The language of the goddess : unearthing the hidden symbols of western civilization

by Marija Alseikaitė Gimbutas

Paper Book, 1989



Call number

BL473.5 .G55 1989


San Francisco : Harper & Row, c1989.


The Goddess is the most potent and persistent feature in the archaeological records of the ancient world, a symbol of the unity of life in nature and the personification of all that was sacred and mysterious on earth. In this pioneering and provocative volume, Marija Gimbutas resurrects the world of the Goddess-worshipping, earth-centered cultures, bringing ancient matriarchal society vividly to life. She interweaves comparative mythology, early historical sources, linguistics, ethnography, and folklore to demonstrate conclusively that Goddess-worship is at the root of Western civilization. Illustrated with nearly 2,000 symbolic artifacts, Gimbutas' magnum opus is at once a "pictorial script" of the prehistoric Goddess religion and an authoritative work that takes these ancient cultures from the realm of speculation into that of documented fact. Over 500 illustrations.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member keylawk
As Joseph Campbell explains in the Foreword, this assembly of several thousand artifacts by Gimbutas from Neolithic village sites enables us to understand Neolithic Europe, is comparable to the "Rosetta Stone" in establishing a glossary of the hieroglyphs. With these keys, we are able to access the
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treasury of the past.

Having been
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LibraryThing member hailelib
Beginning with a short Foreword by Joseph Campbell and an Introduction by the author, this book is illustrated on nearly every page by multiple photos and drawings of the artifacts being discussed. The author believes that the symbols craved or painted on cave walls, and tomb and temple walls, and
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pottery, as well as the forms of the pottery and sculptures are a language of the worship of the early European Goddess. She also shows how the worship of the various forms of the Goddess went underground, so to speak, with the arrival of the Indo-European gods, and traces its survival through the ages with traces still to be found in folk customs and legends of the present.

While the subject was interesting to me, this book would only be for those with a great curiosity in this area because of the overwhelming amount of material and the repetition as she attempts to convince the reader. I did eventually start skimming in places since the information in the captions was often exactly reproduced in the text.
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LibraryThing member SandyAMcPherson
This is reference-style book which proposes many cultural interpretations of the decorative aspects in pottery. The referenced pottery and archaeological digs were from various sites in Europe, the Near East and The British Isles.

I enjoyed the matriarchal myths the author reported and attributes
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to neo-pagan practices but in all honesty, there were next to no supporting documents or citations to validate her remarks. Such speculative ideas seem out of place here, when there are no data to justify the assertions. The over-arching hypothesis of a culture of The Goddess is unsubstantiated, perhaps more a case of 'away with the fairies' in support of the author's favoured notion. Gimbutas' earlier anthropological work was apparently very sound, so this departure was a surprise, even to her colleagues in archaeology (consult the Wikipedia entry for more perspectives).

Despite these drawbacks, I learned more about the symbolism on the inscribed pottery shards. These were validated with the cultural practices of those times. The data help understand hand-embroidery in textiles that appeared in more recent centuries which alludes to these ancient origins.
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Original publication date


Physical description

xxiii, 388 p.; 28 cm


0062503561 / 9780062503565


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