This book examines the way of life, religion, and social structure of the peoples who inhabited Europe from the 7th to the 3rd millennia BC, which I have termed Old Europe, referring to Neolithic Europe before the Indo-Europeans. During this period, our ancestors developed settled agricultural communities, experienced a large growth in population, and developed a rich and sophisticated artistic expression and a complex symbolic system formulated around the worship of the Goddess in her various aspects (vii).In an interview with David Jay Brown & Rebecca McCLen Novick, Gimbutas speaks of her childhood in Lithuania, a country which, at the time, was, as she says, "still fifty percent pagan." She goes on to explain as follows:
Yes, well Lithuania was Christianized only in the fourteenth century and even then it didn't mean much because it was done by missionaries who didn't understand the language, and the countryside remained pagan for at least two or three centuries. And then came the Jesuits who started to convert people in the sixteenth century. In some areas, up to the nineteenth and twentieth century, there were still beliefs alive in Goddesses and all kinds of beings. So in my childhood I was exposed to many things which were almost prehistoric, I would say. And when I studied archaeology, it was easier for me to grasp what these sculptures mean than for an archaeologist born in New York, who doesn't know anything about the countryside life in Europe.She goes on to describe the essence of her hypothesis:
Whether there was literally a "cult of the Goddess" or "language of the Goddess," as Gimbutas claimed, is less important, as I see it, than her insight into the essentially "matristic," egalitarian and pacifist nature of Old European culture, prior to the transformation of Europe by the Indo-Europeans. The Old Europe she describes seems quite close in many ways to the culture of the Pygmies and Bushmen of Africa, as commonly described in both the ethnographic literature and books desiged for the general public, such as Colin Turnbull's The Forest People and Elizabeth Marshall Thomas' The Harmless People. And, as I must not fail to point out, both of these peoples, like the Old Europeans, have been preserving age old traditions for thousands of years in marginal areas, surrounded by more highly "developed," and often violent, populations.
[P]roto-Indo-European people came from South Russia to Europe, introduced the Indo-European culture and then European culture was hybridized. It was the old culture mixed with the new elements - the Steppe, pastoral, patriarchal elements. So already at that time, thirty years ago, I sensed that, in Europe there was something else before the Indo-Europeans. . .
The Indo-European social structure is patriarchal, patrilineal and the psyche is warrior. Every God is also a warrior. The three main Indo-European Gods are the God of the Shining Sky, the God of the Underworld and the Thunder God. The female goddesses are just brides, wives or maidens without any power, without any creativity. They're just there, they're beauties, they're Venuses, like the dawn or sun maiden.
So the system from what existed in the matristic culture before the Indo-Europeans in Europe is totally different. I call it matristic, not matriarchal, because matriarchal always arouses ideas of dominance and is compared with the patriarchy. But it was a balanced society, it was not that women were really so powerful that they usurped everything that was masculine. Men were in their rightful position, they were doing their own work, they had their duties and they also had their own power. This is reflected in their symbols where you find not only goddesses but also, Gods. . .
Rebecca: Why did the patriarchal culture choose to dominate?
Marija: This is in the culture itself. They had weapons and they had horses. The horse appeared only with the invaders who began coming from South Russia, and in old Europe there were no weapons - no daggers, no swords. There were just weapons for hunting. Habitations were very different. The invaders were semi-nomadic people and in Europe they were agriculturalists, living in one area for a very long time, mostly in the most beautiful places.
When these warriors arrived, they [i.e., the pre Indo-European farmers -VG] established themselves high in the hills, sometimes in places which had very difficult access. So, in each aspect of culture I see an opposition, and therefore I am of the opinion that this local, old European culture could not develop into a patriarchal, warrior culture because this would be too sudden. We have archaeological evidence that this was a clash. And then of course, who starts to dominate? The ones who have horses, who have weapons, who have small families and who are more mobile. . .
David: Is there any evidence that the takeover was violent and how much did the people try to defend themselves?
Marija: It was violent, but how much they defended themselves is difficult to tell. But they were losers. There was evidence of immigration and escape from these violent happenings and a lot of confusion, a lot of shifts of population. People started to flee to places like islands and forests and hilly areas.
When we combine Gimbutas' ideas with certain basic hyphotheses associated with the "Out of Africa" model; plus the musical evidence, as described in Jordania's writings, my "Echoes" essay, and, of course, Lomax's ideas and research, going all the way back to the Fifties; then it's possible to associate her vision of Old Europe with traditions stretching all the way back to the Paleolithic and the earliest migrations of "modern" humans into Europe from Africa, ca 40,000 to 50,000 years ago.
To help us understand how "African" Old Europe may have been, I'm appending two sets of images to this post, the first representing rock art from southeastern Spain, as presented by Gimbutas in her Civilization of the Goddess book (p. 187), the second a selection of four unrelated rock art images from Southern Africa, usually associated with the Bushmen culture of anywhere from several hundreds to several thousands of years ago: