Marija Gimbutas (Gimbutienė) is a renowned archaeologist who specialised in European prehistory. This paper explores her life and work, including her personal biography, showing how her upbringing in Lithuania shaped her academic interests and orientations. This paper also reviews her professional achievements and contributions via the lenses of seven aspects of her academic life, namely her time in higher education, her work on Lithuanian folklore and symbolism, her explorations of Old Europe during the Neolithic, her Kurgan Hypothesis and engagement with Baltic studies, her excavations in southeast Europe, her work on the Goddess, and her symbolism work. It also examines academic and popular reactions to her writing and her influence on scholars and public discourse.
Gimbutas’ topicalisation of gynocentrism was of great significance in stimulating the study of figurines, influencing the humanities beyond archaeology, as well as a variety of international socio-political movements. The creations have a long tradition of being linked to fertility and suffer a predominantly onesided treatment in research. In this context, the intellectual history of the interpretation of prehistoric social living conditions is analysed, critically questioned and the extent to which historically evolved role models are present in past and recent research is examined. On the basis of selected examples, the methods of ethnological analogy and stylistic analysis are used to contribute to the interpretation of the decorations of the SE European Neolithic material. Additionally, an application-related interpretation is proposed for the Cucuteni-Tripolye figurines of the Poduri set. The second part addresses the impact history of Gimbutas’ opus. Regardless of the justified methodological criticism, its various imprints on e. g. ethnography, feminist studies, as well as outside academia will be acknowledged. The contributions profoundly inspired a variety of societal currents in the USA, Germany and post-socialist Lithuania.
Çatalhöyük East, a Neolithic site in Central Anatolia, has often been referred to as the place of the Mother Goddess. This is because of interpretations made by Mellaart, who discovered and excavated the site in the 1960s, when he discovered its striking symbolism. The female figurines among the finds are the most important reason for this fame. Therefore, various feminist groups have been attracted to this place because they perceived the site as a proof of the existence of a peaceful matriarchal community in the past. All of this is aligned with Gimbutas’ peaceful era theory, which has a Mother Goddess belief. This article will explain how archaeological finds at Çatalhöyük accompanied these theories in the time of Gimbutas and Mellaart and how new studies and new perspectives have altered these assumptions.
The Indian subcontinent has been one of the regions of the world where the worship of goddesses has been amongst the most longstanding. The seminal work of Marija Gimbutas on the Neolithic and Copper Age settlements of southeastern Europe and particularly her explorations into the feminine forms of the period as possible expressions of Goddess worship have implications for the material culture of the Indian subcontinent in ways that have perhaps not been adequately addressed. Equally, insights into some of the surviving trajectories of rituals and iconographies of goddess worship might serve to throw more light on enigmatic aspects of archaeological finds including from the Neolithic, not just in the context of the subcontinent but elsewhere in antiquity. The paper also sets out to explore the place of the dancing form in ritual particularly with respect to goddess worship, which emerged as a more distinctive feature of Indian antiquity than in many other parts of the world.
The aim of this article is to assess the value of Marija Alseikaitė-Gimbutienė’s (Gimbutas) 1946 dissertation published in Tübingen (Germany). It is also important to follow how much of an impact this work had on Lithuanian archaeology and what inspiration it may provide for scholars today. This paper concentrates on the parts of the book which deal with burial customs during the Roman Iron Age. Relevant problems of cultural divisions based on burial site types as per Gimbutienė are examined to see how much this classification may be accepted today. The second part of Gimbutienė’s dissertation, which focused on the meaning of burial customs, provides insights that are still important for scholarship today, and reveals the young scholar’s ability to reconstruct an old belief system and to discern the prospects for the further investigation of burial site material.