithuanian-American archeologist known for her research into the Neolithic and Bronze Age cultures of "Old Europe", a term she introduced. Her works published between 1946 and 1971 introduced new views by combining traditional spadework with linguistics and mythological interpretation, but earned a mixed reception by other professionals.

Contents

Early life

Gimbutas was born as Marija Birutė Alseikaitė to Veronika Janulaitytė-Alseikienė and Danielius Alseika in Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania. Her parents were members of the Lithuanian intelligentsia, a social class which rose from the farming class during imperial Russian rule.[1] Her mother received doctorate in ophthalmology at the University of Berlin in 1908 and became the first female physician in Lithuania, while her father had received his medical degree from the University of Tartu in 1910. After the 1917 Russian Revolution, Gimbutas' parents had founded the first Lithuanian hospital in the capital.[1] During this period, her father also served as the publisher of the newspaper Vilniaus Žodis and the cultural magazine Vilniaus Šviesa and was an outspoken proponent of Lithuanian independence during the war against Poland.[2] Gimbutas' parents were connoisseurs of traditional Lithuanian folk arts and frequently invited contemporary musicians, writers, and authors to their home, such as Vydūnas, Juozas Tumas-Vaižgantas, and Jonas Basanavičius.[3] With regard to her strong cultural upbringing, Gimbutas said:

I had the opportunity to get acquainted with writers and artists such as Vydunas, Vaižgantas, even Basanavičius, who was taken care of by my parents. When I was four or five years old, I would sit in Basanavičius's easy chair and I would feel fine. And later, throughout my entire life, Basanavičius's collected folklore remained extraordinarily important for me.[3]

Gimbutas settled in the temporary capital of Lithuania of Kaunas with her parents in 1931, where she continued her studies. That year, her parents separated and she lived with her mother and brother, Vytautas, in Kaunas. Five years later, her father died suddenly. At her father's deathbed, Gimbutas pledged that she would study to become a scholar: "All of a sudden I had to think what I shall be, what I shall do with my life. I had been so reckless in sports—swimming for miles, skating, bicycle riding. I changed completely and began to read."[4][5]

For the next few years, she participated in ethnographic expeditions to record traditional folklore and studied Lithuanian beliefs and rituals of death.[1] She graduated with honors from Aušra Gymnasium in Kaunas in 1938 and enrolled in the Vytautas Magnus University the same year, where she studied linguistics in the Department of Philology. She then attended University of Vilnius to pursue graduate studies in archaeology under Jonas Puzinas, linguistics, ethnology, folklore and literature.[1] In 1941, she married architect Jurgis Gimbutas. The following year, she completed her master's thesis, "Modes of Burial in Lithuania in the Iron Age", with honors.[1]

Gimbutas lived through great turmoil in her homeland during the Second World War, which was under successive Soviet and Nazi occupation from 1940–1941 and 1941–1943, respectively.[6] A year after the birth of their first daughter, Danuté, in June 1942, the young Gimbutas family fled the country in the wake of the Soviet re-occupation, first to Vienna and then to Innsbruck and Bavaria.[7] In her reflection of this turbulent period, Gimbutas remarked, "Life just twisted me like a little plant, but my work was continuous in one direction."[8] In 1946, Gimbutas received a doctorate in archaeology, with minors in ethnology and history of religion, from Tübingen University with her dissertation "Prehistoric Burial Rites in Lithuania" (in German), which was published later that year.[7] While holding a postdoctoral fellowship at Tübingen the following year, Gimbutas gave birth to her second daughter, Živilé. The Gimbutas family left Germany and relocated to the United States in 1949.[7][9][10]

Career

After arriving in the United States, Gimbutas immediately went to work at Harvard University translating Eastern European archaeological texts. She then became a lecturer in the Department of Anthropology. In 1955 she was made a Fellow of Harvard's Peabody Museum.

Kurgan hypothesis

In 1956 Gimbutas introduced her Kurgan hypothesis, which combined archaeological study of the distinctive Kurgan burial mounds with linguistics to unravel some problems in the study of the Proto-Indo-European (PIE) speaking peoples, whom she dubbed the "Kurgans"; namely, to account for their origin and to trace their migrations into Europe. This hypothesis, and the act of bridging the disciplines, has had a significant impact on Indo-European studies.

During the 1950s and early 1960s, Gimbutas earned a reputation as a world-class specialist on the Indo-European Bronze Age, as well as on Lithuanian folk art and the prehistory of the Balts and Slavs, partly summed up in her definitive opus, Bronze Age Cultures of Central and Eastern Europe (1965). In her work she reinterpreted European prehistory in light of her backgrounds in linguistics, ethnology, and the history of religions, and challenged many traditional assumptions about the beginnings of European civilization.

As a professor of archaeology at UCLA from 1963 to 1989, Gimbutas directed major excavations of Neolithic sites in southeastern Europe between 1967 and 1980, including Sitagroi and Achilleion in Thessaly (Greece). Digging through layers of earth representing a period of time before contemporary estimates for Neolithic habitation in Europe — where other archaeologists would not have expected further finds — she unearthed a great number of artifacts of daily life and of religious cults, which she researched and documented throughout her career.

Late feminist archaeology

Gimbutas gained unexpected fame — and notoriety — with her last three books: The Goddesses and Gods of Old Europe (1974); The Language of the Goddess (1989), which inspired an exhibition in Wiesbaden, 1993/94; and her final book, The Civilization of the Goddess (1991), which presented an overview of her speculations about Neolithic cultures across Europe: housing patterns, social structure, art, religion, and the nature of literacy.

The Civilization of the Goddess articulated what Gimbutas saw as the differences between the Old European system, which she considered goddess- and woman-centered ("matristic"), and the Bronze Age Indo-European patriarchal ("androcratic") culture which supplanted it. According to her interpretations, gynocentric and gylanic societies were peaceful, they honored homosexuals, and they espoused economic equality.

The "androcratic", or male-dominated, Kurgan peoples, on the other hand, invaded Europe and imposed upon its natives the hierarchical rule of male warriors.

Gimbutas' books and papers are housed, along with those of her colleague, mythologist Joseph Campbell, at the Joseph Campbell and Marija Gimbutas Library on the campus of the Pacifica Graduate Institute in Carpinteria, just south of Santa Barbara, California.

In 1993, Marija Gimbutas received an honorary doctorate at Vytautas Magnus University in Kaunas, Lithuania. On 2 February 1994, Gimbutas died in Los Angeles. Soon afterwards she was interred in Kaunas' Petrašiūnai Cemetery.

Assessment

Marija Gimbutienė commemorative plaque in Kaunas, Mickevičius Street

Joseph Campbell and Ashley Montagu[11][12] each compared the importance of Marija Gimbutas' output to the historical importance of the Rosetta Stone in deciphering Egyptian hieroglyphs. Campbell provided a foreword to a new edition of Gimbutas' The Language of the Goddess (1989) before he died, and often said how profoundly he regretted that her research on the Neolithic cultures of Europe had not been available when he was writing The Masks of God.

Criticism

David Anthony, professor of anthropology at Hartwick College, disputed Gimbutas's assertion that there was a widespread matriarchal society prior to the Kurgan incursion, and pointed out that Europe had hillforts and weapons, and presumably warfare, long before the Kurgan.[12]

Andrew Fleming, in "The Myth of the Mother Goddess" (World Archaeology 1969),[13] disagreed with Gimbutas's idea that Neolithic spirals, circles, and dots were symbols for eyes; that eyes, faces, and genderless figures were symbols of a female; or that certain of Gimbutas' female figures were symbols of a goddess or goddesses. Critics also point to grave goods as characterizing more familiar Neolithic gender roles, for which they allege Gimbutas did not account, and question her emphasis on female figures when many male or asexual figures were also found at archaeological sites. Peter Ucko[14] speculated that Gimbutas's alleged fertility figures were nothing more than Neolithic dolls and toys.

Gimbutas' attempts at deciphering Neolithic signs as ideograms, in The Language of the Goddess (1989), received the stiffest scholarly resistance of all her speculations.

Influence on Neo-Pagan movement

Gimbutas's theories have been extended and embraced by a number of authors in the Neopagan movement, although her peers often regarded Gimbutas's conclusions as speculative. Gimbutas did identify the diverse and complex Paleolithic and Neolithic female representations she recognized as depicting a single universal Great Goddess, but also as manifesting a range of female deities: snake goddess, bee goddess, bird goddess, mountain goddess, Mistress of the Animals, etc., which were not necessarily ubiquitous throughout Europe.

In a tape entitled "The Age of the Great Goddess," she discusses the various manifestations of the Goddess which occur, and stresses the ultimate unity behind them all of the Earth as feminine.

In 2004, filmmaker Donna Read and Neopagan author and activist Starhawk released a collaborative documentary film about the life and work of Gimbutas, Signs Out of Time.

See also

References

  1. ^ a b c d e Ware & Braukman 2004, p. 234.
  2. ^ Marler 1998, p. 114.
  3. ^ a b Marler 1998, p. 115.
  4. ^ Marler 1998, p. 116.
  5. ^ Marler 1997, p. 9.
  6. ^ Ware & Braukman 2004, pp. 234–235.
  7. ^ a b c Ware & Braukman 2004, p. 235.
  8. ^ Marler 1998, p. 118.
  9. ^ Chapman 1998, p. 300.
  10. ^ Marler 1998, p. 119.
  11. ^ "According to anthropologist Ashley Montagu, "Marija Gimbutas has given us a veritable Rosetta Stone of the greatest heuristic value for future work in the hermeneutics of archaeology and anthropology." [1]
  12. ^ a b Peter Steinfels (1990) Idyllic Theory Of Goddesses Creates Storm. NY Times, February 13, 1990
  13. ^ Fleming 1969
  14. ^ Peter UCKO: Institute of Archaeology UCL

Sources

  • Chapman, John (1998), "The impact of modern invasions and migrations on archaeological explanation: A biographical sketch of Marija Gimbutas", in Díaz-Andreu, Margarita; Sørensen, Marie Louise Stig, Excavating Women: A History of Women in European Archaeology, New York: Routledge, pp. 295–314, ISBN 0-415-15760-9  .
  • Häusler, Alexander (1995), "Über Archäologie und den Ursprung der Indogermanen", in Kuna, Martin; Venclová, Natalie, Whither archaeology? Papers in honour of Evzen Neustupny, Prague: Institute of Archaeology, pp. 211–229, ISBN 8090193404  .
  • Marler, Joan (1997), Realm of the Ancestors: An Anthology in Honor of Marija Gimbutas, Manchester, Connecticut: Knowledge, Ideas & Trends, ISBN 1879198258  .
  • Marler, Joan (1998), "Marija Gimbutas: Tribute to a Lithuanian Legend", in LaFont, Suzanne, Women in Transition: Voices from Lithuania, Albany, New York: State University of New York Press, ISBN 0-7914-3811-2  .
  • Meskell, Lynn (1995), "Goddesses, Gimbutas and 'New Age' Archaeology", Antiquity 69: 74–86  .
  • Ware, Susan; Braukman, Stacy Lorraine (2004), Notable American Women: A Biographical Dictionary Completing the Twentieth Century, Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, ISBN 0-674-01488-X  .

Works

  • Gimbutas, Marija 1946. Die Bestattung in Litauen in der vorgeschichtlichen Zeit. Tübingen: In Kommission bei J.C.B. Mohr.
  • Gimbutas, Marija: Ancient symbolism in Lithuanian folk art. Philadelphia: American Folklore Society , 1958. Memoirs of the American Folklore Society 49.
  • Gimbutas, Marija ,1961. "Notes on the chronology and expansion of the Pit-grave culture", in J. Bohm & S. J. De Laet (eds), L’Europe à la fin de 1’Age de la pierre: 193-200. Prague: Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences.
  • Gimbutas, Marija 1963. The Balts. London : Thames and Hudson, Ancient peoples and places 33.
  • Gimbutas, Marija 1965. Bronze Age cultures in Central and Eastern Europe. The Hague/London: Mouton.
  • Colin Renfrew, Marija Gimbutas and Ernestine S. Elster 1986. Excavations at Sitagroi, a prehistoric village in northeast Greece. Vol. 1. Los Angeles : Institute of Archaeology, University of California, 1986, Monumenta archaeologica 13.
  • Marija Gimbutienė 1985. Baltai priešistoriniais laikais : etnogenezė, materialinė kultūra ir mitologija. Vilnius: Mokslas.
  • Gimbutas, Marija 1974. The Goddesses and Gods of Old Europe
  • Marija Gimbutas (ed.) 1976. Neolithic Macedonia as reflected by excavation at Anza, southeast Yugoslavia. Los Angeles: Institute of Archaeology, University of California, 1976. Monumenta archaeologica 1.
  • Marija Gimbutas 1977. "The first wave of Eurasian steppe pastoralists into Copper Age Europe", Journal of Indo-European Studies 5: 277-338.
  • Marija Gimbutas 1980. "The Kurgan wave #2 (c.3400-3200 BC) into Europe and the following transformation of culture", Journal of Indo-European Studies 8: 273-315.
  • Marija Gimbutas 1989. The Language of the Goddess.
  • Marija Gimbutas, Shan Winn, Daniel Shimabuku, 1989. "Achilleion: a Neolithic settlement in Thessaly, Greece, 6400-5600 B.C." Los Angeles: Institute of Archaeology, University of California, Los Angeles. Monumenta archaeologica 14.
  • Marija Gimbutas 1991. The Civilization of the Goddess
  • Gimbutas, Marija 1992. Die Ethnogenese der europäischen Indogermanen. Innsbruck: Institut für Sprachwissenschaft der Universität Innsbruck, Innsbrucker Beiträge zur Sprachwissenschaft , Vorträge und kleinere Schriften 54.
  • Dexter, Miriam Robbins and Karlene Jones-Bley 1997 (eds), The Kurgan culture and the Indo-Europeanization of Europe. Selected articles from 1952 to 1993 by M. Gimbutas. Journal of Indo-European Studies monograph 18, Washington DC: Institute for the Study of Man.
  • Gimbutas, Marija, edited and supplemented by Miriam Robbins Dexter, 1999 The Living Goddesses. Berkeley/Los Angeles: University of California Press.
  • Dexter, Miriam Robbins and Edgar C. Polomé, eds. 1997, "Varia on the Indo-European Past: Papers in Memory of Marija Gimbutas." Journal of Indo-European Studies Monograph #19. Washington, DC: The Institute for the Study of Man.

External links


Simple English

[[File:|thumb|right|187px|Marija Gimbutas by Kerbstone 52, at the back of Newgrange, Co. Meath, Ireland, in September 1989.]]

Marija Gimbutas (Lithuanian: Marija Gimbutienė, born Marija Birutė Alseikaitė) (Vilnius, Lithuania, January 23, 1921 – Los Angeles, United States February 2, 1994), was a Lithuanian-American archeologist known for her research into the Neolithic and Bronze Age cultures of "Old Europe", a new thing she introduced. Her works were made between 1946 and 1971 it showed new views by merging traditional spadework with linguistics and mythological info.








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