Dr. Marija Gimbutas is the Grand Dame and Grand Mother of the Goddess Movement. Her research, lectures and books have contributed to a new understanding of prehistoric times.
Loved by students
She continually encouraged students and colleagues from a wide range of disciplines to examine ambiguities in European prehistory with a broader and interdisciplinary perspective. She was particularly keen to examine the enormous changes in beliefs, rituals and social structure that occurred as a result of the 'collusion of cultures' during the Indo-Europeanisation of Europe in order to better understand later cultural development.
In 2021, UNESCO honoured the centenary of the birth of the world-famous Lithuanian archaeologist Marija Gimbutas (1921-1994).
The basis of her research was her love for her homeland Lithuania. Here she felt a strong connection to the country's folklore, people and customs.
In her early 20s, she fled to Germany with her first husband and child from the Soviet occupation and enrolled as the first female student at the University of Tübingen in 1946. After completing her doctorate in archaeology combined with ethnology, mythology and history of religion, she received a scholarship to the USA. Her path led her via Harvard to California, where she eventually settled and became a professor of European archaeology.
Her tireless research and work is groundbreaking for matriarchal studies and her books on the civilisations of Ancient Europe are important foundations for the study of the Goddess.
Marija's work was based on two important theses, which were initially controversial, but over time have been continuously substantiated by modern DNA research. Her research on the development and identity of European civilisation gained her worldwide recognition and also inspired the feminist movement of the 1980s.
1. The Matrilineal Hypothesis
In her work "The Goddesses and Gods of Ancient Europe", she showed that the indigenous people of South-Eastern Europe 8000 years ago worshipped mainly female goddesses and lived in a matrilineal society where women and men were equal and where inheritance as well as family lineage was passed down through the female line.
2. The Kurgan Hypothesis
The goddess-worshipping civilisation of ancient Europe ended when the people of the Kurgan culture arrived from the steppes 6,000 years ago, i.e. colonisation took place. Due to dry steppe formation and resulting famines, the carriers of the Kurgan people were forced to migrate to more westerly, rainier areas.They were pastoral nomads armed with daggers, axes and bows and were recognisable by their special burial habits, i.e. burying their relatives in burial mounds - the so-called Kurgan. The Indo-European language they spread, the patriarchal traditions and the tripartite world view now form an essential part of modern European culture.
Dr Gimbutas had to fight hostility and criticism, which she had to withstand not least because she was one of the few women in the academic field of archaeology.
At Harvard, for example, she was not allowed to enter the library as a woman and was not paid for her research work. Only at UCLA could she hope for more support. She may also have been the object of much envy because she could read original texts in over 13 different languages.
One of her fiercest critics eventually dedicated a hommage to her and admitted he had to agree with her after all.