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The Living Goddesses

This text crowns a lifetime of influential work by one of the 20th-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, 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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About the Author

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).


Before her death from cancer in 1994, the pioneering archeologist Marija Gimbutas had nearly completed this book, a distillation of her life's work. After decades of scholarly research that shaped much of the field of pre-Indo-European archeology (7000-3000 B.C.), Gimbutas produced two copiously illustrated, oversized books accessible to a nonscientific audience, The Language of the Goddess and The Civilization of the Goddess. This final, smaller work illuminates the continuity between scores of religious symbols from the cultural flowering of Neolithic Old Europe in the fifth millennium B.C. to European folk cultures of the modern era. The first part concisely presents Gimbutas's discoveries and observations about imagery of goddesses and gods, symbols and signs, sacred script, temples, burial practices and social structure in Old Europe before 4400 B.C., and reveals the sophisticated degree of abstraction and artistry in the expression of the Old European cyclical sense of birth, maturation, death and regeneration. The second part traces the adaptations of these Old European elements into subsequent religious systems from the late Neolithic era to our own century. As in her previous work, Gimbutas's aesthetic and spiritual sensitivity adds a depth unusual in archeological writing. This book is a major contribution to cultural history, especially the history of religion; clearly no one but Gimbutas could have produced this masterful contribution to the archeomythology of Europe. Although Part One is generously illustrated with ink drawings of excavated artifacts, none appear in Part Two, as they had not been assembled before Gimbutas's death. Miriam Robbins Dexter, who edited the book, has added a helpful introduction plus a summary at the end of each chapter. (Apr.)

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

Gimbutas, a much-praised and consistently controversial archaeologist and scholar of religion, startled academia with her assertion of the realities of goddess-focused religion in preliterate Europe. This book, ably completed after Gimbutas's death by Dexter, was intended by her to be a popular treatment of her themes but also draws upon later findings. Wide-ranging and fascinating, The Living Goddesses should intrigue the curious and delight most feminist scholars. Highly recommended. Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.

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