The Myth of Matriarchal Prehistory: Why an Invented Past

Re: The Myth of Matriarchal Prehistory: Why an Invented Past

Postby admin » Fri Nov 02, 2018 6:39 am

Part 1 of 2

CHAPTER 7: The Case Against Prehistoric Matriarchies II: Prehistoric Art and Architecture

The promise representational art holds forth is to tell us how prehistoric peoples saw themselves and their world. Our own representational art is often said to fulfill this function, graphically displaying who we are and what we value. For example, Christian iconography is rich in symbolic portrayals of Christian theology and ethics; images in advertising are thought to speak volumes about who Americans want to be. In theory, prehistoric art is similarly a window onto the subjective experiences of our ancestors, one not provided by the amount of strontium in their fossilized bones or the varying shapes of their flint blades.

What we lack for prehistory, however, is a trained observer, an insider who could translate prehistoric art for us. We effortlessly and accurately read most of the images we stumble across in everyday life, but we may forget how much we had to learn to attain this interpretive mastery. Years of enculturation lie behind our ability to decipher the visual images we encounter. When images are divorced from most other markers of culture (such as language and behavior), as they are for prehistoric societies, accurate interpretation becomes extremely difficult.

If we know anything about artistic conventions, it is that they are conventions, and as such they may have only an oblique link to "real life." Some things rarely experienced are frequently imaged, and vice versa. As Andre Leroi-Gourhan has noted, European heraldry is full of lions and eagles, though in the ordinary run of their lives, Europeans were vastly more likely to encounter cows and pigs; likewise, if women's magazines were my sole record of American culture, I might conclude that there were no fat people in twenty-first-century America. Cultures may neglect to represent all kinds of quotidian realities for a variety of reasons: they may consider these realities too banal to be worth portraying in art; they may wish to deny certain unpleasant realities about their lives and cultures; or they may think some matters too special or sacred to commit to a visual symbol. And even things that are routinely represented are open to misinterpretation by observers who lack the relevant knowledge to read it correctly. Carl Jung tells the story of a man who returned to India after a visit to England and told his friends that the English worshipped animals, because he had seen eagles, lions, and oxen portrayed in churches. [1]

One of the central problems in interpreting prehistoric images is that the material itself -- pictures and statues of human beings and animals -- looks disarmingly familiar, so it often seems that inferences about the meaning of this art have more to do with an individual observer's imaginative, empathic, and intuitive abilities than with any archaeological credentials. A person who "sits in the ruins and catches the vibes," as Philip Davis disparagingly puts it, may feel herself to know as much about prehistoric peoples as those who work with spades, sieves, and brushes. No one is immune to the powerful reactions that this art can elicit, from the archaeologist who digs it up to the casual consumer of glossy reproductions of artifacts on the other side of the coffee table. Patricia Reis, author of Through the Goddess, remembers stumbling across pictures of Paleolithic Venus figurines in an art book at a university library. As she recalls, "My body became electrified .... These objects held a haunting mystery filled with sacredness."  [2] It is hard to believe that any reaction that comes with such force and conviction could be simply mistaken, at least for the person experiencing it (strength of passion being notoriously easy to confuse with acuity of insight). This misplaced confidence has plagued both archaeological and feminist matriarchalist interpretations of prehistoric art.

The conflicting interpretations offered for prehistoric visual images gives us sufficient reason to be suspicious of anyone's claim to have finally decoded them. The tendency among archaeologists today is to feel that, if anything, prehistoric art is less illuminating and more open to misinterpretation than other forms of prehistoric material evidence, particularly when it comes to the sensitive issues of gender and religion:' Feminist matriarchalists, in contrast, believe they have a method which provides consistent, reliable, and indeed rather obvious interpretations of prehistoric art. To resist these interpretations, they often suggest, requires a willful blindness.

READING SYMBOLS

In interpreting prehistoric art, feminist matriarchalists make liberal use of the assumption that a relatively stable set of cross-cultural meanings are attached to femaleness, and in turn to the symbols thought to represent it. This symbolic approach to prehistoric art allows feminist matriarchalists to accomplish two important tasks: first, they are able to extract broad, clear meanings from long-dead societies; and second, they have a warrant not only to construe female anthropomorphic figurines [4] -- the prime suspects for "goddesses" in prehistoric art-but also everything from wavy lines to crosses as "a kind of universal female symbolism." [5]

This symbolic code leads feminist matriarchalists to speak as though there were no relevant differences between the essential focus of religion in Siberia in 27,000 BCE and Crete in 1500 BCE. They usually treat all of prehistoric Europe and the Near East as if it were a single cultural complex, viewing cultural variations as an epiphany of the multiplicity of the goddess rather than as evidence of distinctive religious beliefs or systems of social organization. [6] This is a very long time and a very large area for a single religion to dominate. The repetition of a few symbols in the imagery of these different cultures cannot by itself support the notion that these cultures progressively, and in concert with one another, developed an iconography of a single deity. In fact, the cultures from which feminist matriarchalists draw their symbolic examples of goddess religion do not overlap either chronologically or geographically. The material evidence itself illustrates this. There is a dramatic difference, for example, between "the figurine and clay-rich archaeological record of Neolithic Southeast Europe" and the several millennia during which the British Neolithic apparently failed to produce a single female figurine. [7]

Feminist matriarchalists are usually forthcoming with explanations, however questionable, for why everything they list qualifies as a goddess symbol, in spite of the geographic and chronological distance that sometimes separates them. Some symbols are chosen for their supposed analogy to portions of the female anatomy: the chalice, as a container, is said to stand for the womb; the mouth of a cave for the goddess's vagina. Others, such as lions, are determined to be goddess symbols because they are repeatedly (or sometimes only once) seen partnered with female figures in prehistoric art. [8] The list of symbols that are supposed to make us suspect "that a matristic consciousness was operative in a culture if they are found in that people's relics" [9] is alarmingly long. It includes:

bears
phalli
zigzags
lions
women
spirals
bulls
eggs
parallel lines
bison
trees
meanders
deer
lush vegetation
tri-lines
horses
pomegranates
Xs
goats
apples
Vs
pigs
the moon
hooks
dogs
the sun
crosses
hedgehogs
stones
chevrons
birds (hawks, owls)
shells
swastikas
snakes
caves
lozenges
toads
 storehouses
halved lozenges
turtles
pillars
hooked lozenges
fish
labyrinths
ovals
bees
wells
triangles
butterflies
cauldrons
circles
snails
chalices
dots [10]
eyes
nets
hands
rings


This proliferation of purported goddess symbols makes it possible to find evidence of goddess worship in virtually every scrap of prehistoric art. Even the simplest of signs can shout "goddess." Gimbutas, for example, relishes the fact that the stamp seals of Old Europe are "almost all ... engraved with either straight lines, wavy lines or zigzags," which she interprets as a water and rain symbolism attributable to goddess religion. Reaching even farther, Rachel Pollack claims that "the oldest carefully marked object," an ox rib found in France dating to 200,000 to 300,000 BCE, about six inches long and incised with "a pair of curved parallel lines" (visible under a microscope), is "precisely that image" that appears repeatedly in "later Goddess art". [11]

But if straight lines and wavy lines are both symbols of the goddess, is it possible to draw a line another way, or to use it to mean something else? Rachel Pollack notes that there are goddess images "that are almost universal, such as the cross or the spiral," [12] but she never points out the obvious: that these are very simple images to draw. They may mean nothing -- prehistoric doodles -- or they may mean very different things in different cultures. Even more importantly, symbols may have no analogical link at all to that which they are supposed to symbolize, just as the numeral 7 means seven, though there is nothing in the shape of the numeral itself to suggest the number seven. In some cases, we cannot even be sure what the symbols we find in prehistoric art are supposed to be (if anything), let alone what meanings they may carry. For example, Anne Baring and Jules Cashford display a series of "Neolithic images of the moon" in their chapter on "the Neolithic Great Goddess of Sky, Earth and Waters." [13] None look like what I see up in the sky on a clear night, though several bear a powerful resemblance to snowflakes (see Fig. 7.1).

How then do feminist matriarchalists know that every animal and geometrical symbol found in prehistoric art is a representation of the goddess or one of her qualities? Only by believing, before they look, that the art is religious art, and in particular, an iconography of a prehistoric goddess. Though I will not attempt the exercise here, I feel certain that if I were looking for evidence of the prehistoric worship of "the masculine principle," I could find it as readily as feminist matriarchalists uncover goddess symbology. Perhaps I could also "discover" that the implements of war are present in cleverly disguised -- symbolized -- form. In the absence of a prehistoric Rosetta stone translating prehistoric symbols into some language we can understand today, we are of course welcome to pore over the art of prehistoric cultures looking for internal patterns, just as Gimbutas has done. We may find things of interest, but none that can stand as the conclusive interpretation of these images.

Paleolithic Cave Art

Image
FIG. 7.1 Images incised on Neolithic pottery from sites in BohemIa, from the end of the sixth to the early fifth millennium BCE, interpreted as "Neolithic images of the moon."

Apart from Gimbutas's detailed work on symbols from the Neolithic period in Old Europe, the most elaborated argument for goddess symbology is that offered for Paleolithic cave art. Cave art is restricted to a few neighboring locations in southern France and northern Spain (though caves that are seemingly equally suitable for painting are available elsewhere on the continent) and dates from roughly 30,000 to 10,000 BCE, with the majority being produced after 20,000 BCE. [14] Archaeologists theorize that the Franco-Cantabrian caves were preferred as sites for art because they were in the most southerly region of open tundra during the last glaciation. Animals were plentiful, and as a result, so were humans: tribes may have gathered together to hunt there during seasonal migrations. The subjects of the paintings are almost exclusively animals, both species that were routinely hunted, such as reindeer and mammoth, and ones that were not, such as wolf and lion. Representations of humans are comparatively rare, though present. Men and women never appear in proximity to one another. Men are typically portrayed as simple stick figures, whether painted or engraved, while women are always engraved and rendered in significantly more detail. Men may be active or passive, while women are always inactive: men tend to be portrayed alone, while women appear most often in groups. Numerous schematic designs, including dots, circles, triangles, rectangles, and imprints of human hands, also appear. These various design motifs, as well as the animal and human representations, are frequently superimposed on one another. [15]

Feminist matriarchalists are comparatively uninterested in the animal representations in Paleolithic cave art, and even in the engraved female figures. What draws their attention instead are the schematic designs, which they interpret as "vulva symbols." Feminist matriarchalists are not the first to advance this theory. In 1910, the Abbe Breuil, a French priest who began interpreting Paleolithic art at the age of fourteen, was asked to comment on the meaning of some engraved marks on two limestone blocks recovered from the site of Abri Blanchard in southern France. He immediately labeled them "pudendum muliebre." Indeed, an early observer, L. Didon, describes Breuil as having "recognized vulvas without hesitation," operating "with the completely unique skill in deciphering prehistoric mysteries characteristic of him." Most archaeologists in the twentieth century followed Breuil's lead, finding vulvas everywhere in Paleolithic art. This vulva-finding expedition at times went to rather remarkable extremes. Not only were triangular or horseshoe-shaped designs termed vulvas; so were a myriad of other shapes, denoted by terms like "squared vulva," "bell-shaped vulva," "broken, double vulva," and "atypical vulva." Vulvas have even been discovered in a single straight line ("an isolated vulvar cleft"), and at least one excavator, convinced that some symbols must have been intended to be vulvas, felt free to occasionally draw in the "missing" lines. [16]

An even more ambitious reading of these "vulva" symbols has been offered by French archaeologist Andre Leroi-Gourhan, who divided up the totality of the schematic markings found in Paleolithic caves into "male" and "fenule" symbols, so classified because of their putative resemblance to human genitalia. The "male" symbols are straight lines, barbed lines, and rows of dots (the "narrow signs"); the "female" symbols are triangles, ovals, shields, and rectangles (the "wide signs"). While Leroi-Gourhan admits that many of these symbols are "extremely stylized," he nevertheless insists that most of the wide signs "are quite realistic depictions of the female sexual organ" (see Fig. 7.2). These wide signs turn up in some odd places -- for example, in the wounds on animals and in the guts spilling from a disemboweled bison -- but Leroi-Gourhan does not hesitate to identify them everywhere as vulvas. [17]

Image
FIG. 7.2 "Wide" and "narrow" signs in Upper Paleolithic cave art, said by Leroi-Gourhan to "have evolved from earlier depictions of female and male figures or sexual organs."

Feminist matriarchalists have enthusiastically embraced the interpretive scheme that sees the walls of Paleolithic caves plastered with disembodied vulvas. For feminist matriarchalists, "the vulva is preeminently a symbol of birth, representing beginnings, fertility, the gateway to life itself," and its presence in cave art indicates that Paleolithic peoples valued birth, death, and rebirth. [18] Yet as some observers note, there is an undoubted resemblance between the vulvas in Paleolithic cave art (that feminist matriarchalists celebrate as the sign of the goddess) and those that "would be right at home in any contemporary men's room." [19] For feminist matriarchalist purposes, Paleolithic vulva images must not be pornographic, for then they are by definition objectifying and oppressive to women. But they must be sexual, for sex is good in matriarchalist terms: it is part of what worship of the goddess entails, part of what separates goddess religion from its wicked stepsons (Judaism, Islam, and Christianity). [20] The solution to this conundrum is typically to assert the sexuality of Paleolithic images, but to insist that they are completely unlike pornography. "In fact," says Riane Eisler, "the contrast between these two kinds of sexual images is so striking they almost seem to come from different planets." Yet how different can two inverted triangles with median lines be? The only thing that could possibly distinguish them is context. When high school boys spray paint vulvas on her front steps, novelist Barbara Kingsolver is confident that "their thoughts were oh so far from God," but when confronted with the same images from prehistoric Europe, she knows them to be an expression of "awe" for "female power." [21] How do we know that the caves of Paleolithic Europe were not more like Barbara Kingsolver's front steps?

Moreover, the distinct possibility remains that these "wide signs" of Paleolithic cave art were not meant to represent vulvas at all. The symbols purported to be vulvas are extremely variable (see Fig. 7.3) -- Sarah Milledge Nelson says that many of them look more like molar teeth than anything else -- and few are truly triangular, which is the shape that characterizes all the female genitalia found in context in Paleolithic art (that is, on full female figures). [22] However, feminist matriarchalists have something much better than engraved "vulvas" from the Paleolithic (and wavy lines from the Neolithic) upon which to stake their claim that femaleness was revered in prehistoric Europe and the Near East. For these peoples produced a huge number of anthropomorphic figurines, many of them clearly female.

DECODING ANTHROPOMORPHIC ART

Before becoming too enthusiastic about these anthropomorphic figurines, it is important to recognize that many of the figurines that feminist matriarchalists declare to be representations of the goddess are not obviously divine, female, or, in some instances, even human. For example, Marija Gimbutas titles a figure from Starcevo "an early loom-weight in the form of the Goddess" (see Fig. 7-4). This object has no arms, legs, or neck, and only dashes for eyes, a hole for a mouth, and a pinched nose: its face could belong to either gender or to a wide range of nonhuman animals. Similarly, Buffie Johnson discusses an "amulet of the buttocks silhouette" recovered from Paleolithic Germany (see Fig. 7.5). Though this 1-3/4 inch sculpture has no head and no arms, Johnson asserts that wherever "an arc and a straight line" combine to form a "P shape," one is viewing the "exaggerated egg-shaped buttocks" of the goddess. [23] It is easy to see a human female in these objects if one is told that that is what is there. But if these figures were captioned differently, it would be as easy to see something else. A Paleolithic engraving which Johnson describes as "a female figure with Cosmic Egg in rump" does look like a highly schematized drawing of a seated person's profile with a circle in its middle, at least when you come across it in the pages of Lady of the Beasts: Ancient Images of the Great Goddess and her Sacred Animals. But had I seen this same drawing in a book titled, say, Paleolithic Landscapes, captioned as "Vezere River showing central island and direction of current," then I would find this an equally plausible description of this engraving (see Fig. 7.6).

Image
FIG. 7.3 Incised and carved images from Upper Paleolithic cave art, said to be "vulvae."

Image
FIG. 7.4 Carved figure from Starcevo, Bulgaria, 5800-5600 BCE (height: 8.8 cm), identified by Marija Gimbutas as a "loom weight in the form of the Goddess."

Image
FIG. 7.5 Figure carved in polished coal from Petersfels, Germany, c. 15,000 BCE, called a "buttocks silhouette."

Image
FIG. 7.6 Incised drawing from the Fontales cave in France, c. 10,000 BCE, described by Buffie Johnson as a "female figure with Cosmic Egg in rump."

Even more questionable than the assignment of humanity to abstract line drawings or sculptures is the classification of virtually all anthropomorphic images as female. Feminist matriarchalists have been anticipated in this by archaeologists, who have also frequently been inclined to make female the default sex of ambiguous anthropomorphic images. There are comparatively few images in Paleolithic and Neolithic Europe that are definitely male (possessing a penis) and many that are definitely female (possessing either swollen breasts or a "clear female sexual triangle or vulva"). But what is generally not recognized in feminist matriarchalist studies of prehistoric art is that there is another class of images, varying in size depending on the era or site in question, which have no clear sexual characteristics. If one were to assume that these were all intended to be male, this would generally yield a distribution by sex that is roughly fifty/fifty. These "sexless" images may have been intended to represent females, as feminist matriarchalists suggest, or men, or they may have been intentionally sexless, representing children, "or some generalized idea of the human being." [24]

It is reasonable to attempt to discern stylistic conventions that indicate sex apart from obvious sexual characteristics, but it is a tricky undertaking. Such conventions may or may not exist, and where they do exist, they may be misread. In The Goddesses and Gods of Old Europe, Marija Gimbutas juxtaposes two figurines from the Neolithic site of Vinca in Yugoslavia. She describes both as images of the "Bird Goddess." The figurines are clearly of the same basic type, in spite of minor differences in shape and incised markings. One has small breasts, the other none at all (see Fig. 7.7). Gimbutas seems to regard the presence or absence of breasts as yet another minor stylistic difference in the two figures, [25] but the presence or absence of breasts may have been the defining feature of the sex of these figurines: the one with breasts being female, and the one without being male.

There are also prehistoric images that appear to purposefully combine male and female sexual characteristics, including Neolithic figurines said to have a "tall, phallic neck and head," which are described by feminist matriarchalists as "phallic goddesses." Feminist matriarchalists are quite careful to state that the presence of phallic features -- or even, in some cases, a phallus itself -- does not detract from the overwhelming femaleness of prehistoric anthropomorphic images. As Gimbutas explains, these images "do not represent a fusion of two sexes but rather an enhancement of the female with the mysterious life force inherent in the phallus." [26] Impressively then, even what one might think to be the most obvious signifier of maleness -- the penis -- is assimilated to femaleness in some feminist matriarchalists' interpretation of prehistoric anthropomorphic images.

The most dramatic example of this assimilation is the feminist matriarchalist reading of Paleolithic "batons." The most popular of these batons has an honored place in feminist matriarchalist iconography, turning up frequently in the first pages or slides devoted to Paleolithic images of the goddess. In spite of its striking resemblance to a phallus, feminist matriarchalists label the Dolni vestonice baton an "abstract female with breasts," "shaft with breasts," or "ivory rod with breasts," and describe it as a "portable shrine," an image of "nurturance reduced to its stylized essence" (see Fig. 7.8). But as archaeologist Timothy Taylor declares, "it seems disingenuous to avoid the most obvious and straightforward interpretation" that these are "phallic objects." [27] Indeed, some of them, at a length of six to eight inches, are hard to mistake for anything else (see Fig. 7.9).

Image
FIG. 7.7 Terracotta figurines from Vinca, Yugoslavia, c. 4800 BCE (height: 16 and 15 cm), named "Bird Goddesses" by Marija Gimbutas.

Feminist matriarchalists also routinely take note of the existence of "breast pendants" or "breast beads" from Paleolithic Europe. Gimbutas describes these as an "abstract rendering of the female principle," composed solely of "two breasts at the base of a conical neck." This has long been the standard archaeological reading of these images, but archaeologist Alice Kehoe points out that the back of the pendant "exhibits a carefully carved projection through which is a hole," which Kehoe suspects "was designed for a suspension string." When hung on a string the "breast pendant" seems instead "to be an erect human penis and testicles" (see Fig. 7.10). Other objects are similarly ambiguous, their interpretation largely dependent on the angle from which they are viewed. For example, a "seated figure" from Late Neolithic Cyprus viewed from the back appears strikingly phallic. But the top view could be read as a vulva, and from the front or side, it resembles a seated figure with bent knees and tiny feet. Its sexual ambiguity could be an intentional statement of its artist, or, quite plausibly, it may be an artificial penis, equipped with a convenient handle (see Fig. 7. 11). [28]

Image
FIG. 7.8 Ivory carving. Dolni Vestonice, Czechoslovakia, c. 25,000 BCE, described as "abstract female with breasts."

Image
FIG. 7.9 Paleolithic "baton," Bruniquel, France, c. 15,000 BCE.

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FIG. 7. 10 Ivory pendant from Dolni Vestonice, Czechoslovakia, c. 25,000 BCE. Gimbutas and other feminist matriarchalists interpret this artifact as a woman's neck and breasts; viewed at the angle pictured here, it resembles a penis and testicles.

Image
FIG. 7.11 Limestone figure from Sotira Arkolies, Cyprus, c. 2600 BCE, viewed from five different angles (height: 16 cm). View a and b (front and side views) resemble a seated figure; view c (rear view) appears phallic; views d and e (top and bottom views) resemble a vulva. Surface find.

Feminist matriarchalists would object to this interpretation not so much because they find a prehistoric image of a phallus difficult to incorporate into their picture of goddess-oriented prehistory (we have seen that this is not the case), but because a dildo is not immediately apprehended as a sacred object. And for feminist matriarchalists, everything in prehistoric art -- and indeed all of prehistoric life -- is sacred, practically by definition. Feminist matriarchalists assert again and again that contemporary archaeologists fail to understand the meaning of prehistoric art because they cannot comprehend its religious nature. Were our ancestors so steeped in the sacred that every image they produced could not help but reveal their deepest values, the objects of their greatest reverence? Gimbutas, who seems to view every cup as a ritual vessel for pouring libations to the goddess, would probably say yes. [29] But there is evidence to the contrary. Contemporary groups, known to us through the work of ethnographers, create decorative art, producing images that they insist have no sacred or ritual intent. In a particularly interesting case from the island of Madagascar, ethnographers tried for years to decipher the deep symbolic meaning of the low reliefs of geometrical patterns which the Zafimaniry people carve into the wooden shutters and posts of their homes. When asked, informants proved refractory, insisting that "they were pictures of nothing," that they were merely making "the wood beautiful." [30] It hardly seems warranted then to name all the prehistoric images we have retrieved as remnants of a vast, multilayered religion of the goddess, or of a religion of any sort. Yet they are surely remnants of something, and particularly in the case of definite female images, it seems at least possible that they were intended to portray goddesses.
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Re: The Myth of Matriarchal Prehistory: Why an Invented Past

Postby admin » Fri Nov 02, 2018 6:39 am

Part 2 of 2

Paleolithic Venus Figurines

Intriguingly, the first representational art we have knowledge of consists of small statues of females. Those who first excavated these statues named them "Venuses" because they vaguely resembled the classical Venus di Milo with her missing arms. The Venuses have been found across a very wide geographical belt running from southern France to Siberia, but are concentrated in a few sites in France, the former Czechoslovakia, and the former Soviet Union. Many cannot be dated with any great precision, but increasingly scholars are coming to believe that the majority of the figurines were created within a few thousand years, possibly from 23,000 to 21,000 BCE. [31]

Though they are customarily classed together, the Venuses are not all alike. Some are clothed, others naked; they are carved in a variety of materials, including bone, stone, and mammoth ivory; and though generally small, they vary in size from 3.7 centimeters to as much as 40 centimeters. From the time they were first discovered, Paleolithic Venuses were classified as "fertility fetishes" or "goddess figurines." This basic interpretation of Paleolithic Venuses -- that they are religious in character and concerned with fertility -- has been remarkably persistent among archaeologists, though it has been losing ground over the past few decades as feminist archaeologists have critiqued it. [32] At the same time, however, feminist matriarchalists have taken up the fertility and mother goddess interpretations of Paleolithic Venuses (feminist matriarchalists resist the theory that the Venuses are fertility "fetishes," but still tend to interpret them as being fundamentally concerned with fertility). For example, descriptions of the Venus of Willendorf in feminist matriarchalist books and articles typically refer to her "great nourishing breasts" and "her sacred triangle" (see Fig. 7.12). [33]

The most conspicuous problem with regarding the Paleolithic Venuses as symbols of fertility is that they rarely show signs of pregnancy, childbirth, or lactation. If Paleolithic artists were interested in representing the fertility of women, there are obvious ways in which to do this -- such as making female figures that are indisputably pregnant, giving birth, or holding an infant -- yet these images have not been found in Paleolithic art. Some, both archaeologists and feminist matriarchalists, insist that the Venuses are pregnant, but many of them appear to be fat rather than pregnant, and others are quite thin. [34] Pregnant or not, the very size of some of the Paleolithic Venuses is read by feminist matriarchalists as an expression of fertility. For example, Gimbutas refers routinely to the goddess's "regenerative buttocks," as though buttocks were somehow actively involved in pregnancy and childbirth. Others let the connection to fertility drop and emphasize instead the apparent sacrality attaching to female fatness in Paleolithic times. As Starhawk remarks of the Venus of Lespugue, "whoever carved this figure evidently saw flesh as good, and the female form as worthy of veneration" (see Fig. 7.13). [35]

Image
FIG. 7. 12 Limestone figure, Willendorf, Germany, c. 30,000-25,000 BCE (height: 11 cm).

Image
FIG. 7. 13 Ivory figure, Lespugue, France, c. 23,000 BCE (height: 14.7 cm).

The fatness of the Paleolithic Venuses has been long commented upon. They are "monstrously exuberant and overabundant"; they are characterized by "pendulous breasts, broad hips, rotund buttocks and excessive corpulency." Prehistorians have sought to explain the fatness of these figurines in a variety of ways. Some speculate that it is a reflection of "the community's concern about hunger"; others say that the Venuses are merely straightforward depictions of the women of the time, who happened to be fat. Still others suggest that the Venus is a "Pleistocene pinup or centerfold girl." Some have rejected this notion on the grounds that the Venus of Willendorf could only be attractive "to perverse tastes," but others beg to differ. There is no accounting for taste, they say, and Paleolithic men obviously liked fat women. Bjorn Kurten notes that "the female figures often appear in sexually inviting attitudes" and suggests that "there is a straight line from Ice Age art to Rodin, to Zorn's Dalecarlian women, and to the Playboy bunnies of later days." [36] He illustrates his argument by comparing the female torsos of Paleolithic art to contemporary pornographic images (see Fig. 7.14). As with Paleolithic cave art, feminist matriarchalists flatly deny that Paleolithic Venuses are pornographic, primarily because they do not themselves experience this art that way. They deem it "truly pathetic when a woman cannot perceive the difference between the powerful Paleolithic figures and current pornographic portrayals of women as coy, vulnerable toys." [37]

Just what the Paleolithic Venuses signified to those who created them is an irresolvable question. But the idea that they had a religious or magical function is relatively well supported. One of the more notable features of the Venuses is that they tend to have carefully worked torsos compared to their heads, arms, and feet, which are either absent or modeled very simply. Such inattention to faces, usually considered the most individual, recognizable part of a person, seems to indicate that these figurines were intended to symbolize some more general fact of physical, social, or religious life. That so many of the figurines appear unfinished is another indication that they may have fulfilled some religious or magical function, with the act of producing the figurine perhaps being more important than the appearance of the end result. [38] It would seem that these female images were standing for something, just what we cannot tell. The Paleolithic Venuses, relatively few in number and tens of thousands of years old, provide us with few clues to their use or meaning. We have more to go on in the Neolithic era. Man)' of the archaeological sites are richer and more carefully excavated, and attention to figurine production in ethnographically documented cultures has also suggested some plausible interpretations of the Neolithic evidence.

Neolithic and Cross-Cultural Figurines

As pottery technologies began to be developed during the Neolithic, figurines started to be made out of clay. These have survived in great numbers (though many are broken), especially from sites in the Near East and southeastern Europe. There is considerable stylistic variability among these figurines, both within each site and across many. They are clothed or naked, seated or standing, fat or thin, adorned or plain. Their faces are rarely elaborated, though it is possible that they were decorated with paint or seeds that have not survived. Some figurines are of animals, but more are anthropomorphic, and most are either female or lack any distinguishing sexual characteristics. [39]

Image
FIG. 7.14 Drawings by Hubert Pepper intended to illustrate a resemblance between Paleolithic figures (both in-the-round and in relief) and contemporary pornographic images of women.

The thought that these figurines, like the Paleolithic Venuses, were intended to represent a goddess was well rooted among archaeologists before feminist matriarchalists ever arrived on the scene. But recently the fertility and mother goddess interpretations of these figurines have come in for criticism by archaeologists on the same grounds as the fertility interpretation of Paleolithic figurines, namely that female figurines associated with infants or children are rare. Neolithic figurines are rarely obviously pregnant either, though they, like the Paleolithic figurines, are sometimes quite fat. [40] Certainly it is possible that many figurines which we do not recognize as being pregnant were seen to be so by their creators and users. We know that artistic conventions for depicting pregnancy need not be literal. For example, Our Lady of Guadalupe is said by some to be pregnant because she wears a tassel around her waist that was, for the Spanish, known as a "maternity band." [41]

When feminist matriarchalists speak of Neolithic female figurines as representations of fertility, however, they are not restricting themselves to human reproduction. It is thought that especially with the beginnings of agriculture in the Neolithic era, people would have extended their earlier concern with human and animal fertility to the fertility of the land, which would then also be within the goddess's provenance. However, evidence from historical times does not suggest that this is a particularly likely explanation for female figurines. Though agricultural societies have an active, understandable concern for the fertility of their land and sometimes invoke goddesses in this regard, we have no record of a group that assigns the sole power for agricultural fertility to females or goddesses. Indeed, the goddesses at the head of fertility cults in classical times -- such as Ceres and Proserpina in Rome -- were believed to bestow human rather than agricultural fertility. [42]

Ethnographic analogies suggest a number of possible alternative functions for Neolithic female figurines. Female figurines have at times played a role in curing or healing rituals. For example, among the Choco of Colombia, shamans will surround their patient with anthropomorphic figurines (sometimes as many as twenty of them) who represent the shaman's spirit-helpers. Since new figurines must be made for every curing ritual and old ones are disposed of unceremoniously, such a theory, if it were true for the Neolithic, would explain why so many figurines are found in garbage middens. It would also explain the continuum between rough, unfinished pieces and more polished ones, since, among the Choco, figurines will be made very quickly in an emergency, while they will be constructed far more carefully in the case of a lingering illness when time is not such an issue. Female figurines have also been assigned protective or magical functions in some cultures. Among the Seneca around the time of European contact, female figurines were buried with children, apparently to protect them in death. Female figurines have also performed teaching functions in various ethnographic contexts. They are sometimes associated with the initiation of boys, in addition to (or even exclusive of) girls. Elsewhere, anthropomorphic figurines have been used as dolls or children's toys. Actually, the Neolithic figurines fit many of the features seen in dolls cross-culturally: nudity, small size, sturdiness, and a disproportionate number of female and sexless figures. [43]

Another interpretation of Neolithic female figurines is the feminist matriarchalist one, that they were sacred icons of a goddess or goddess€s. Certainly we are aware of numerous cross-cultural instances of goddess worship accompanied by widespread use of icons in the form of figurines, so this is one of the most likely explanations of the Neolithic figurine assemblages. Especially persuasive is the fact that goddess figurines -- and larger-scale goddess images as well -- exist in later cultures in the same geographic area. But there are some obstacles to this interpretation. To begin with, how would we know these figurines to be divine? Several critics have noted that there is an inconsistency in viewing female images as representations of goddesses while interpreting male or animal images similarly placed as being merely men or animals. [44] The fundamental problem of interpreting images that have been lifted from their original contexts particularly affects attributions of divinity. For example, a sixteenth-century print by Hans Brosamer shows a nude woman with luxurious hair and a possibly pregnant abdomen holding a lamp and a mirror while a man lies at her feet, gazing up at her with apparent awe (see Fig. 7.15). Those unaware of the image's context could well take it to be a representation of a beautiful, magisterial fertility goddess appearing to a man who responds in an attitude of thunderstruck adoration. However, the work's title, A Whore Venerated by a Fool, tells us that that it was intended to warn men against being taken in by women's sexuality.

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FIG. 7.15 Hans Brosamer, A Whore Venerated by a Fool, c. 1530. Woodcut print.

We know also from historical examples that images of women, even ones that recur over and over again in an apparently symbolic mode, need not be images of goddesses. Disproportionate imaging of females is a widespread (though not universal) phenomenon, in our Western cultures as well as others, and we know that it can coexist with male dominance. We also know, significantly, that extensive female imagery can be found in cultures with male monotheistic religions. Furthermore, deities are not always represented; in fact they can be completely -- or largely -- invisible, as is the case with the putatively male god of the major Western religions. [45]

Indeed, the worship of relatively invisible male deities accompanied by more visible female deities is a pattern found frequently in ancient times. The iconography of Mycenaean Greek religion is "overwhelmingly feminine," but written tablets reveal that a host of additional deities -- significantly, male deities -- were also worshipped. Similarly, ancient Mesopotamian art is rife with depictions of Ishtar, who is comparatively rare in texts, while numerous male deities discussed in texts have no "visual counterparts." [46] Excavations from Iron Age Israel (in the eighth century BCE) have revealed a proliferation of female figurines of a specific type: they have a "pillar" base, breasts, and molded head, sometimes with arms and sometimes without. Scholars have termed these the Dea Nutrix or "nourishing deity," but we know that the religion of that place and era was adamantly monotheistic. [47] Feminist matriarchalists, presented with this evidence, would fit it into their theories by saying that the pillar figurines indicated the continued household practice of the ancient goddess religion in the face of an official takeover by the patriarchal Semites. [48] But without the textual evidence confirming male monotheism, feminist matriarchalists would probably conclude the obvious: that these people worshipped a goddess, an immanent deity of birth and regeneration. Eighth-century BCE Israelites would fall as easily on the matriarchal side of the ledger as they now fall on the patriarchal side.

In sum, though we cannot know just what Neolithic figurines signified, it is plausible that they are the material remains of goddess worship. The problem is that we don't know whether or not any such potential goddess worship was accompanied by worship of gods, or whether goddess worship, if it was practiced, worked to women's benefit. The female figurines dating to Neolithic times are in no position to enlighten us on these questions.

THE ART OF "MATRIARCHAL" CULTURES

Up until now, we have been looking at particular art forms across several millennia and many hundreds or thousands of miles, a practice I have criticized among feminist matriarchalists. So now let us examine the art of three specific cultures, ones heralded by feminist matriarchalists as matricentric, and see what their artistic production as a whole might say.

Catalhoyuk

The art of Catalhoyuk has been an object of fascination from the time it was first excavated. James Mellaart, the site's first excavator in the I960s, interpreted the art as evidence of goddess worship, and by 1980, feminist matriarchalists were concluding that the site provided "conclusive evidence for women's preeminence in the Middle Eastern Neolithic." In 1993, when excavations resumed under the direction of Ian Hodder, feminist matriarchalists mobilized to gain access to new archaeological data, and they are now a frequent presence at the site as they arrive on "goddess tours" and work to establish a "Goddess Guest House" in a nearby village. [49]

The art of Catalhoyuk consists of plaster wall reliefs, wall paintings, and figurines either carved in stone or modeled from clay, radiocarbon dated to between 6500 and 5700 BCE. The walls at Catalhoyuk were painted repeatedly, being covered with whitewash in between. Going up the ten to twelve levels of habitation at Catalhoyuk uncovered in the 1/32nd of the mound excavated by Mellaart, one can see definite changes in the artwork. Plaster reliefs are present from the beginning, though at first they only include animal heads. They later come to incorporate anthropomorphic figures and "breasts" (conical plaster reliefs usually molded around the skulls of small animals), but by the last levels of habitation, these reliefs fell out of use entirely. Wall paintings include depictions of animals and people; some are hunting scenes. Though females are occasionally present, it is always males who are actively involved in the hunt. One rather famous wall painting is of seven enormous vultures "making a feast of six small headless human beings," a scene which Mellaart relates to the burial practice of excarnation at Catalhoyuk. [50]

Figurines, both zoomorphic and anthropomorphic, have been found at every habitation level, though it is not always clear to which level they "belong." Being made of durable materials, they could have had a use life far exceeding the era in which they were first produced. These figurines range in size from five to thirty centimeters tall. About half are zoomorphic, and of the remainder some are anthropomorphic while others are hard to identify: some call them "humanoid," but others believe they are ducks or other animals. Definitely female figurines have been recovered from houses, grain bins, and, most commonly, rubbish heaps. Some of these figurines are very schematic, with "pointed legs, a stalk-like body, and a beaked head"; others are more naturalistically rendered. One particular figurine, "Goddess with Leopards," is a special favorite among feminist matriarchalists. She is said to sit on a throne flanked by two leopards, as "from between her legs, life emerges" (see Fig. 7.16). The figurine is slightly over four inches tall, and was recovered, headless, from a grain bin. Female figurines are typically found at later levels of habitation, and earlier styles of figurines, both animal and "humanoid," do not persist to the latest levels. If the female figurines are representations of the goddess, one must assume that the earlier inhabitants of Catalhoyuk either did not worship her, or did not make icons of her. This in itself casts some doubt on the matriarchalist interpretation of the art of Catalhoyuk, since this site was in theory goddess-worshipping from the beginning. Mellaart believed he found male figurines as well, though fewer in number. With admirable consistency, he described them as representations of "a male deity." [51] No mention of such a god is made by feminist matriarchalists.

The other major source of putatively female imagery is found in the plaster reliefs that decorate many of the rooms at Catalhoyuk. A familiar image is of a splayed figure with hands and feet pointing upward, sometimes with a slightly swollen belly that is emphasized by concentric rings drawn around the navel (see Fig. 7.17). Mellaart suggests that this figure is pregnant -- though it is not decisively so -- and that its position "is indicative of childbirth." While it is true that women give birth in a variety of positions, this one is particularly odd, since the woman would either be lying down spread-eagled or standing upright, balanced on her heels. Increasingly, archaeologists are interpreting these figures as being of indeterminate sex. Ian Hodder points out that many of the plaster relief figures have "short stumpy arms and legs" which make them "look more animal than human." Recent excavations at other Neolithic sites in Turkey have revealed similar splayed figures, but these have tails and serpentlike teeth, strengthening the case for interpreting these figures as something other than human females. [52]

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FIG. 7.16 Seated female figure from Catalhoyuk, Turkey, c. 5800 BCE, called "Goddess with Leopards" or "the Mother Goddess of Catalhoyuk."
 
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FIG. 7.17 Spread-eagled plaster reliefs, Catalhoyuk, Turkey, c. 6200 BCE.

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FIG. 7.18 Room with multiple bucrania and cattle horns, Catalhoyuk, Turkey, c. 5800 BCE.

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FIG. 7.19 Female reproductive organs, as customarily pictured in medical texts.

Bucrania, or bulls' heads, are frequently found in the plaster reliefs at Catalhoyuk, usually consisting of cattle horns incorporated into plaster heads (see Fig. 7.18). These have traditionally been regarded as "an epiphany of male fertility," signifying "the qualities of male potency and strength." Some feminist matriarchalists have responded to this apparently obvious evocation of masculinity by viewing it as evidence of the complementary balancing of the sexes in Neolithic times, or by conceptualizing the bull as the son of the goddess, mystically symbolizing "the regenerative power of the female." [53] More recently though, matriarchalists have said that bulls have a central place in the imagery of Catalhoyuk because of an "accidental similarity" between a bull's head and the female reproductive organs. This idea was first proposed by Dorothy Cameron, an artist working on Mellaart's archaeological team who was puzzled by the appearance of so many bucrania -- as opposed to complete bulls-represented at Catalhoyuk. Consulting medical textbooks, she noticed that these bucrania were shaped like a human uterus, with the horns positioned like fallopian tubes (see Fig. 7.19). The response of feminist matriarchalists to this insight has been enthusiastic. In The Civilization oj the Goddess, Marija Gimbutas describes the purported similarity of female internal reproductive organs and bucrania as "a plausible if esoteric explanation for the importance of this motif in the symbolism of Old Europe, Anatolia, and the Near East." But what on page 244 is simply an interesting theory becomes on page 246 a certain fact, as Gimbutas writes, "Bull heads, that is, uteri .... " Feminist matriarchalists now routinely argue that bucrania are meant to emphasize not "the bull itself but the female reproductive system it invokes." [54] However, the similarity between the head of a bull and a woman's internal reproductive organs is not striking to those not already prepared to see it. Fallopian tubes "are barely visible upon dissection" -- they certainly do not call to mind the size and sweep of the horns of cattle -- and bulls' horns lack any indication of ovaries. [55]

Another common motif in the plaster reliefs of Catalhoyuk are the many "breasts" modeled around the skulls of vultures, foxes, and weasels, with "the teeth, tusks or beaks of the animals" protruding "where the nipples should be." A standard matriarchalist interpretation of these images is that they "represent both the nurturing and devouring nature of the Mother Goddess, in that all of her children eventually return to her." The suggestion that these are intended to represent breasts seems far-fetched. These objects frequently appear alone or in rows; when they are paired, they are sometimes stacked one on top of the other in a column rather than side-by-side (as one might expect if these were depictions of female breasts). Furthermore, the shape of a breast is the natural form a small animal skull would take on if plaster were molded around it. This plaster encasing may have been simply a convenient way for the people of Catalhoyuk to attach animal skulls to their walls, or a means of emphasizing teeth and beaks. [56]

Amid all this disputed evidence about the art of Catalhoyuk, a few points do seem clear: most of the images feminist matriarchalists regard as female (plaster reliefs, bucrania, "breasts" around animal skulls) are not definitely or even probably female; the images that are unequivocal representations of femaleness do not persist over the entire life of the settlement, suggesting that any goddess worship associated with female figurines was not a stable and enduring feature of Catalhoyuk's religion; hunting continued to be an important activity, in symbol if not in practice, and was strongly linked to men; and death was a prominent theme. None fit the picture feminist matriarchalists paint for prehistory.

Malta

The "goddess" of Malta and the natural beauty of her Mediterranean environs feature prominently in current tellings of matriarchal myth. Malta falls rather late in the chronology of matriarchal prehistory, flourishing between roughly 4000 and 2500 BCE. It is said by feminist matriarchalists to have survived in the face of patriarchal threats to its existence because of its enviable island locale. Early archaeological interpretations tended to assume that fourth and third millennium BCE Malta was goddess-worshipping, but interestingly, even early observers predisposed to the mother goddess theory didn't quite know what to make of Malta's enormous anthropomorphic statues (fifteen feet tall, unprecedented for that era). [57] The Maltese megalithic "goddesses" betray exceptionally little information about their sex. They could easily be female, or they could be male, like the icons of the Buddha to which Gertrude Rachel Levy likened them many years ago (see Fig. 7.20). They could even, as some have argued, be intended to represent eunuchs. [58] There are some obviously female figurines from Malta, such as the so-called "Sleeping Goddess," but the ones of special interest to feminist matriarchalists are the megalithic figures upon whom the floor plans of the temples are supposedly based.

It has long been thought that these megalithic temples, described by one archaeologist as "a group of chambers centering about a central spine composed of courts and corridors") are a later derivative of the earlier Maltese tombs, which were cut out of rock in ovoid shapes during the fifth millennium BCE. Feminist matriarchalists claim that the floor plans of these temples replicate the body of the large stone statues. The multiple chambers are thought to form the goddess's head, arms, and legs (or, alternatively, her head, breasts, and hips), with entry through "the open legs of the Goddess." [59] This interpretation has become very popular among feminist matriarchalists. "Just as a Christian worshipper enters a cathedral which represents the living body of the crucified Christ," writes Cristina Biaggi, "to enter a Maltese temple is to enter the living body of the Great Goddess." [60] Or as Monica Sjoo puts it in poetic form:

... Through the vaginal gateways of the temples
one enters into Her body to die and to be reborn. [61]


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FIG. 7.20 Headless standing statue carved in limestone, Malta, c. 3600-3000 BCE (height: 48.6 cm), termed "the Maltese Goddess" by Cristina Biaggi.

Certain of the Maltese temples, such as those at Ggantija, Gozo, or Mnajdra, have a floor plan that is a fair model of the human body as it is elsewhere portrayed in Maltese art and architecture (see Fig. 7.21). But other temples require a tremendous excess of interpretation to be regarded as anything remotely like a human body. The Ha gar Qim temple, if it is the body of the goddess, has an extra appendage, with entrance through, perhaps, the goddess's foot (see Fig. 7.22); the Tarxien temple has one "goddess body" with entrance to what appears to be a four-tiered snowman from one of her arms (or breasts). Apart from the temples, Cristina Biaggi has described a rock formation common in this era in Malta -- an inverted trapezoid, as tall as 1.5 meters -- as a "pubic triangle," [62] but the resemblance is invisible to anyone not looking for vulvas in virtually every geometric shape. In sum, the evidence for widespread goddess worship on Malta in the fourth and third millennia BCE is practically nonexistent.

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FIG. 7.21 Floor plan of temple at Ggantija, Malta, c. 3600-3000 BCE.

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FIG. 7.22 Floor plan of temple at Hagar Qim, Malta, c. 4000-3500 BCE.

Minoan Crete

Minoan Crete has been an integral part of matriarchal myth for several generations now. Like Catalhoyuk, Minoan Crete was originally excavated by an archaeologist (Sir Arthur Evans) sympathetic to the idea of prehistoric goddess worship, and this has colored interpretation of its artwork ever since.

Prose has a tendency to wax and soar when the topic is Minoan Crete, a fact nearly as true of archaeologists' writing as it is of feminist matriarchalists'. There is something about the image of graceful palaces spilling across the rocky hills overlooking a sapphire sea, beautiful women in flounced skirts, and athletic young people leaping over bulls that brings out the poet injust about everyone. Minoan art is attractive to twentieth-century aesthetic sensibilities in a way that much earlier Neolithic and Paleolithic art simply is not. Even feminist matriarchalists frequently comment that they have had to learn to appreciate the beauty and power of earlier artifacts; not so with those of Minoan Crete. As Adele Getty writes, "The brightly coloured pottery and frescoes [of Minoan Crete] depict in free and elegant line both complex ceremonial practices and the beauties of Nature, expressing an inherent joy in the mystery of existence which surely reflects the harmonious relationship to life that the people experienced in their everyday activities." D. H. Trump, author of The Prehistory if the Mediterranean, attempts greater detachment, though he too is finally captivated: "True, we are seeing here only the wealthier and more powerful segment of society, to the exclusion of the humbler majority on whose labours this civilization depended, yet it is difficult to escape the impression of a happy people, their eyes open to nature, to foreign lands, to the good things of life, supported by a stable society and economy." [63]

Feminist matriarchalists sometimes say that the palaces of Minoan Crete, like the temples of Malta, replicate the body of the goddess on a grand scale. The palaces are "sited on a north-south axis facing a conical hill and beyond that a horned mountain containing a cave." According to Mimi Lobell, "the valley was her encircling arms; the conical hill, her breast or nurturing function; the horned mountain, her 'lap' or cleft vulva, the Earth's active power, and the cave sanctuary, her birth-giving womb." [64] The resemblance is something less than striking: breasts typically come in pairs and horned mountains sound more phallic than vaginal, the caves notwithstanding.

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FIG. 7.23 The "grandstand" fresco from Knossos. Crete, c. 1600 BCE, showing a group of women in conversation.

The frescoes give us what appears to be our clearest picture of Minoan gender relations. We here have the advantage of seeing relatively naturalistic portrayals of groups of people, male and female, interacting in what appear to be the normal (if festive) situations of Minoan cultural life (see Fig. 7.23). A further advantage in interpreting this art is that there was a convention in Minoan art -- though one occasionally broken-of painting women white and men red. This can be used to sort out gender in questionable cases, especially since women and men are otherwise depicted with a similar body type: waspishly thin waists combined with "exaggeratedly curved chests." The frescoes often portray women and men as "partners in relationship," say feminist matriarchalists, with women, like men, "strenuously engaged as boxers, bull-leapers, acrobats, charioteers, and hunters." From the testimony of these frescoes, women appear to have been active "in every sphere of Minoan society." [65]

The evidence of the Minoan frescoes concerning the free interaction of the sexes is indeed impressive, though part of the reason for this is the background against which this art is typically viewed: namely, what we know to have been the relations between women and men in classical Greek times. Still, art is art, and life is life, and there may be no clear resemblance between the two. As classicist C.G. Thomas comments, "If the Procession Fresco were our only evidence for the position of Minoan women, we could give no answer. The subject is similar to that of the Parthenon frieze where Athenian maidens playa conspicuous role, and fifth century Athens was definitely not a matriarchal society." [66]

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FIG. 7.24 "Master of Animals" sealstones from Minoan Crete, c. 1500 BCE.

Scholars generally agree that many of the female images in Minoan sealstones and statuary represent goddesses, probably because they are reading back from classical times when this was a common meaning of female images. However, no female figurines have been recovered from "a definitely ritual context" or from graves; most have been found, as earlier, in garbage heaps. Females represented in sealstones, if goddesses, are notable mostly for their relationship to animals, with whom they are generally portrayed. Other "adorants," when present, are mostly women, leading classicist Nanno Marinatos to conclude that the Minoan goddess was "primarily the protectress of her own sex." Females do predominate in Minoan art. But there are considerably more males depicted in Minoan Crete than in Paleolithic and Neolithic European art more generally. Interestingly, these males appear in characteristically different roles than females. The most common male image is of a "god" whom classical archaeologists sometimes name "Master of Animals," for he "holds two wild animals in a position of submission or subjugation" (see Fig. 7.24). In other pictures, males "hunt wild beasts" or engage in combat, unlike comparable females, who are typically shown "feeding or tending animals." [67]

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FIG. 7.25 Faience female figures from Knossos, Crete, c. 1600 BCE. The figure holding the snakes in front of her is 34 cm tall; the one holding the snakes in the air is 20 cm tall without her head. Neither was found intact, and both were reconstructed under the supervision of Sir Arthur Evans, the site's first excavator.

What captures feminist matriarchalists' imagination more than all else, however, is elegantly-crafted figurines of the Minoan "snake goddess": a bare-breasted woman holding snakes in each of her hands (see Fig. 7.25). Feminist matriarchalists have devoted extensive attention to interpreting this figurine (which is unmatched in number of modern reproductions by any save the Venus of Willendorf), as can be seen in this passage from Anne Baring and Jules Cashford's The Myth of the Goddess:

The open bodice with the bared breasts is eloquent of the gift of nurture, while the caduceus-like image of intertwined snakes on the belly suggests that the goddess whose womb gives forth and takes back life is experienced as a unity .... The trance-like, almost mask-like expression ... composes a meditation upon this theme of regeneration .... The net pattern on her skirt, which gathers significance from its Palaeolithic and Neolithic ancestry, suggests she is the weaver of the web of life, which is perpetually woven from her womb. Her skirt has seven layers, the number of the days of the moon's four quarters, which divide into two the waxing and waning halves of the cycle .... Although seven was also the number of the visible "planets," this is probably a lunar notation of series and measure, so that sitting in the lap of the goddess, as the overlapping panel of her gown invites, would be to experience time supported by eternity, and eternity clothed in time. For the goddess, by virtue of holding the two snakes, is herself beyond their opposition; or rather, she is the one who contains the two poles of dualism and so prevents them falling apart into the kind of opposition that our modern consciousness assumes as inevitable. [68]


Whatever their meaning, it is clear that the "snake goddesses" have been given a symbolic role out of proportion to their very modest number. Though this has been described as "a deity very popular in Minoan times," there are actually only two such figurines from the entire palace period in Crete, both uncovered from the same pit in the palace at Knossos. As Nanno Marinatos writes, one may as well "speak of a Lily, Goat, Lion, or Griffin Goddess." [69]

The art of Minoan Crete is certainly beautiful, but the divinity of the figures pictured is uncertain, and again we must ask what effect any Minoan goddess worship might have had on human women. The evidence of sealstones indicates that hunting and combat were thought of as male activities, which is not suggestive of a peaceful cultural ethos. And though the frescoes show an unprecedented intermingling of the sexes and significant freedoms for women, they are no more than what we are accustomed to in our own culture, one which, according to feminist matriarchalists, is patriarchal.

It is unfortunate that prehistoric art cannot tell us more about how women were regarded in prehistoric societies, or how they lived their lives, but the evidence of prehistoric art is simply inconclusive. It tells us that women existed, and that people in prehistoric societies chose to represent them, usually in stylized or abstract forms. It tells us that then, as now, women seemed to be depicted more often than men. But beyond that, we are given precious little information about the status of either divine or human women in prehistory; it shows us nothing that would contradict the alternative hypothesis that male dominance flourished throughout the prehistoric times from which these works survive.
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Re: The Myth of Matriarchal Prehistory: Why an Invented Past

Postby admin » Sat Nov 03, 2018 3:33 am

CHAPTER 8: Was There a Patriarchal Revolution?

If the vision of a prehistoric matriarchal utopia cannot stand against cultural anthropological and archaeological evidence, the possibility remains that there was nevertheless a decisive change in social organization around 3000 BCE (at least in southeastern Europe and the Near East) that propelled human civilization in a more patriarchal, hierarchical, and warlike direction.

Previous chapters have cast doubt on explanations for the rise of patriarchy that attribute it to internal developments within matriarchal cultures. The connection between sexual intercourse and conception was probably well known long before 3000 BCE; it seems doubtful that male "womb envy," insofar as it exists, would take a sudden and nefarious turn five thousand years before our time; intensive agriculture has been found historically and ethnographically to correlate with class-stratified societies and male dominance, but horticultural and foraging societies tend to be male-dominated as well; and animal husbandry, far from being a patriarchal invention, was already being practiced in Catalhoyuk and Old Europe, cultures which feminist matriarchalists claim were goddess-worshipping and matricentric. We are left then with the leading external explanation for patriarchal revolution: that armed invaders imposed their male-dominant, male-gad-worshipping cultures on formerly peaceful goddess-worshippers. Since Semitic invasions are mentioned by feminist matriarchalists but rarely discussed at any length, we will confine our attention here to their favored invaders: the horse-riding, nomadic Kurgans.

In reconstructing the era in which the Kurgans supposedly descended on the goddess-worshipping lands to the south, we have access to resources not available in earlier eras: the evidence of comparative linguistics, which, together with archaeological evidence, can help trace probable prehistoric population movements; genetic studies on contemporary populations which may also document migrations; and written texts that may provide clues to past events that were still living in human memory when they were recorded. Together these sources speak to the question of whether or not there was a patriarchal revolution in southeastern Europe and the Near East on the very eve of the historical era.

PREHISTORIC MIGRATIONS

There is much disagreement among prehistorians as to whether or not the invasions -- or, more neutrally, migrations -- described by feminist matriarchalists occurred during the late Neolithic in the areas under question. For most of the twentieth century, archaeologists have tended to assume that changes in the material record were due to shifts in population. So, for example, when a certain type of pottery known as a "bell beaker" turned up in, say, Holland, the assumption was that the "bell beaker people" had immigrated to Holland from wherever they had been before. This assumption is now out of favor. Archaeologists are currently much more prone to envision stable, sedentary Neolithic populations that adopted the pottery styles of their neighbors without ever relocating themselves from one spot to another. [1]

This accounts, in part, for the chilly reception of Marija Gimbutas's work among other archaeologists. From the 1970s on, she continued to postulate large-scale migrations at a time when archaeological fashion had turned in the opposite direction. But on the face of it, it seems as dubious to suggest that prehistoric populations virtually never moved as it is to say that they were constantly picking up their bell beakers and traveling hundreds and thousands of miles with no apparent provocation. Certainly taking the long view of human history, back to the beginnings of the hominid line and forward to our own times, migration has been the rule rather than the exception. There are groups who sit on the same plot of land, cultivating or hunting within an established range for many generations. But there are also groups who are highly mobile. And even in sedentary groups, there may be a number of mobile individuals trading, exploring, colonizing, or immigrating. [2] Large-scale prehistoric migrations, such as those that feminist matriarchalists propose for the Kurgans, cannot be ruled out in advance.

The Evidence from Linguistics

The spread of Indo-European languages throughout Europe, the Near East, and southern Asia is a key piece of evidence for feminist matriarchalists. The reach of the patriarchal revolution can be charted very simply, they suggest, by noting when and where Indo-European languages appear.

Today Indo-European languages blanket Europe and much of southwest Asia, and owing to colonial expansion, the Americas and Africa as well. In the eighteenth century, when European linguists began to trace connections between these languages, there were dozens of Indo-European languages and very little record of any non-Indo-European languages having been spoken in Europe. Indo-European languages were first written down in the nineteenth century BCE; by this time, there were already several such languages. [3] However, the usual postulate for linguists -- and for feminist matriarchalists too -- is that at some time earlier than this, prehistorically, there was a group of people who spoke a language which, for convenience, is called "proto-Indo-European." It is further assumed that this group must have lived somewhere in Europe or Asia in such a position that their language could have, by whatever means, proliferated outwards to fill the territory that the languages derived from it eventually came to inhabit.

By searching through the most widely separated Indo-European languages for vocabulary they share in common, linguists believe that they can reconstruct a small portion of the proto-Indo-European language. This bank of words, the protolexicon, is an extremely important tool in efforts to locate when and where proto-Indo-European may have been spoken, and what sort of economy and society its speakers might have had. For example, the English word birch is found in a similar form in German, Lithuanian, Old Slavonic, and Sanskrit, which is taken as an indication that *bhergh -- a parent word for birch, reconstructed and assigned to the proto-Indo-European lexicon -- grew in the landscape where the proto-Indo-Europeans lived. [4]

It has been a longstanding tradition among linguists to think of the proto-Indo-Europeans as nomadic herders, since there is a fairly rich vocabulary in the protolexicon for the herding and breeding of domesticated animals (including dogs, sheep, goats, pigs, horses, and especially cows), while there is a comparatively sparse vocabulary for agriculture (although it is definitely present in words like "wheat" and "barley"). It is certainly possible that the proto-Indo-Europeans had a thriving fanning economy, but that for whatever reason it was words related to herding that successfully propagated themselves down the many lineages of Indo-European languages. (Perhaps the people who adopted Indo-European languages used their native words for farming, but Indo-European ones for herding.) This caveat notwithstanding, it is clear that the proto-Indo-Europeans practiced animal husbandry and that they were familiar with horses, both important factors in the matriarchalist thesis. The case for the proto-Indo-Europeans having been nomads, as feminist matriarchalists suggest, is not as strong: they apparently built their houses of wood, which is not easily transportable, and they did in fact have terms for a more intensive and sedentary form of agriculture, namely plowing. [5]

There is not much argument among linguists regarding the basic social system of the proto-Indo-Europeans: it was patriarchal. It has been more or less established that kinship was reckoned patrilineally, that a woman went to live with her husband or his family upon marriage, and that the term "husband" had roots meaning "master" or "lord of the house." [6] There are also indications that it was a class-based society, since the basic tripartite scheme of the top levels of the caste system in India -- priests, warriors, and herders-cultivators -- is seen in other ancient societies in which Indo-European languages were spoken. [7] Most linguists believe proto-Indo-Europeans owned slaves and practiced warfare, though terms for slavery are unknown and terms for weapons are extremely limited. There are terms for "sword" and "bow and arrow," but they are not widely attested, being found in only two Indo-European languages each. Little is known about proto-Indo-European religion. There is a generic term for "god," but only one name for a specific god survives in known Indo- European languages: the Greek Zeus or Latin Jupiter, whose name is related to the word "day." Feminist matriarchalists have suggested that the god of the proto-Indo-Europeans was a sky or sun god, and indeed there are intriguing phrases that surface in several Indo-European languages: "the wheel of the sun" and the expression, in reference to the sun, "he who spies upon gods and men." [8]

Just where the proto-Indo-Europeans called home -- the Urheimat, or homeland -- has probably been the subject of the most intense debate among Indo-European linguists. Many candidates have been proposed, based either on the reconstructed protolexicon, on archaeological and historical evidence for migrations, or both. Today the contenders have been more or less narrowed down to two: Anatolia (present-day Turkey) and the Russian-Ukranian steppes. [9] The case for an Anatolian homeland is relatively weak. Anatolia is nowhere near the first known geographical center of Indo-European linguistic dominance; Indo-European languages are not the only or even the most common languages of the region. Nor do these languages seem to resemble their Semitic neighbors, as one might expect if they had been in close contact with one another for several millennia. [10]

The argument in favor of the Russian-Ukranian hypothesis is, in contrast, quite good. Geographically speaking, the steppes provide "a corridor for constant movement and migration." Central Europe is accessible via the Danube; northern Europe can be reached by heading north of the Carpathian mountains, through Poland; the Near East and western Asia lie directly below the steppes. Certainly in later eras (later than those Gimbutas posits for the patriarchal invasions) there is excellent evidence that the steppes were home to nomadic, horse-riding pastoralists: the Cimerians, Scythians, Sarmatians, Alans, Huns, Magyars, Bulgars, and Mongols, among others. And though words from the protolexicon can be used to argue for an enormous variety of potential homelands for proto-Indo-European, terms for trees and animals do seem to suit the flora and fauna of the steppes. [11]

A best guess for when Indo-European languages began to disperse can also be derived from the protolexicon. Since there are terms for things like "milk" and "wool" in the protolexicon, associated with what is known as the "secondary products revolution" (when domesticated animals began to be used not only for meat, but also for transportation, clothing, dairy products, and the like), we can be fairly certain that the languages did not disperse before 4000 BCE. There is also a term for "copper" in the protolexicon, but none for metals which came into use later, and this too points to a dispersal beginning in the fourth or fifth millennium BCE. [12] Putting these together, most linguists provisionally date the dispersal of the proto-Indo-Europeans to 4500 to 2500 BCE, a time span that matches feminist matriarchalists' claims perfectly -- which should not be surprising when one remembers that this time frame was adopted directly from Indo-European linguists, especially Gimbutas.

What information from the Indo-European protolexicon cannot tell us is if the people who spoke proto-Indo-European moved to a new area, or if the people previously living in that area merely adopted their neighbors' language (to facilitate trade, for example). It cannot tell us if the transmission of the language was friendly or hostile, or how much of proto-Indo-European was grafted onto preexisting languages. It cannot tell us with certainty which words were shared because they existed in the parent language, and which were invented much later and then traded between neighboring languages (as words like "television" and "telephone" are shared between many otherwise unrelated languages today). Linguists examine the spread and differentiation of languages, not of cultures or peoples. Any connections to be drawn between the two must be done carefully -- usually with the help of other sorts of evidence, primarily archaeological.  [13]

The Evidence from Archaeology

Prehistoric pastoralists of the Russian-Ukranian steppes are known to us -- though not terribly well -- through archaeological excavations. The Sredny Stag culture, dated to 4500-3500 BCE, is located near the Dnieper River in southern Ukraine, and its material remains indicate that the people of this culture were cattle herders who also farmed, hunted, and fished. Excavations have unearthed "cheek-pieces," which may indicate that they rode horses. Following the Sredny Stog culture, and apparently growing out of it, is the Yamnaya or "Pit Grave" culture that Gimbutas has named "Kurgan." Covering a much broader swath than the Sredny Stog culture (from the headwaters of the Danube across to the Volga River and beyond) and dated from 3600 to 2200 BCE, the basic signature of the Yamnaya culture is, predictably, its style of burial: the body was placed in a deep pit, lying on its back with the knees drawn up. A mound was placed over the top of the grave after it was filled in. Sometimes wagon wheels marked the corners of these pit graves. Feminist matriarchalists regard these burials as novel in two ways: first, they were not communal, but individual, which they take to suggest a possible weakening of community ties, and second, some of the graves contain greater wealth than was typical of the burial practices of earlier societies. [14]

Similar burials -- graves for a single individual, covered by a mound -- emerged around 3000 BCE across northern and western Europe, along with a distinctive style of pottery called "Corded Ware." This "culture complex" has often been thought to have been related to the Yamnaya culture of the steppes. If the Yamnaya people spoke an Indo-European language, as many suggest, then the Corded Ware people may have as well, forming another center from which Indo-European languages could then have spread (see Fig. 8.1). What is thought to have facilitated these migrations is the mobility made possible by the domestication of the horse (for riding) and the introduction of wheeled vehicles. Both innovations appear to have taken place on the Russian steppes, with domestication of the horse occurring in the fifth millennium, and the invention of wheeled vehicles in the fourth millennium. [15]

To reiterate though, the spread of archaeological artifacts, such as pottery types, or even of new technologies and practices such as wheeled transportation or the domestication of the horse, does not necessarily reflect the spread of either people or languages. There is no shortage of examples of military and linguistic dominance coinciding (as in the European conquest of the Americas), and it is difficult to throw off the image of warlike, horse-riding invaders imposing political rule and linguistic change upon subject peoples. But there is also no shortage of examples of the peaceful transfer of languages, or of military conquests that bring about no linguistic changes. [16] And the existing evidence for the Indo-European case can be explained in other ways.

The most common criticism of the theory of horse-riding nomadic invaders from the steppes is that articulated by archaeologist Colin Renfrew, who asks, "Why on earth should hordes of mounted warriors have moved west at the end of the Neolithic, subjugating the inhabitants of Europe and imposing proto-Indo-European language on them? What enormous upsurge of population on the steppes could have been responsible?" When people migrate, Renfrew implies, it is because conditions where they are have become unsatisfactory: either the environment has changed or the population has expanded beyond what the environment can comfortably carry. There is no archaeological evidence of either of these events occurring on the Russian steppes in the fifth and fourth millennia BCE. [17] We are left, then, with the general sentiment behind matriarchal myth: that the peoples of the steppes -- the proto-Indo-Europeans, the Kurgans -- were cruel and greedy, and, presented with an opportunity to rape and pillage, they took it, although they already had everything they needed at home.

Image
FIG. 8.1 Map of late Neolithic, Chalcolithic, and early Bronze Age Europe, 3500-2500 BCE, as derived from archaeological findings. The Pit Grave culture is that which Gimbutas calls Kurgan and which feminist matriarchalists claim is the source of Indo-European language, horse-riding, war, male-dominated religion, and patriarchy. Some archaeologists have suggested that the Corded Ware culture is related to the Pit Grave culture and that Indo-European languages were spoken in both.

To my cynical mind, this is not an outrageous hypothesis, but it doesn't sit well with many archaeologists. [18] And indeed there are other potential explanations for the social disintegration that is apparent in the archaeological record around the time of the purported patriarchal revolution, at least in southeastern Europe. The best evidence for incursions from the steppes comes "long after the stable villages of the Copper Age had disappeared" because of deforestation and environmental degradation. As J. P. Mallory summarizes, "almost all of the arguments for invasion and cultural transformations are far better explained without reference to Kurgan expansions." [19]

The Evidence from Genetics

Scientists' increasing ability to detect relationships between peoples based on genetic material found in their blood and bones is providing another means for reconstructing prehistoric migrations in Europe and western Asia. To date, genetic research has been conducted on living Europeans -- not their ancestors. And the way genetic material is distributed in Europe today is the result of so many overlapping population movements that it is by no means trivial to separate and identify them. [20] Nevertheless, genetic studies have yielded some interesting data that informs speculation about prehistoric migrations.

Pioneering work in this area was first carried out by Italian geneticist Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza and his collaborators in the 1970s. Sampling blood from modern European populations and tracking key genetic differences across these populations (beginning, most simply, with blood type), Cavalli-Sforza was able to detect statistically significant differences that could be mapped directly onto the European landscape. He sorted these differences into "principal components." That which accounted for the largest portion of the total genetic information (27 percent) -- the first principal component -- was centered in the Near East and gradually thinned out in radiating arcs as it pushed across the European continent. Cavalli-Sforza and others have interpreted this first principal component -- the oldest -- to be consistent with a gradual movement of farming populations from Anatolia throughout Europe. But Cavalli-Sforza uncovered other principal components in the genetic material of modern Europeans, ones that mapped quite differently. The second principal component, accounting for 18 percent of the genetic similarity, indicated a movement of population from northern Europe southwards, and was theorized to be "due to a genetic adaptation to the climate difference between north and south Europe" or to the southward movement of speakers of Uralic languages. The third principal component (accounting for 12 percent of the genetic similarity), uncovered something far more exciting to feminist matriarchalists: a trend centered in Poland, the Ukraine, and southern Russia, extending out into Europe proper. The fit between this third principal component and Gimbutas's theory did not go unnoticed even by Cavalli-Sforza, who wrote as early as 1984 that one possible explanation of this genetic phenomenon "would be the expansion of Indo-European speaking people whose homeland has been placed in the region to the north of the Black Sea on the basis of linguistic considerations." [21]

Feminist matriarchalists have welcomed this as proof that Gimbutas was correct in postulating a series of invasions from the Russian steppes, [22] but this is not exactly how Cavalli-Sforza and certain anthropologists view the matter. Cavalli-Sforza has noted that the center of the third principal component of his gene mapping project does not have "precise contours," and that the genetic effect it represents could be due to much later invasions, even as recent as the end of the Roman Empire. Others have suggested that the third principal component dates to significantly earlier times (around 7000 BCE), before any purported patriarchal revolution, with the expansion of a Mesolithic hunting and gathering population. Furthermore, tests how well Cavalli-Sforza's third principal component conforms to Gimbutas's archaeologically derived maps are "currently still at the borderline of statistical significance." [23] It simply cannot be said, on the basis of the available data, that genetic evidence proves that there were Indo-European invasions in the fifth and fourth millennia BCE, or indeed migrations of any sort from the Russian steppe to southeast Europe and the Near East at this time. In short, the case for the spread of Indo-European speakers from the Russian steppes is merely suggestive, and the argument that this spread occurred via military conquest is completely speculative -- though not entirely implausible.

READING BACK FROM THE LITERATE PAST

Another avenue back into the era of putative patriarchal revolution is written texts. Since feminist matriarchalists believe that the patriarchal revolution coincided with the development of written language, or else lived within the memory (or oral history) of the earliest writers, they believe that that conflagration is recorded in very early histories and myths.

The earliest texts of the West, when they trouble themselves to speak about women, seem to indicate that male dominance, in one form or another, was already the norm. Cuneiform texts from ancient Sumer (beginning around 2500 BCE) record widespread goddess worship, with female religious functionaries being more common than male ones. Women of the upper classes were able to own slaves and other property, to transact business, and to retain control over their dowries (though inheritance went first to sons, if there were any). Royal women in particular had considerable power, founding dynasties, managing large temple estates, and even ruling city-states. But farther down in the class structure, legal texts show that women could be sold by their husbands, put to death for adultery, divorced if barren, or drowned for refusing to bear children. Since most girls were wed by age eleven or twelve, marriage was the state in which they lived most of their lives. Women's children were regarded as the property of their fathers, who were permitted by law to decide whether they should be exposed, married, or sold as slaves. The lot of female slaves was of course worse: in addition to being "subject to the master's sexual whims," female slaves received about half as much food as their male counterparts, and many died at a young age owing to the harsh conditions under which they labored. [24]

Minoan Crete also had a written script -- Linear A, an apparently non-Greek language developed around the eighteenth century BCE. Some scholars have found what they believe to be the names of individual deities in Linear A texts, though their gender is not clear. But since Minoan texts remain undeciphered, written records in the Mediterranean cannot be used to determine the status of women in ancient times until the emergence of Linear B (a syllabic script, representing an early Greek language, with a visual appearance similar to Linear A) on both Crete and the Greek mainland in roughly the fourteenth century BCE. Deciphered Linear B documents indicate that there was a king (male) in Mycenaean Greece and that there were numerous female workers who had possibly been taken captive in raids and were either slaves or servants in the palaces. Male workers also appear in Linear B texts, rearing sheep and managing groups of female laborers whose tasks were more menial than those of men (apart from weaving, which was a skilled occupation restricted to women). Linear B tablets also record offerings made to goddesses and gods, with women most often serving female deities, and men male ones. [25] Thus Linear B texts, like cuneiform ones, suggest that women had roles as religious functionaries, but also portray a society stratified by class in which women -- at least those of the lower classes -- had fewer advantages and harder lives than the men of their own class.

A picture of early Greek life begins to emerge in the works of Homer, which, though they date to the eighth or ninth century BCE, offer accounts of earlier events and are believed to be the codification of a preexisting oral tradition. The window which the Iliad and the Odyssey open on the position of women in Bronze Age Greece must be regarded with some suspicion, given the intervening time and the poet's agenda (which was not the dispassionate recording of historical fact). Homer's central female characters are aristocratic women, some of whom evidence considerable power within their families. The only other women he mentions are slaves. Homer's aristocratic female characters are free to walk the streets (accompanied by an escort) and can sit in the public rooms of their homes with male guests, unlike women in later Greek societies. But a Homeric woman's principal tasks were, as classicist Eva Cantarella details them, to be beautiful, to take care of domestic tasks, and to "above all be obedient." Female slaves had fewer freedoms and possessions, and like aristocratic wives, were required to be sexually faithful to their master alone. [26]

Later Greek literature paints a picture that is not at all favorable to women. Aristotle, writing in the fourth century BCE, put it unequivocally: "The male is by nature superior, and the female inferior; and the one rules and the other is ruled." Greek poetry, drama, and myth are full of the "problem" of women. The eighth-century BCE poet Hesiod describes woman as a drone who "sits within the house and reaps the fruits of others' toil to fill her belly," saying that even a "good wife" will bring misfortune upon a man. Indeed, the myth of Pandora suggests that women were regarded as a breed apart, not truly human. Pandora, the first woman, is created as a punishment to men. And though Greek literature recognizes it as an (unfortunate) fact that women are involved in reproducing all human beings, Pandora is named only as the origin of "the race of women." [27]

The misogyny evident in Greek literature permeated Greek society. Women in classical Athens were under the guardianship of one male or another for their entire lives. Married free-born women were confined to their houses -- actually to one portion of the house designated for women, the gynaecaeum. Fathers had the right to expose their newborn children, and more girls than boys were left to die in this manner. Heterosexual sex was understood as "an unequal transaction by which woman steals man's substance," and so men were better advised to have sexual relations with one another. As Eva Keuls sums up classical Athens: "In the case of a society dominated by men who sequester their wives and daughters, denigrate the female role in reproduction, erect monuments to male genitalia, have sex with the sons of their peers, sponsor public whorehouses, create a mythology of rape, and engage in rampant saber-rattling, it is not inappropriate to refer to a reign of the phallus." [28]

Nothing in this picture is particularly congenial to the matriarchal thesis, unless one interprets the zeal with which women were oppressed in antiquity to the newness of the practice. Many feminist matriarchalists draw exactly this conclusion, and they believe it to be documented -- albeit in carefully encoded ways -- in one type of ancient text, namely myth.

Finding Matriarchy in Ancient Myth

Gender was fascinating to the ancient cultures of the West, as it is to us, and their myths are full of references to conflicts between the sexes at both the individual and communal levels, among humans and also, strikingly, among the gods and goddesses. A subset of these myths is particularly fascinating to feminist matriarchalists: first, those that involve the triumph of gods over goddesses; second, those that tell a story of women's former dominance and its overthrow; and third, those that describe a past golden age. The first two types are taken to be documentation of a patriarchal revolution, while the third is seen as a memory of matriarchal times.

One of the most dramatic ways gods triumph over goddesses in ancient myths, according to feminist matriarchalists, is by murdering them. The narrative that is most often cited in this regard is the Babylonian myth of Tiamat and Marduk, in which Marduk conquers the chaotic forces of nature by subduing the primeval mother goddess Tiamat. Tiamat fights Marduk with serpents, dragons, water snakes, and other ferocious animals, but Marduk eventually dismembers her, then uses the pieces of her sundered body to create the earth and the sky. Feminist matriarchalists argue that all serpents and dragons are symbols of prehistoric goddess religion, and that therefore myths of serpent murder (like Marduk's of Tiamat and her reptilian creatures), found from India to Israel to Ireland, are records of patriarchal revolution. [29]

The new gods sometimes achieve the same ends without actually killing the old goddesses, feminist matriarchalists say. For example, the rape of Persephone by Hades and the consequent rupture of her heretofore exclusive relationship with her mother Demeter is thought to be another allegory of patriarchal revolution. So too is the myth of Athena's birth. Feminist matriarchalists say that when Zeus swallowed Athena's mother Metis and produced Athena from his head, he in effect "swallowed the ancient matrilineal line and gave birth to Athena ... the first daughter of the patriarchy." [30]

One of the most fully elaborated myths involving a transition from the power of the goddess to the power of the gods is found in Hesiod's Theogony. As a compilation of preexisting Greek myths about the gods and goddesses, the Theogony, dating to roughly 700 BCE, sought to put these disparate myths in a logical order. The resulting narrative progresses from the physical -- embodied in Gaia and her parthenogenetic children, Sky, Mountains, and Sea -- to the anthropocentric: Zeus and the rest of the Olympian pantheon. This is also, says translator and editor Norman O. Brown, an evolution "from the primacy of the female to the primacy of the male." [31]

Two other ancient Greek narratives are repeatedly cited by feminist matriarchalists as evidence of the patriarchal revolution, and both tell a more transparent story of women's loss of power, on the secular rather than the divine level. The first is the Oresteia by Aeschylus; the second is the myth of the naming of Athens (taken from Varro and appearing in Augustine's City if God). Aeschylus's tragedy was based on a legend told by Homer in the Odyssey (and later retold in different versions by the Greek poets Stesichorus and Pindar). The basic plot of the Oresteia revolves around a series of murders within the "house" or family of the king of Mycenae, Agamemnon. Agamemnon sacrifices his daughter Iphigenia to the gods to calm the winds so that his ships may safely sail off to war; Clytemnestra, Iphigenia's mother, kills Agamemnon upon his return in revenge for his having killed their daughter; and finally Orestes, their son, avenges Agamemnon's death by killing his mother, Clytemnestra. This is quite enough action for even the triology of plays that form the Oresteia, and this seems to be where the earliest versions of the legend end. But in Aeschylus's version, the drama isjust beginning: Orestes finds himself pursued by his mother's avenging furies (erinyes) who wish to punish him for his act of matricide. His case comes before a tribunal in Athens, over which Athena presides. Orestes's defense is offered by Apollo, who claims: "The mother is not the true parent of the child / Which is called hers. She is a nurse who tends the growth / Of young seed planted by its true parent, the male." To underscore his argument, Apollo points to Athena: "Present, as proof, the daughter of Olympian Zeus: / One never nursed in the dark cradle of the womb." The tribunal -- composed of Athenian citizens -- votes on whether to convict or acquit Orestes in the murder of his mother, and the vote is tied. Athena breaks the tie by voting to acquit, stating, "No mother gave me birth. Therefore the father's claim / And male supremacy in all things ... wins my whole heart's loyalty." Although no earlier matriarchal period is explicitly invoked in the Oresteia, there is a clear shift from female power (under which matricide is the most heinous crime) to male power (legitimately housed in the father, the only true parent). [32]

The myth of the naming of Athens is perhaps the clearest statement in classical Greek literature of a transition from female to male power. According to this myth, an olive tree and a spring appeared in the area that was to become Athens, and the residents asked Apollo what these marvels meant. Apollo replied that the olive tree came from Athena and the spring from Poseidon, and that the residents of the city could choose to name their city after one or the other of these gods. The citizens -- both male and female -- placed their votes. All the men voted for Poseidon, while all the women voted for Athena; because the women were in a majority of one, the decision was in favor of Athena. This so outraged Poseidon that he caused a great flood to occur. He demanded that the Athenians be punished for choosing Athena over him, and his punishment was this: that women should no longer be able to vote; that women's children should no longer be named after them, but after their fathers; and that women should not be called Athenians. Here indeed is a patriarchal revolution, as matriliny and women's suffrage are overthrown in favor of a society in which women have no political status or power. [33]

Myths and legends of Amazons are also sometimes read by feminist matriarchalists as accounts of patriarchal revolution. Amazons are documented very early in Greek literature (in Homer's epics), and they later become a staple of classical Greek discourse. The Greeks describe the Amazons as valiant warriors, but in legend and pictorial representations they always lose to men; either they are defeated directly in battle or they revert to domesticated femininity -- roles of wife and mother -- upon falling in love with their Greek enemies. [34] In feminist matriarchalist interpretations, Amazon legends record the efforts of armed defenders of matriarchy. The only reason Amazons are portrayed as losers or reluctant warriors is because the Greeks wrote these stories from their own misogynistic, post-patriarchal-revolution point of view.

If Amazons are held by feminist matriarchalists to represent the dying days of matriarchal civilization, its zenith is thought to be portrayed in ancient accounts of the golden age. The adjective "golden" was first applied to the past by Hesiod, who wrote of a golden race of men [35] who "lived like gods, carefree in their hearts, shielded from pain and misery." [36] Hesiod inspired later poets and philosophers, who by the first century CE were habitually referring to a "golden age," a time when life was easy and good. [37] Interpreting golden age myths quite literally, feminist matriarchalists find in them "folk memories of a more peaceful partnership-oriented epoch." [38]

Myth as History

Throughout feminist matriarchalist interpretations of myth lies the assumption that ancient myths are encoded versions of classical and preclassical history. This idea has been around for quite some time, and has led to some important archaeological discoveries. For example, Heinrich Schliemann's discovery of Troy was guided by Homer's texts, which had previously been believed to be fictional. Feminist matriarchalists continue this tradition of regarding myth as "a vast mirror that faithfully reflects the reality of the past." [39]

But discovering a prehistoric patriarchal revolution through ancient myth is no simple matter. Feminist matriarchalists are tripped up first by the fact that the myths they say reflect a patriarchal revolution are not very close to the event in question. Classicist H. J. Rose suggests a date for the myth of the naming of Athens of no earlier than the fourth century BCE. The Oresteia is an older story, dating at least to Homer's time, but many of the more damning details in Aeschylus's version -- Athena's speech defending male supremacy, the tied vote, Apollo serving as defense attorney for Orestes -- are most likely original to Aeschylus, writing in the mid-fifth century BCE. In the Homeric version of the Orestes legend, in contrast, Clytemnestra gets what she deserves, and Orestes need suffer no guilt over his matricide, a theme that seems to reflect an entrenched patriarchy rather than a new one. [40] It is the later myth rather than the earlier one that reads like a record of patriarchal revolution.

Beyond these sorts of specifics, if a patriarchal revolution occurred in 3000 BCE, the memory of it would have to have been preserved for more than two thousand years to be written into Greek myth. This would be like us having accurate accounts of events in classical Greece passed down through oral tradition alone -- an unlikely scenario. Gimbutas's editor, Joan Marler, claims that "mythology and folklore are conservative and slow to change," implying that any history contained within myths could be carried along intact for many generations. But myths may not be as old or static as we typically take them to be. In The Myth if the Eternal Return, Mircea Eliade gives a striking example of how quickly history can become myth, and in the process become sufficiently corrupted that it bears little relation to historical events. Folklorist Constantin Brailoiu discovered a ballad in a small Romanian village relating the story of a young man who, about to be married, was bewitched by a mountain fairy who threw him off a cliff out of jealousy. His body was brought back to the village, where his fiancee "poured out a funeral lament, full of mythological allusions." Brailoiu's informants told him that it was a "very old story," an event that happened "long ago." However, Brailoiu eventually discovered that the events in question had occurred less than forty years earlier, and that the fiancee who was said to have composed the funeral lament was still alive. Upon speaking with her, Brailoiu learned that the young man had slipped and fallen from a cliff and been brought back to the village alive, where he eventually died, and that he was mourned in the customary way, with no unusual lament.  [41]

This is an interesting case, since clearly there is an historical event embodied in the myth, a story of untimely (if ordinary) death lying underneath the story of the jealous mountain fairy. But without access to living informants or texts, it is not a trivial matter to decide which parts of the story represent history, and which are mythic themes and fabrications.

Feminist matriarchalists do not suggest that history happened exactly as myth says it did. None claim that a great male hero named Marduk actually dismembered the goddess Tiamat, or that prehistoric Athenians voted for Athena as their patron goddess, thus so enraging Poseidon that women were cursed from that point forward. In feminist matriarchalist interpretation, Tiamat and Marduk are metaphors for the shift from female power to male power; the vote of the Athenian assembly is a compact mythic telling of an event that took place over the course of hundreds or even thousands of years.

There is an enormous project of sorting and judging going on here. Plausible connections between myth and reality must be drawn; more fanciful elements (for example, Athena being born from the head of Zeus) must be dispensed with or read as metaphors; certain elements or certain myths must be credited with greater importance than others; and so on. [42] This can be a very messy business, characterized by legions of unspoken assumptions.

Feminist matriarchalists often give as their justification for parsing Greek myth as they do the fact that they are stripping away "patriarchal accretions." [43] These elements can be recognized because they do not conform to the pattern that feminist matriarchalists expect to find in ancient myth (however covered over by the purposeful political machinations of later redactors). This is a very convenient method of interpreting ancient myth: once the assumption is in place that prehistoric societies were matriarchal and goddess-worshipping, myth yields up that conclusion quite naturally. Critics who point to aspects of a myth that do not support that conclusion can be dismissed by the claim that those aspects are patriarchal accretions, and not the "original myth." If anything, troublesome aspects of a myth -- for example, that it was a goddess, Athena, who championed patriarchy -- lend even more credence to the matriarchal thesis, since they illustrate that a conspiracy took place within the text of the myth itself to eradicate even the memory of ancient matriarchies.

Feminist matriarchalists encourage one another to adopt this methodology of taking their conclusions as their premises. For example, Hallie Austen Iglehart encourages her readers to '''fill in the gaps' left by patriarchal researchers with your own knowledge, common sense, and intuition .... Soon you will begin to see matrifocal influence in art and civilizations that you had not noticed before." [44] What feminist matriarchalists do not do is to encourage one another to seek out evidence that might disprove their thesis. If the evidence contradicts the theory, it is the evidence that is wrong.

Myth as Charter

Granted that feminist matriarchalists are making some unwarranted leaps in interpreting myth as history, this still does not rule out the basic premise that myth could in fact be encoding a history of patriarchal revolution. Certainly some of the Greek myths to which feminist matriarchalists appeal offer a clear account of the imposition of male dominance on formerly free (or freer) women. And classical Greece is not the only place such myths are found. These myths of former female dominance are found around the globe. They are full of local details, but they contain some interesting similarities. The most common pattern is that certain powerful and/or magical ceremonial objects (hats, flutes, trumpets, masks) were originally owned or created by women, and possessing them gave women greater social power. Eventually, men confiscated these objects and withheld them from women and, as a result, women's social status is lower to this day. [45]

A good example of such a myth comes from the Selk'nam of Tierra del Fuego. The Selk'nam were a hunting and fishing people, mostly undisturbed by outsiders until white colonization of their land began in 1880. According to Selk'nam myth, women originally "ruled over men without mercy." The men did all the hunting, but also all the child-tending and domestic work, while the women met in private in the Hain, a large hut where they lived apart from the men, to deliberate on and resolve important social matters. Despite the men being physically larger and armed with hunting weapons, the women kept them subjugated by impersonating demons and spirits. In these disguises they visited the village during ceremonies, frightening and punishing men who threatened to get out of line. The women periodically ordered the men to deliver meat to them to satiate the demons' voracious appetites. The men did as they were told, and the women feasted on the meat and laughed "with malice at the men's incredible naivete and stupidity." [46]

Things continued in this manner until one day Sun, a male culture hero, spied on two young women as they practiced the parts they would play in the ceremony. When Sun reported the women's secret back to the men, they responded by immediately attacking and killing the women. (Men who could not bear to kill their own daughters or wives asked other men to kill them for them.) Only the youngest girls and infants were spared. In order to prevent these girls from growing up to revive the rule of women, the men hatched a plan: they would live in the Hain apart from the women, and they would periodically impersonate demons and spirits to scare the women into submission -- not a very original plan, to be sure, but a time-tested one. [47]

Feminist matriarchalists hold that these myths of former female dominance, like all "legends that won't die," contain a "race-memory."  [48] They would not be so widespread, they argue, if there weren't some historical basis for them. The primary competing explanation for these cross-cultural myths of women's former dominance is that they are a "social charter" for male dominance.

The idea of myth as "charter" was first proposed by anthropologist Bronislaw Malinowski in the 1920s. Interested in the functions of myth, Malinowski claimed that for any group myth could be understood as a collection of narratives that dictate belief, define ritual, and act "as the chart of their social order and the pattern of their moral behaviour." Malinowski suggested that myth tends to promote the status quo, since its function "is to strengthen tradition and endow it with a greater value and prestige by tracing it back to a higher, better, more supernatural reality of initial events." Such mythic charters are said to operate especially in areas of sociological strain, such as significant differences in status or power. Gender disparities certainly fit in this category, and indeed Malinowski drew special attention to them:" Nothing is more familiar to the native than the different occupations of the male and female sex," Malinowski wrote. "There is nothing to be explained about it. But though familiar, such differences are at times irksome, unpleasant, or at least limiting, and there is the need to justify them, to vouch for their antiquity and reality, in short to buttress their validity." [49]

This theory seems ready-made to account for cross-cultural myths of women's former dominance. The aim of the myth is to justify the present state of affairs: in this case, male dominance. If women had power before -- especially if they misused it, as they frequently did -- then it is only fair that men should have it now, these myths seem to say. The myth-as-charter view suggests that myths of women's former dominance merely "mystify the inevitable inequities of any social order and ... win the consent of those over whom power is exercised, thereby obviating the need for the direct coercive use of force and transforming simple power into 'legitimate' authority." In short, "ideology masquerades as aetiology." [50]

That these myths of women's former dominance are working to justify male dominance is often quite plain in the contexts in which they are deployed. When the Selk'nam congregate for the Hain festival which celebrates the male takeover, women are terrorized by men dressed as deities and demons. As anthropologist Anne McKaye Chapman reports, "women whose behaviour has not conformed to the model of subservient wife" are singled out by these demons: their huts are shaken, their hearths stirred up, their belongings dragged out of their huts or thrown at them; they may even be beaten and stabbed with a stick. And in at least some of the groups that hold a myth of women's former dominance, the men self-consciously use the myth to retain their power. For example, male informants from a tribe in Papua New Guinea have told anthropologists that without their myth and the sacred flutes associated with it, the women "would laugh at us and we men would lose all authority over them, they would no longer cook for us nor rear our pigs." Marie Reay, speaking of a group that credits women with inventing marriage during a time of female dominance, notes that the men "admit freely that they wish women to think that marriage was the women's own idea so that they may become reconciled to an institution in which all the advantage lies with the men." [51]

Classicists who have concerned themselves with ancient Greek myths of women's former dominance tend to interpret them in this same way, as justifications for male dominance which are "didactic rather than historical." Even in antiquity, there was some dispute about whether Amazons were fictional or historical. [52] Today most scholars are agreed that Amazons existed strictly in myth, and that legends about them served as morality tales teaching that women's rule is dangerous and unnatural. Amazon societies are constructed as a reversal of Greek practices, an "antitype to the patriarchal social order that the Greeks identified with civilization." [53] They display what the world would be like in the absence of patriarchal gender norms, and it is a frightening place.

It is not just the Amazons to whom the ancient Greeks attributed an unnatural level of power for women. The Egyptians, the Lycians, the Lemnians, and others are all credited with this "barbaric" arrangement. Indeed, the ancient Greeks show a preoccupation with the rule of women not unlike that found in tribal New Guinea or South America. A myth such as that of the naming of Athens clearly "justifies the lowly estate of women in society" and pins it squarely on women, who voted the wrong way and thus earned their lot in society. [54]

In general, feminist matriarchalists have no trouble believing that myths of women's former dominance, whether from ancient Greece or contemporary New Guinea, are used to keep women down. To this extent, they are in agreement with their critics. The key difference is that feminist matriarchalists believe that the myth is not only a charter, but also a history, a belief their critics do not share. "We don't fear something that doesn't exist, something that never happened, something that never could happen," [55] reasons Phyllis Chesler. But we fear all sorts of things that don't exist (monsters, dragons, and the like) or that haven't happened (extraterrestrial invasions, all-out nuclear war). Some of our fears are reasonable, others are not, but the relevant factor in whether or not we find things frightening is not their prior, documented existence. It seems perfectly plausible that men could find the rule of women frightening even if women have never ruled; perhaps especially because women have never ruled and how they would behave is therefore unknown. Men have ample reason to fear that the desire for revenge would run high if the tables were ever turned and women took power. Myths of women's former dominance -- which have in fact been invented exclusively by men, as far as we can tell -- could well exist only to quell men's anxieties about their social position. [56]

Feminist matriarchalist interpretations of ancient myth are rather transparently driven by ideology. Mythical evidence can by its nature be given various incommensurable interpretations. In this case, it provides no real support for the proposed prehistoric patriarchal revolution, though it does offer a fertile field for imagination. In contrast, linguistic, archaeological, and genetic evidence offer some support for the theory of Indo-European invasions from the steppes in the fifth and fourth millennia BCE. It is not implausible that the people and concepts that spread out from the Russian steppes into neighboring lands were patriarchal, patrilineal, and warlike. But as previous chapters have shown, it is likewise not implausible that the peoples who came in contact with them were already as patriarchal, patrilineal, and warlike as their enemies. Neither is there any positive evidence that the Kurgans from the Russian steppes were an exceptionally brutal, supremely patriarchal people. Their stock of weaponry, as it has been uncovered archaeologically, does not dwarf that of Neolithic peoples to the south, nor do Kurgan skeletons give unusual evidence of violence toward women. Therefore an Indo-European military conquest -- if one occurred, which is by no means certain -- cannot be assumed to count as the birth of patriarchy.
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Re: The Myth of Matriarchal Prehistory: Why an Invented Past

Postby admin » Sat Nov 03, 2018 3:42 am

CHAPTER 9: On the Usefulness of Origin Myths

The myth of matriarchal prehistory is an impressive -- and to some, a beautiful and enticing -- house of cards. The cards of which it is built are not totally flimsy. Some are plausible interpretations of historical and artifactual data. But others are patently absurd. They are either bad interpretations of the available data, or assertions based on no data at all. Taken together, the entire structure is unstable, and if there were not things stronger than archaeological or historical evidence holding it up-things like passionate hope and religious faith -- it would be in imminent danger of collapse.

We cannot know nearly as much as we would like to about prehistory. Interpretation of "gendered" data especially is so overburdened by observers' wishes and assumptions that it is very difficult to bracket off present concerns and discover past reality. But what we do know (or can judge to be probable) about gender in prehistory is not particularly encouraging regarding the status of women. Ethnographic analogies to contemporary groups with lifeways similar to those of prehistoric times (hunting and gathering or horticulture, practiced in small groups) show little sex egalitarianism and no matriarchy. Indeed, these societies always discriminate in some way between women and men, usually to women's detriment. Women may have powerful roles, but their power does not undermine or seriously challenge an overall system of male dominance in either these groups or ours, and there is no reason to believe that it would have in prehistoric societies either. If there are in fact societies where women's position is high and secure, these exceptions cannot lead us to believe that it was this pattern (rather than the more prevalent pattern of discrimination against women) which held in prehistory.

There is also nothing in the archaeological record that is at odds with an image of prehistoric life as nasty, brutish, short, and male-dominated. This does not mean that it was this way, but only that it could have been, as easily as -- more easily than, actually -- it could have been blissful, peaceful, long, and matriarchal. Female and male grave goods of equivalent wealth do not prove that men were not dominant, nor does the absence of weapons of war among the material remains we have uncovered mean that there was no warfare. But beyond this simple absence of proof positive, we have some disconfirming evidence: suggestions that prehistoric peoples did not live in peace, and that the division of labor between women and men resembled that found in later societies, which have consistently given disproportionate value to the labors of men.

There is no question that some prehistoric groups in Europe and the Near East made vast numbers of artistic representations of women, and the suggestion that many (if not all) of these images were meant to represent goddesses is plausible. The major monotheistic religions of the world notwithstanding, most peoples worship goddesses. It would be distinctly odd if it were the case that prehistoric cultures were uniformly non-theistic, or worshipped only male deities. But it would also be odd if prehistoric goddess worship was exclusive. Judging from ethnographic data, gods were probably worshipped too, whether or not they were represented in anthropomorphic form. And whatever religions prehistoric peoples practiced, we can be fairly sure that goddess worship did not automatically yield cultures of peace and plenty led by the goddess's priestesses. This pattern has been found nowhere.

Prehistoric human societies may have been different from all those that came after them, but any such assertion runs into three perhaps insurmountable obstacles: first, there is no evidence that they were; second, there is no reason to expect that they would be (at least not when we are talking about the past thirty to forty thousand years of Homo sapiens sapiens, as feminist matriarchalists typically are); and third, if they were utterly different, and universally so, we need a compelling explanation of why things changed so drastically. Feminist matriarchalists' make their strongest case for patriarchal revolution in southeast Europe and the Near East, where it is at best one possible explanation among others. Elsewhere in the world, patriarchal revolution is an even less likely scenario. Feminist matriarchalists' arguments explaining how, why, or even when patriarchy became a worldwide phenomenon simply do not square with the available evidence.

In spite of all these difficulties, the house of cards that is feminist matriarchal myth continues to stand. Certainly I do not anticipate that the puff of wind I offer in this book will blow it down. The image of prehistoric social life as matricentric and goddess-worshipping is far too valuable to those who treasure it to be sacrificed out of a concern for historical veracity. Feminist matriarchal myth provides answers to questions that are troubling to anyone hoping to secure freedom, safety, and equality for women, questions like, "Why is it that where gender hierarchy has developed, women have always been the dominated gender?" or "How did men succeed in enforcing the subordination of women?" Questions that seek to uncover the historical (or prehistorical) roots of male dominance, particularly institutionalized male dominance, have long held a special fascination for feminist writers, who have asked again and again, "Were things always as they are today?" and "When did 'it' start?" [1] The care and imagination feminist matriarchalists have devoted to these "origins" questions is in itself an impressive achievement.

Perhaps the solution then is to embrace the myth of matriarchal prehistory as myth. If feminist matriarchalists abandon their ambitions to historical veracity, then accusations of sloppy or wishful thinking will not tarnish their myth (or the feminist movement more generally), and perhaps it could perform the functions for which it was intended. In other words, while there is a problem with the historical inaccuracy of matriarchal myth, there does not have to be one. For in theory, little can be said against the propriety of imagining a time -- prehistoric, if necessary -- when women were treated well rather than badly, with respect rather than condescension or outright hatred. Envisioning a feminist future is arguably a necessary task. And insofar as envisioning a feminist past helps accomplish this -- as it clearly does for many people -- it would seem to have obvious merit. In the face of this, quibbling over archaeological evidence seems, as Theodore Roszak has put it, "a minor pedantic objection [which] once it has been spoken as a sort of cautionary footnote has nothing more to offer." [2]

Nevertheless, though it might seem that only the hardest of antifeminist hearts could resist the appeal of matriarchal myth once it is stripped of its pretensions to historical truth, there are many feminists, myself included, who must continue to protest against it. The very attempt to ask and answer origins questions about sexism -- which is both matriarchal myth's motivation and method -- is fraught with danger. To begin with, origin stories tend to reduce historically specific facts and values to timeless archetypes (this is particularly the case with "femininity," as we have seen). Therefore the solutions proposed by origins thinking are not tailored to specific cultural environments, but rather to a totalizing image of "patriarchy." Also, origins thinking is often characterized by nostalgia for a lost past, a feeling that "things ain't so good as they used to be." If this nostalgia enables those who experience it to imagine a different future and take steps to secure it, then it is functional. But nostalgia is rarely this functional; or rather, its function is usually escapist. [3]

In addition, origins thinking usually rests on a rather curious (though also quite common) notion of "the natural." According to this view, there is a way of living and thinking that is in harmony with our "natural" proclivities, and there was a time when we effortlessly lived like this. This way of being is precultural, instinctual. Life since then, by contrast, is false, constructed. To know who we really are, to decide what we must do to foster our happiness and that of the rest of the ecosystem, we need to be in dialogue with who we were: which is at the same time who we are truly supposed to be. It is this kind of thinking that imagines that by observing how foraging peoples live, we will know how we ourselves should live. If they breastfeed their children for four years, then so should we; if they eat a diet high in protein and fiber, then so should we; if they honor motherhood and worship an earth goddess, we can do no less if we want to be true to our "nature." But it should be obvious that when we reach foraging cultures, we have not reached "nature": we have merely uncovered other cultures, ones which mediate as thoroughly between themselves and any imagined human "nature" as ours does (though in quite different ways). As discussed earlier, it is simply not possible to find human nature "uncontaminated" by culture, no matter how far back one looks in human evolution.

This vision of the "natural" is produced in part by a common misunderstanding of the principles of Darwinian evolution. "Survival of the fittest" has trickled down into popular thinking as the conviction that if no one gets in the way of natural selection, evolutionary processes will produce the very best organisms and societies. That is, "nature" is thought not merely to select, but also to optimize. Thinking like Dr. Pangloss, it is now natural selection (rather than god or fate) that makes everything for the best, in this, the best of all possible worlds. Feminist matriarchalists surely do not see this drive toward goodness operating in the cultural sphere (where things like the patriarchal revolution happen), but they do tend to see "nature" as a force that operates to our eternal benefit, and this conspires to make them reach into the past -- where nature supposedly dominates culture -- to find a template for living. But natural selection does not choose what is best, it merely finds something that works, and continues to do it. So long as one generation is surviving and producing the next, natural selection will not keep endeavoring to find a better way. Biological evolution is full of accidents, some of which get turned to interesting good fortune and others to disaster. [4]

Apart from the search for our true nature, feminist matriarchalists justify their commitment to origin stories by claiming that since "our analysis of causes affects strategies for change," we cannot usefully proceed without knowing where sexism came from. This makes a lot of intuitive sense, especially for those of us who were told in every history class we ever took that those who don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it. There is only one wrench in the works: if sexism had an origin -- that is, if it were not always present from the beginning of hominid evolution -- then we know that it came into being during prehistory. And when it comes to detecting ideological developments in prehistory, we can't learn the relevant history: it is "in principle unobtainable." [5]

More importantly, to say that learning the origins of sexism will inform our political strategies reverses the order in which these steps actually take place: it is our present political interests that determine the origin stories we offer for sexism, not vice versa. The story feminist matriarchalists tell us, the one that says what's wrong with us and how we should proceed, is not history capable of teaching us how to avoid past mistakes. It is a myth. Feminist matriarchalists, like other myth-makers, begin with a vision of the world as they would like it to be, project it into the past, and then find a way (narratively speaking) to make present conditions emerge from ideal ones. Given the paucity of information with which anyone seeking the prehistoric origins of sexism is working, the only thing feminist matriarchalists can count on is the reappearance of the assumptions with which they began.

If we are not going to discover history at the end of the day, but simply create myth, then the only grounds upon which feminist origins thinking can be justified is that it serves feminist political purposes. I have already dwelled at length on the problems inherent in pinning sexism on universalizing notions of the differences between women and men. Insofar as strong theories of sex difference are an unavoidable component of matriarchal myth, we should be suspicious about the myth's feminist utility from the start. But it is problematic on another level too. As archaeologist Sarah Taylor remarks, "I for one do not find it very comforting to think that once, in a very distant and 'primitive' society, women held power, especially if we have been moving away from that condition ever since." [6]

Many do find this comforting. Matriarchal myth addresses one of the feminist movement's most difficult questions: How can women attain real power when it seems we have never had it before? How can we hope that sex egalitarianism is possible, that male dominance can be ended, when it has been a mark of who we are as a species from time immemorial? Feminist matriarchal myth answers that question in what I think has to be admitted is an emotionally compelling, inspiring way. But it raises new questions, equally difficult to answer: Why did matriarchy collapse -- and not just in one place or time, but everywhere, all around the world? And how can we hope to get it back, under conditions so radically different from those which supposedly fostered it in the first place? If male dominance followed naturally on the discovery of biological paternity, is the only way to reclaim matriarchy to ensure that no one knows who the fathers of individual children are? Though this could be easily achieved through artificial insemination or promiscuous sex, no one who puts the patriarchal revolution down to the discovery of paternity seriously advocates this as a desirable public policy. [7] Others have pinned male dominance to the development of agriculture, but we cannot return the world to a sustainable foraging technology without euthanizing 99 percent of the world's population.

None of these questions are easy to answer. I once asked a class of students which problem they would rather live with, all claims to historical truth aside: that of explaining women's (pre)historical loss of power in such a way that it does not rule out women's power in the future, or that of explaining how male dominance-universal up until now-can be ended at some point in the future. Roughly half chose the first, the other half the second. As one woman who chose the first option remarked, "I need to have an Eden, a belief that things once were right." [8]

I am a partisan of the second option, and I would like to make a case for asking and answering it. The most alluring feature of matriarchal myth is the precedent it offers. But a precedent is not, as some feminist matriarchalists claim, required. Its absence need not "doom women from the start, from the point of origin." Indeed, there is a respected tradition among liberal social reformers to call for redressing the wrongs of the ages, without any concomitant attempt -- or any felt necessity -- to say that things were ever different. As Kate Millett observes, John Stuart Mill "saw no further back in time than a universal rule of force and took the subjection of women to be an eternal feature of human life," but he firmly believed that" 'progress' and moral suasion" could alter this reality, just as they had made inroads against tyranny and slavery. [9]

Whether patriarchy is our only history, or merely one history, we are not in either case bound "to clone the past." We can comfort ourselves with the thought that many of the conditions we suspect have worked to create male dominance are no longer with us, or need no longer produce the same response as they did in the past. If in fact it is a hunting and gathering division of labor that gives rise to male dominance, as anthropologist Richard Leakey argues, then presumably the farther we grow from those roots, the less we need to be affected by social roles that made sense only in the past. That we have not already shed the legacy of male dominance some ten thousand years after the West left foraging technologies behind does not mean that we cannot: social systems can continue to thrive long after the conditions that formed them have become irrelevant. Male dominance may be perpetuated through inertia and have no better reason to exist than tradition. The fact that "anatomy once was destiny," then, does not mean that it need be so any longer. [10]

If modern technologies give us one kind of freedom to innovate, the very fact of cross-cultural diversity gives us another. Sex roles and gender expectations are extremely diverse from one culture to another, to the point of being almost completely arbitrary. Motherhood, a cross-cultural universal, is acted out in a huge variety of ways and given a wide range of meanings. Heterosexual sex, present in all cultures for reproduction, is sometimes the norm, the only approved sexual activity, and at other times accepted only as a grudging necessity. Gender, another cross-cultural universal, varies from being tremendously significant to comparatively minor. There is, as anthropologist Christine Ward Gailey says, "no global content to gender roles." [11]

One could choose to interpret this as evidence that male dominance has many cunning tools in its toolbox, but one could as easily read the sheer amount of ethnographic variety in matters of gender and sex as proof that we have a lot more latitude in setting up gender relations than any amount of sorrowful recounting of the sins of Western patriarchy would lead us to believe. As anthropologist Martin King Whyte concludes from his cross-cultural study of the status of women, "our analysis suggests that there is no inevitable obstacle to change in the role of women; no inherent or biological barrier that must prevent women from attaining equality in any area of social life [my emphasis]." [12]

If there are no inherent barriers to women's equality, then the future of women does not rest on biological destiny or historical precedent, but rather on moral choice. What we must be and what we have been will of course have an effect on our gender relations, but ultimately these cannot and should not dictate what we want to be. If we are certain that we want to get rid of sexism, we do not need a mythical time of women's past greatness to get on with the effort toward ending it.

But suppose for a moment that there are inherent barriers to women's equality; that male dominance is so hard-wired into our genes that we can never completely overcome it. How does this change the picture? Less than one might think. We have ample reason to believe that human beings will always do bad things: they will lie, they will steal, they will injure one another. Some cultural contexts encourage this, others discourage it; cruelty and crime are rampant in some places and relatively rare in others. But at base, these seem to be cross-cultural universals. So what do we do in the face of these facts of human nature? Do we wake up in the morning and say, "there is no escaping it, people do bad things ... I may as well go out today and rob a bank"? This is neither the motivation for the crime, nor is it an excuse. Similarly, even if we conclude that male dominance is universal and inevitable, this is not a charter for writing the oppression of women into law, or pardoning men who hurt women on the basis that they were only responding to their genetic inclinations. The fact that a goal -- in this case, eradicating sexism -- is in principle unreachable does not mean it is not worth pursuing with every ounce of moral fiber we can muster. In short, if our moral resolve is in place, there is nothing in the "facts" of biology or history that need detain us any longer.

Accounts of history and origins have a place. Ignorance of the history of a particular injustice may trip us up in our efforts to rectify it. For example, it is helpful to know that Africans were kidnapped and brought to America as slaves when we seek to address racism in America. But this history is not nearly as important as the clear conviction that racism is bad and must end. It is white Americans' ambivalence about the worthiness of this goal and the amount of energy that they feel should be devoted to it that is more likely to limit progress.

The same is true of sexism. Feminist matriarchal myth does not actually recount the history of sexism, as it purports to do. It may provide us with a vision of what it considers to be socially desirable and the hope that it can be attained. But we do not need matriarchal myth to tell us that sexism is bad or that change is possible. With the help of all feminists, matriarchalist and otherwise, we need to decide what we want and set about getting it. Next to this, the "knowledge" that we once had it will pale into insignificance.
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Re: The Myth of Matriarchal Prehistory: Why an Invented Past

Postby admin » Sat Nov 03, 2018 6:17 am

Part 1 of 3

NOTES

1. Meeting Matriarchy


1. Steinem, Wonder Woman, n.p.

2. This ethnographic study was published under the title Living in the Lap of the Goddess: The Feminist Spirituality Movement in America.

3. The intellectual history of the myth of matriarchal prehistory, from Bachofen to the present, will be treated in depth in my forthcoming book, From Motherright to Gylany: The Myth if Matriarchal Prehistory, 1861-2000.

4. Noble, Shakti Woman, 235; Mara Lynn Keller, "The Interface of Archaeology and Mythology," in Marler, ed., Realm of the Ancestors, 38).

2. Popularizing the Past

1. See, for example, Muten, Return of the Great Goddess, 167-68.

2. Min, ed., Chalice and the Blade in Chinese Culture. There was already substantial interest in and commitment to the myth of matriarchal prehistory in China prior to Eisler, since Chinese anthropologists and archaeologists were influenced by an earlier generation of socialists and communists championing this myth. See Eller, From Motherright to Gylany.

3. Cantarella, Pandora's Daughters, 13-14; Daly, Beyond God the Father, 94; Ruth, Take Back the Light, 131; Adler, Drawing Down the Moon, 187.

4. See Gross, Feminism arid Religion, 153; Christ, "Eliade and the Feminist Paradigm Shift," 76.

5. See, for example, Sjoo and Mor, Great Cosmic Mother, 433-34; Noble, Shakti Woman, 215-16; Tiffany, "Power of Matriarchal Ideas," 238; Gronborg, "Matriarchy- Why Not?" 219.

6. Feminist matriarchalists frequently blame researchers' maleness for the fact that information about prehistoric matriarchies has been studiously ignored. When female researchers likewise ignore or refute the theory of matriarchal prehistory, they are said to do so either because they are unwittingly in the grip of male-dominated professions or are actively trying to "curry favor with the backlash against feminism" (Charlene Spretnak, "Beyond the Backlash: An Appreciation for the Work of Marija Gimbutas," in Marler, ed., Realm of the Ancestors, 399).

7. Carson, Feminist Spirituality, 6.

8. Keller, "Archaeology and Mythology," in Marler, ed., Realm of the Ancestors, 393; Wilshire, Virgin Mother Crone, 3.

9. A few feminist matriarchalists are willing to shake off any need to have their myth be historically accurate, usually because they take the myth's significance to be psychological rather than historical. The myth is, for them, a translation of psychoanalytic object relations theory to the species level: We are born into a world of oneness with our mothers, akin to goddess-worshipping matriarchal societies; and just as the peace of the prehistoric matriarchies is disrupted by the patriarchal revolution, so the mother-oriented world of infancy ends inevitably and tragically as we grow up-especially when we grow to find that our mothers are not adequately respected in the world at large (see Downing, The Goddess, 6; Chernin, Reinventing Eve, 123-24; Naomi Goldenberg, cited in Young, "Goddesses, Feminists, and Scholars," 110-11).

10. It has long been believed that myths have functions, reasons for being told of which the myth's narrators mayor may not be conscious. (The foremost twentieth-century exponent of the functionalist interpretation of myth was Bronislaw Malinowski. See Malinowski, Sex, Culture, and Myth, 247-48, 291-92, and Myth in Primitive Psychology, 91-92.) There are many today who reject this notion, arguing that myth need not necessarily serve any particular function, or no direct or simple one. These thinkers describe myth as "tropic," "metaphoric," or "expressive," or even as "a literary and largely modern construction" developed by Western romantics (see James F. Weiner, "The Abandoned String Skirt: The Origin of Sexual Complementarity Among the Foi," Annette Hamilton, "Knowledge and Misrecognition: Mythology and Gender in Aboriginal Australia," and Nicholas Thomas, "The Contradictions of Hierarchy: Myths, Women and Power in Eastern Polynesia," in Gewertz, ed., Myths of Matriarchy Reconsidered, 30, 58, 171; and Robert S. Ellwood, letter to author, December 1995). But whether or not all myths should be read through a functionalist lens, it is clear that the myth of matriarchal prehistory in particular does have a function, one clearly articulated by its proponents.

11. Muten, Return of The Great Goddess, 3; Spretnak, ed., Politics of Women's Spirituality, rev. ed., xv.

12. Ann and Imel, Goddesses in World Mythology, v.

13. Miriam Sidell, quoted in Stone, Return of the Goddess.

14. These categories of feminist thought -- "liberal feminism," "radical feminism," "cultural feminism" -- should not be understood as distinct camps within the feminist movement, but rather as a helpful index to the variety of mindsets and intellectual and political influences operative under the umbrella of feminism.

15. For a discussion of these threads within nineteenth- and twentieth-century thought, see Donovan, Feminist Theory.

16. See chapter 3, and Donovan, Feminist Theory, 31-54.

17. Most feminist matriarchalists count themselves as ecofeminists, though the obverse is not true. See Carson, Goddesses and Wise Women, 4; Getty, Goddess, 5; Orenstein, Reflowering, 15; Stephenson, Women's Roots, 327. Ecofeminists who have been critical of matriarchal myth include Janet Biehl (Rethinking Ecofeminist Politics) and Noel Sturgeon (Ecofeminist Natures).

18. See Donovan, Feminist Theory, 141-56; Eller, Living in the Lap, 42-46.

19. As Starhawk explains, "What we term religion is the soil of culture, in which the belief systems, the stories, the thought-forms upon which all other institutions are based are consciously or unconsciously grown" (Dreaming the Dark, 72).

20. Christ, "Symbols of Goddess and God," 250; Redmond, "Rhythm and the Frame Drum," 20; Rowbotham, "When Adam Delved," 10. Bronislaw Malinowski sees this an enduring function of myth: "Myth, coming from the true past, is the precedent which holds a promise of a better future if only the evils of the present be overcome" (Sex, Culture, and Myth, 291-92).

21. Janine Canan, "Goddesses, Goddesses: From Archaeology to Poetry of the Feminine," in Marler, ed., Realm of the Ancestors, 555.

22. Heide Gottner-Abendroth, cited in Hauser-Schaublin, "Mutterrecht und Frauenbewegung," 140 (Gottner-Abendroth's four-volume work is titled Das Matriarchat); Sjoo and Mor, Great Cosmic Mother, 46, 235, 424; Stein, Dreaming the Past, 32; Matthew Fox, cited in Ruether, Gaia and God, 146.

23. Getty, Goddess; Austen, Heart of the Goddess; Poth, Goddess Speaks. The Frauen- Museum in Wiesbaden, Germany has an ongoing exhibit of reproductions of prehistoric statuary thought to illustrate matriarchal themes (LaMonte, '''My Desire is Life,''' 31). Slide shows have been reported by Robb, "In Goddess They Trust," 32, 36; Eisler and Loye, Partnership Way; Noble, Motherpeace; and are a frequent listing in Goddessing Regenerated's "Cauldron of Events." One slide show is available on videotape (Hopkins, Great Mother Earth and From Earth Mother to Love Goddess).

24. Gloria F. Orenstein, "The Artistic Legacy of Marija Gimbutas," in Marler, ed., Realm of the Ancestors, 461-62. Feminist and spiritual feminist art with matriarchal themes is documented at length in Gadon, Once and Future Goddess, 225-337, and Orenstein, Reflowering.

25. For a discussion of Edelson's work, see Orenstein, Reflowering, 104. Wilshire's piece was one segment of a presentation given to a packed house at the Museum of Natural History in New York in March 1997 titled "The Great Goddess: Her Enduring Presence, Power, and Personality." A similar program took place at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington DC in June 1997 under the auspices of the Smithsonian Associates. This two-day seminar included a performance by the Anima Mundi Dance Company that portrayed "a mythopoetic journey to the ancient sacred feminine."

26. Kosse, interviewed in Stone, Return of the Goddess (Jenny Malmquist wrote the text for "The Return of the Great Mother"); Redmond, When the Drummers Were Women. Mary Timony. Helium's singer and songwriter, says that she "was reading a lot of Mary Daly" as she worked on Pirate Prude (and later, on The Dirt of Luck) and that she meant to convey an image of "the fall of Western civilization, patriarchy," and a future society that "would be more egalitarian, more female gods, women ... more important in society" (Noel, interview with Mary Timony of Helium, http://www.bunnyhop.com/BH6/helium.html. 1996; Todd Polenberg, review of Dirt of Luck by Helium, http://pantheon.cis.yale.edu/tpole/nadine/ 11_6/helium. html, n.d.) I have listened to The Dirt of Luck, and must confess that I could discern nothing about matriarchy in the lyrics, though I wouldn't want to dispute the songwriter's and reviewers' assertion that it is there.

27. See especially Canan, "Goddesses, Goddesses," in Marler, ed., Realm of the Ancestors, 566-67; Lee/Libana, You Said, What is This For?; Apara Borrowes "Three Poems for Marija," in Marler, ed., Realm of the Ancestors, 549. Brindel clearly believes she is drawing on historical events. As she explains in an author's note, "Some time between 1800 and 1400 BC, the last matriarchies in the Western world were crushed. With them died a system of belief that regarded childbirth as the primary miracle, all women as intrinsically holy, and the Great Mother Goddess as supreme deity" (Ariadne, n.p.). Other fictional accounts drawing on the themes of matriarchal myth include Chernin, Flame Bearers and Robbins, Skinny Legs and All.

28. The subgenre of prehistoric romance novels is increasingly toying with the tropes of matriarchal myth -- goddess worship, matrilineal chiefs and clans, horse-riding patriarchal invaders -- bringing these ideas to a wider, frequently non feminist audience. The trend was kicked off by Jean Auel's Clan of the Cave Bear and its sequels and is also present in Prentiss, Children of the Ice; Wolf, Horsemasters; Thomas, Reindeer Moon; and Pesando, Sisters of the Black Moon.

29. Rufus and Lawson, Goddess Sites, back cover blurb; Goddessing Regenerated 7 (Summer/Fall (997): 35. In an interview with Marguerite Rigoglioso, Luisah Teish notes that some African-American women have made goddess pilgrimages to Africa, though they do not appear to be as organized or popular as the white feminist industry of goddess pilgrimages to Europe.

30. Read, Goddess Remembered; Davis, Goddess Unmasked, 24-25; Ranck, Cakes for the Queen of Heaven (UUA); Eisler and Loye, Partnership Way.

31. See, for example, Pleiades, "Living Goddesses," advertisement in Goddessing Regenerated 6 (Spring 1997): 23. Metis is produced under the auspices of the California Institute of Integral Studies; Goddessing Regenerated is based in Malta, though published in the United States; the Matriarchy Research and Reclaim Network Newsletter is published in London. Earlier feminist spirituality journals and newsletters such as Woman of Power, Sage Woman (still in print), and Womanspirit included frequent features on matriarchal prehistory, but had a wider mission of serving all aspects of the feminist spirituality movement. Examples of goddess calendars are Nancy Passmore, The Lunar Calendar: Dedicated to the Goddess in Her Many Guises (Boston: Luna Press, 1988); Betsy Bayley, Amy Chirman, Grace Darcy, and Elaine Gill, Celebrating Women's Spirituality: An Engagement Calendar (Freedom, CA: Crossing Press, 1989). Goddess reproductions are shown in catalogues including Grand Adventure (Stroudsburg, PA); Jane Iris Designs (Graton, CA); Slitherings Shamanic Art (Atlanta, GA); JBL Devotional Statues (Crozet, VA); Kate Cartwright, "Goddess Stamps and T-Shirts" (Graton, CA); Pleiades (Brimfield, MA); Star River Productions (New Brunswick, NJ). There is even a gift shop in Rockport, Massachusetts -- "The Sea Goddess" -- devoted entirely to goddess materials (see advertisement in Goddessing Regenerated 5 [Summer/Fall 1996]: 16).

32. Aburdene and Naisbitt, Megatrends for Women, chap. 9; NOW flyer, cited in Denfeld, New Victorians, 128-29; Lexington, Massachusetts NOW chapter, "Unearthing Pandora's Treasure," email advertisement, March 1999.

33. Gilligan and Brown, Meeting at the Crossroads; Pipher, Reviving Ophelia.

34. Mann, The Difference, 197.

35. Thurer, Myths of Motherhood, xxvi.

36. Sarah Bertucci, personal communication, March 1997; Candace E. West, personal communication, February 1997; Owen-Smith et al., "Feminist Teaching Across the Curriculum"; LaMonte, "Black Virgins," 15; Barbara Myerhoff and Karen Segal, "Goddess and the Matriarchy Controversy," course syllabus, University of Southern California, 1984. (Going on the assumption that "history" is really "his story," the history of men, the word "herstory" was coined to stand for "her story," women's history.) I attended part of the course "The Goddess and the Matriarchy Controversy," and though its title indicated an intention to look at prehistoric matriarchy skeptically, the course was very much geared toward the promotion of the myth.

37. Gross, Feminism and Religion, 159-60. Another guardedly sympathetic treatment of matriarchal myth can be found in Martha Ward's anthropology textbook, A World Full of Women.

38. Lerner, Creation of Patriarchy, 6-7, 31, 228-29.

39. Sreenivasan, Moon Over Crete, back cover blurb; Shannon, Why It's Great to Be a Girl, xiv-xv, 17-18, 122-23. The first treatment of matriarchal myth in children's literature was Charlene Spretnak's Lost Goddesses of Early Greece, published in 1981, which Spretnak wrote with the intention of giving her daughter a more female-friendly -- and, she said, more accurate, earlier, prepatriarchal -- version of Greek mythology (10).

40. Steven Goldberg, "Dr. Goldberg Replies to 'Patriarchy' Debate," http:// www.vix.com/men/books/goldberg/patriarch.html. November 1992; Robert Sheaffer, "'The Goddess Remembered' -- A Case of 'False Memory Syndrome,''' http://www.patriarchy.com/shaeffer /texts/ goddess-rem.html, December 1993. Goldberg's The Inevitability of Patriarchy was republished in 1993 as Why Men Rule. Populist feminist critiques of matriarchal myth include Denfeld, New Victorians, 127-53, and Tavris, Mismeasure of Women, 71-79. More academic critiques can be found in Davis, Goddess Unmasked; Lefkowitz, "Twilight of the Goddess"; Pomeroy, Goddesses, Whores, Wives, and Slaves, x-xi; Walters, "Caught in the Web"; Biehl, Rethinking Ecofeminist Politics; Rowbotham, "When Adam Delved"; Kristol, "Just the Facts"; Bermond and Georgoudi, "Matriarcat n'a Jamais Existe!"; Stella Georgoudi, "Creating a Myth of Matriarchy," in Pantel, ed., History if Women; Lo Russo, "Idea d'una Societa Matriarcale"; Townsend, "Goddess"; Cantarella, Pandora's Daughters; Barbara Chesser, letter to the editor, Women's Review of Books 14/8 (May 1997): 4-5; Magli, ed., Matriarcato; Ruether, Gaia and God; Young, "Goddesses, Feminists, and Scholars"; Perkins, "Myth of the Matriarchy"; Janssen-Jurreit, Sexism. Critiques from archaeologists and classicists include Meskell, "Goddesses"; Conkey and Tringham, "Archaeology and the Goddess"; Brian Hayden, "Observing Prehistoric Women" in Claassen, ed., Exploring Gender through Archaeology; Brian Hayden, "Old Europe: Sacred Matriarchy or Complementary Opposition?" in Bonanno, ed., Archaeology and Fertility Cult; Anthony, "Nazi and Ecofeminist Prehistories"; Burkert, Greek Religion; Talalay, "Feminist Boornerang"; Samson, "Superwomen"; Barnett, review of Language of the Goddess.

41. Noble, Shakei Woman, 235; Marler, ed., Realm if the Ancestors; Vicki Noble, quoted in Starhawk and Donna Read, "Marija Gimbutas Film Project," http:// wwwwebcom.com/gimbutas/belili, 1997.

42. Gore mentions in passing the notion of "a single earth goddess" worshipped throughout "prehistoric Europe and much of the world" replaced by later religions with "their distinctly masculine orientation." Gore also notes however that "the antiquity of the evidence and the elaborate and imaginative analysis used to interpret the artifacts leave much room for skepticism about our ability to know exactly what this belief system ... taught" (Earth in the Balance, 260).

43. See especially Diop, Cultural Unity of Black Africa, and Amadiume, Reinventing Africa.

3. The Story They Tell

1. Efforts to trace the origins of social institutions through myth date back to classical Greece (Marcel Detienne, quoted in Blundell, Origins of Civilisation, 103; Vidal- Naquet, "Slavery," 188) and are, according to Lisa Marie Fedigan, a cross-cultural universal ("Changing Role of Women," 58).

2. Freud, Totem and Taboo, 144; Freud, Moses and Monotheism, 104.

3. Engels was far more enthusiastic about both Morgan and the concept of matriarchy than Marx had been, though in the Origin Engels claimed to be representing Marx's ideas. See Krader, ed., Ethnological Notebooks (the Ethnological Notebooks consist of Marx's notes on his anthropological readings).

4. Gage, Woman, Church, and State; Stanton, "Matriarchate"; Gamble, Evolution of Woman; Hartley, Age of Mother-Power; Spencer, Woman's Share in Social Culture; Gilman, Man-Made World.

5. See Tolstoy, "Soviet Anthropological Thought"; Gellner, "Soviet and the Savage."

6. For matriarchal themes in classical scholarship, see Harrison, Prolegomena and Epilegomena and Themis; Thomson, Ancient Greek Society; Willetts, Cretan Cults; Hutchinson, Prehistoric Crete; Vermeule, Greece in the Bronze Age; Butterworth, Traces of the Preolympian World. Archaeologists working with themes of matriarchy or goddess worship included Crawford, Eye Goddess; Hawkes, Dawn of the Gods; Murray, "Female Fertility Figures"; Levy, Gate if Horn. For matriarchalists informed by psychoanalysis and Jungianism, see Fromm, "Theory of Mother Right"; Reich, Compulsory Sex-Morality; Neumann, Great Mother; M. Esther Harding, Woman's Mysteries.

7. This movement began with the "Kosmische Runde" -- a group of poets and intellectuals centered around the poet Stefan George -- who revived Bachofen's work around the turn of the century and over the next few decades (see, for example, Schuler, "Mutterdunkel"; Klages, Kosmogonischen Eros; Baumler and Schrater, Mythos von Orient und Okzident). The myth of matriarchal prehistory occasionally emerged among the ideologues of the Third Reich (see Gottner-Abendroth, Matriarchat, vol. I, 138-41).

8. Durant, Story of Civilization, vol. I, 30-31, 33, 34.

9. Hawkes and Woolley, Prehistory, 117, 123, 264. For a discussion of Hawkes's position in regard to matriarchal ideas, see Hutton, "Neolithic Great Goddess."

10. The clearest exception from the past twenty-five years is Amaury de Riencourt's Sex and Power in History (1974), which tells a straightforward tale of men's triumph over the retarding forces of women's rule. Writers like Ken Wilber (Up From Eden, 1981) regard the patriarchy as an improvement over matriarchy, but introduce a feminist component into their story by insisting that patriarchy should soon be superseded by a society that is more congenial to women's rights. This is a pattern that occurred as well in nineteenth-century matriarchal myth; see Eller, From Motherright to Gylany.

11. Fisher, Women's Creation, 220 ff.; Davis, First Sex, 177-78.

12. Ortner, "Is Female to Male," 5, 8; Borun et al., Women's Liberation, 6.

13. This socialist feminist literature includes Karen Sacks, "Engels Revisited: Women, the Organization of Production, and Private Property," in Rosaldo and Lamphere, eds., Woman, Culture, and Society, and Sisters and Wives; Leacock, "Women's Status," "Women in Egalitarian Societies," Myths of Male Dominance, and "Origins of Gender Inequality"; Rohrlich-Leavitt, "Women in Transition"; Rohrlich, "State Formation"; Fluehr-Lobban, "Marxist Reappraisal" and "Marxism and the Matriarchate"; Al-Hibri, "Capitalism is an Advanced Stage of Patriarchy"; Gailey, "Evolutionary Perspectives," "State of the State," and Kinship to Kingship.

14. Estimates of the number of spiritual feminists or followers of the broader neopagan movement vary from 100,000 to 500,000 (Denfeld, New Victorians, 299, n. I; Kelly, "Update"), but these estimates are extremely rough and doubtless inaccurate. Suffice it to say that feminist spirituality is a strong cultural force within the women's movement and a significant presence in New Age circles.

15. Ironically, this is especially true outside the feminist spirituality movement, where goddesses are not worshipped, but simply observed for what they are believed to reveal about women's prehistoric prominence. Within feminist spirituality, goddesses serve other functions as well: as role models to emulate, as divine companions offering succor, as supernatural forces making magic efficacious, and so on.

16. See, for example, Hutton, "Neolithic Great Goddess," 93; Ucko, Anthropomorphic Figurines, 409.

17. Stone, When God Was a Woman, 5, 22, 228.

18. Joan Marler, "The Circle is Unbroken: A Brief Biography," in Marler, ed., Realm of the Ancestors, 11-15; Steinfels, "Idyllic Theory," C1, C12.

19. Steinfels, "Idyllic Theory," C1, C12. In her later years, Gimbutas's reputation among linguists was considerably stronger than her reputation among archaeologists. Although linguists were no more interested in Gimbutas's goddess theories than were her archaeological peers, they, unlike archaeologists, continued to give serious attention to her work on the spread of Indo-European languages (see, for example, Lehmann, "Frozen Residues," 223).

20. Gimbutas, quoted in Steinfels, "Idyllic Theory," C12.

21. Ronald Hutton notes that Gimbutas's Gods and Goddesses portrays the goddesses of Old Europe primarily as mothers and symbol of fertility and sexuality, while Language of the Goddess and Civilization if the Goddess portray the goddess as "a mighty creatrix, presiding over all life and death" ("Neolithic Great Goddess," 97-98).

22. Noble, "Marija Gimbutas," 5; Spretnak, ed., Politics of Women's Spirituality, rev. ed., x; Pollack, Body if the Goddess, xi ; Judy Grahn, "Marija Gimbutas and Metaformic Theory," in Marler, ed., Realm of the Ancestors, 546.

23. Fritz Muntean, personal communication, November 1998.

24, Cavin, Lesbian Origins, 5-6; Noble, Shakti Woman, 215-16; French, Beyond Power, 27; Schmerl and Ritter, "Matriarchats-debatte," 86.

25. See, for example, Eisler, Sacred Pleasure, chap. 2.

26. JBL Devotional Statues, "The Acheulian Goddess," http://www.jblstatue.com/ acheulian.html, 1998. See also Gimbutas, World of the Goddess; Noble. Shakti Woman, 38-39.

27. This is when Neolithic cultures are under consideration. When Paleolithic cultures are the topic of choice, the geography of the myth cuts a swath from southwestern France to Siberia, which is the approximate geographic spread of the so-called "Venus" figurines (see chapter 7).

28. Kristie Neslen (The Origin) and Starhawk (Truth or Dare, 33) have defended this focus on the" cradle of Western civilization" as appropriate to the study of the rise of Western patriarchy, "which is probably our worst enemy" (Neslen, The Origin, 3). European and European-American writers who have spent significant time investigating potential prehistoric matriarchies outside the "cradle of Western civilization" include DeMeo, "Origins and Diffusion of Patrism" (China and the Americas); Ellwood, "Sujin Religious Revolution" (Japan); Tsultrim Allione, quoted in Jamal, Shape Shifters (India); Noble, Shakti Woman (Mexico); Campbell, Traveller in Space (Tibet); Daniel F. McCall, "Mother Earth," in Preston, ed., Mother Worship (West Africa); Hubbs, Mother Russia (Russia); Cameron, Daughters of Copper Woman (Northwest America).

29. For Latina and Native American treatments of matriarchal themes, see Paula Gunn Allen, "Grandmother of the Sun," and Gloria Anzaldua, "Entering into the Serpent," in Plaskow and Christ, eds., Weaving the Visions, 22-28, 77-86. African- American treatments can be found in Lorde, Sister Outsider, 67; Sabrina Sojourner, "From the House of Yemanja," in Spretnak, ed., Politics of Women's Spirituality, 57- 63; Teish, Jambalaya, ix, 70-71; Luisah Teish, quoted in Stone, Return of the Goddess, and Asian-American ones in Rita Nakashima Brock, "On Mirrors, Mists, and Murmurs," in Plaskow and Christ, eds., Weaving the Visions, 24 (-42. For an example of Indian use of matriarchal themes, see Jayakar, Earth Mother.

30. The most detailed myths of matriarchal prehistory for the African continent are told by Africans, most notably Cheikh Anta Diop (The Cultural Unity if Black Africa), and Ifi Amadiume (Afrikan Matriarchal Foundations and Reinventing Africa). But there is also interest in prehistoric African matriarchies among white feminist matriarchalists, mostly related to their enthusiasm for the "black madonnas" of Europe, which, they argue, are related to African goddesses, especially Isis (see Bolen, Crossing to Avalon, 26-27; Rufus and Lawson, Goddess Sites, v-ix; Birnbaum, Black Madonnas; Rose, "Black Madonnas"). A critique of this practice can be found in Eller, "White Women and the Dark Mother." Chinese versions of matriarchal myth (which, unlike African ones, have not been incorporated into Western matriarchal myth) include Zhang, "Yuanjunmiao Cemetery" and Min, ed., Chalice and the Blade in Chinese Culture.

31. See Walker, Skeptical Feminist, 265-76; Eisler and Loye, Partnership Way, 217.

32. Wilshire, Virgin Mother Crone, 61.

33. Starr Goode, "Tea with Marija," in Marler, ed., Realm of the Ancestors, 40.

34. Bolen, Crossing to Avalon, 128-29; Mor and Sjoo, "Respell the World," 18.

35. Noble, Shakti Woman, 227-28. The claim that systems of writing were invented by matriarchal cultures must be made with some dexterity, since the earliest languages that have been deciphered all give evidence of nonmatriarchal social organizations (see chapter 8). Those who make this claim include Gimbutas, Civilization of the Goddess, 308-21; and Harald Haarmann, "Writing in the Ancient Mediterranean: The Old European Legacy," Keller, "Archaeology and Mythology," James Harrod, "The Upper Paleolithic 'Double Goddess': 'Venus' Figurines as Sacred Female Transformation Processes in the Light of a Decipherment of European Upper Paleolithic Language," in Marler, ed., Realm of the Ancestors, 110 ff., 391, 492.

36. Wilshire, Virgin Mother Crone, 56; Merlin Stone, "9978: Repairing the Time Warp," in Heresies Collective, ed., Great Goddess, 125; Spretnak, "Female Psyche/Soma."

37. This is an argument that has -- predictably -- been advanced most often by socialist feminists (see, for example, Leacock, "Women in Egalitarian Societies," 32-33; Reed, Problems of Women's Liberation, 21; Silverblatt, "Women in States," 430-31). It is less important to feminist matriarchalists whose roots are in feminist spirituality.

38. Stephenson, Women's Roots, 5; Alpert, "Mother Right," 91-92.

39. Sjoo, New Age and Armageddon, 66-67; Vicki Noble, quoted in Jamal, Shape Shifters, 113.

40. Grace Shinell calls lesbianism "the hidden sexual preference throughout history" and "the normal sexual union in prepatriarchal eras" ("Women's Collective Spirit," in Spretnak, ed., Politics of Women's Spirituality, 515-16; see also Cavin, Lesbian Origins, 40-41).

41. Stone, When God Was a Woman, 154.

42. Gimbutas, Civilization of the Goddess, x; Johnson, Lady of the Beasts, 3; Gimbutas, Goddesses and Gods, 152. There is some tension in the feminist spirituality movement, and American neopaganism generally, between those who revere numerous deities as manifestations of a single goddess, and those who believe that there truly are numerous deities who are incommensurable (see Eller, Living in the Lap, 132- 35). However, in discussions of matriarchal prehistory, the goddess is virtually always singular. This cannot be interpreted as a verbal accident, for justifications of this singularity are easy to find (see, for example, Gimbutas, Civilization if the Goddess, 223; Spretnak, Lost Goddesses, 20; Gottner-Abendroth, Matriarchal Mythology, 13).

43. Brindel, Ariadne, 119.

44. Bolen, Crossing to Avalon, 128-29; Neslen, The Origin, 14; Starhawk, "Witchcraft and Women's Culture," 260; Redmond, When the Drummers Were Women, I.

45. French, Beyond Power, 27.

46. Phyllis Chesler, "Foreword," in Budapest, Holy Book of Women's Mysteries, xx; Gottner-Abendroth, Dancing Goddess, 85.

47. See Reed, Woman's Evolution, 142; Cavin, Lesbian Origins, 40-41; Anna Perenna, "Towards a Matriarchal Manifesto," in Matriarchy Study Group, ed., Politics of Matriarchy, 10; Wilshire, Virgin Mother Crone, 23; Noble, Shakti Woman, 197.

48. Some matriarchalists argue that women knew perfectly well where babies came from but declined to share this knowledge with men, since they intuited that it would weaken their social power if men knew that women could not produce children unaided (see, for example, Stein, Women's Spirituality Book, 5; Davis, First Sex, 133; Wabun Wind, "This God Is," in King, ed., Divine Mosaic, 106). Others say that both women and men were fully aware of the connection between sexual intercourse and conception, but simply did not attach the sort of meanings to that fact that came to hold sway in patriarchal times.

49. Janet Balaskas, "The Feminine Power of Birth," in Noble, ed., Uncoiling the Snake, 26; Muten, Return if the Great Goddess, 2; Francia, Dragontime, 13-14; Sjoo, New Age and Armageddon, 14-15; Iglehart, Womanspirit, 10-11; Wilshire, Virgin Mother Crone, 123. Women past menopause are said to have been especially respected in matriarchal societies since "their wise blood" was "stored in the body like the wisdom stored in their psyches" (Noble, Shakti Woman, 35; Cassidy, "Post- Modern Menstrual Lodge").

50. Eisler, Sacred Pleasure, 25.

51. This is almost always the figure given "on the fly," when an author or speaker is simply recapping the myth of matriarchal prehistory. Marija Gimbutas offers more precision, postulating "waves" of patriarchal invasions into Old Europe occurring in 4400-4300 BCE, 3400-3200 BCE, and 3000-2900 BCE (Marija Gimbutas, "Women and Culture in Goddess-Oriented Old Europe," in Plaskow and Christ, eds., Weaving the Visions, 70). In spite of this general consensus, some feminist matriarchalists date the patriarchal revolution considerably earlier, sometimes equating it with the Neolithic revolution, or much later, saying that patriarchal power was not truly consolidated until the Constantinian revolution, the medieval witchcraft persecutions, the Reformation, the rise of feudalism or capitalism, or even the industrial revolution. Different dates, usually much later ones, are given for patriarchal revolutions in England, Ireland, India, Mexico, Russia, and China.

52. See, for example, Mason, Unnatural Order, 69; Achterberg, Woman as Healer, 10; Getty, Goddess, 15; Wind, "This God Is," in King, ed., Divine Mosaic, 107. Amusingly, Elizabeth Judd argues that paternity was first recognized in the shamanistic cultures of north central Asia and Siberia owing to "the habitual consumption of certain hallucinogens" which "brings out a belief (in men) in a central male reproductive role" ("The Myths of the Golden Age and the Fall: From Matriarchy to Patriarchy," in Keller, ed., Views of Women's Lives, 63). Judd states that this is a "well known" effect of hallucinogens.

53. French, War Against Women, 19; Rich, Of Woman Born, 126; Walker, Skeptical Feminist, 51; Deming, "Remembering"; Wilshire, Virgin Mother Crone, 130; Francia, Dragontime, 13-14; Brindel, Ariadne, 236; Stein, Women's Spirituality Book, 119.

54. See Stephenson, Women's Roots, 29; Moltmann-Wendel, Land Flowing with Milk and Honey, 51-52; Deckard, Women's Movement, 194; d'Eaubonne, Femmes avant le Patriarcat. This theory was developed by early anthropologists, and refined by feminist and socialist anthropologists in the late twentieth century (for a summary of this literature, see Silverblatt, "Women in States"). I regard this as another version of the myth of matriarchal prehistory and will be treating it as such in my forthcoming From Motherright to Gylany I will not, however, be treating it here, except as it is picked up and used in more popular contemporary versions of the myth of matriarchal prehistory.

55. Kurgan is not the only term in use among feminist matriarchalists; reference is also made to "sky god-worshipping invaders," "pastoral nomads," "patriarchal invaders," and occasionally to "Aryans." I will use the term Kurgans, since it more precisely locates this particular group of putative patriarchal invaders without calling up the Nazi associations of the term "Aryans."

56. See, for example, Mackey, Year the Horses Came, 38; Neslen, The Origin, 45; Sjoo and Mor, Great Cosmic Mother, 258. There is a subtle contradiction here between the matriarchy imagined for Paleolithic times, which was characterized by nomadism, and the implication in discussions of the patriarchal revolution that nomadism produces male-dominant social relations.

57. It would make sense, if this were a strongly patriarchal society, that Kurgan women would stay home while their menfolk were off conquering new lands, and also that Kurgan men would marry or mate with women from the lands they conquered. But some suggest that Kurgan women were not prehistoric stay-at-home moms, but were rather the fabled Thermodon Amazons: blond, blue-eyed, horseriding, fire-worshipping warriors from the Black Sea region (see Neslen, The Origin, 45; Sojourner, "House of Yemanja," in Spretnak, ed., Politics of Women's Spirituality, 62; Phyllis Chesler, "The Amazon Legacy," in Spretnak, ed., Politics of Women's Spirituality, 104-106). Notably, these women are not held responsible for the patriarchal revolution, as are their male counterparts.

58. Gimbutas, Civilization of the Goddess, 352; Gimbutas, "Women and Culture," in Plaskow and Christ, eds., Weaving the Visions, 69; Marler, ed., Realm of the Ancestors, 52.

59. Nano Valaoritis, "Cosmic Conflict of Male and Female in Greek Mythology," in Marler, ed., Realm of the Ancestors, 248. I think it significant that feminist matriarchalists, writing mainly from North America and Europe during the Cold War era, place the patriarchal homeland in Russia-already, by common Western consensus, the source of world evil.

60. The only maps I have seen of the patriarchal homeland are supplied by Gimbutas (Civilization of the Goddess, 358,359,368,385, and elsewhere in the Gimbutas corpus), Mackey (Year the Horses Came, 6-7), and DeMeo ("Origins and Diffusion of Patrism," 268-though DeMeo places the "patrist heartland" considerably south and east of Gimbutas's proposed Kurgan homeland). The fact that Gimbutas has been so clear about the geographical boundaries of the patriarchal homelands does, to an extent, allow others to omit discussions of geography, but I suspect that the neglect of such discussions has more to do with a lack of interest in them on the part of feminist matriarchalists.

61. Mary Kelly, quoted in Stone, Return of the Goddess; Eisler, "Chalice and the Blade," 8. Eisler also uses the phrases "arid fringes of our globe," "peripheral areas of our globe," "fringe areas of our globe," and "edges of the earth" (see Eisler, Sacred Pleasure, 88; Chalice and the Blade, xvii, 43, 47-48; "Rediscovering Our Past, Reclaiming Our Future: Toward a New Paradigm for History," in Marler, ed., Realm of the Ancestors, 339).

62. See, for example, Gimbutas, quoted in Brown and Novick, "Unearthing the Goddess," 18; Eisler, Sacred Pleasure, 91; Pollack, Body of the Goddess, 121-22.

63. Stone, When God Was a Woman, 62; Gimbutas, Civilization of the Goddess, 352.

64. Davis, First Sex, 141. Others who name the Hebrews as patriarchal invaders include Ferguson, Women and Religion, 40-41; Baring and Cashford, Myth of the Goddess, 688; Eisler, Chalice and the Blade, 44. This anti-Semitism is critiqued both within and outside feminist matriarchalist circles. Carol Christ has been particularly outspoken against it (see, for example, Rebirth of the Goddess, 47), as has Katharina von Kellenbach (Anti-Judaism, 99-100).

65. Neslen, The Origin, 44. On natural disasters and resultant intertribal warfare as an explanation for patriarchal revolution, see Achterberg, Woman as Healer, 12,28; Eisler, Chalice and the Blade, 43,57; Lerner, Creation of Patriarchy, 46; Peggy Reeves Sanday, cited in Gross, Feminism and Religion, 167. For astrological explanations, see Noble, Motherpeace, 47; Jade, To Know, ]68-69; Demetra George, "The Dark Moon Phase of the Goddess," in Noble, ed., Uncoiling the Snake, 19-20, 23. For discussion of genetic mutations, see Davis, First Sex, 34-35; Miles, Women's History of the World, 3; Jade River, "In the Beginning ... We Were One," anonymous spiritual feminist publication, 1989; Shinell, "Woman's Primacy," in Heresies Collective, ed., Great Goddess, 46; Sjoo and Mor, Great Cosmic Mother, 2-3. I have heard the theory of extraterrestrial invasions offered -- sometimes casually, sometimes seriously -- at lectures and workshops and in interviews. Noting that patriarchal invaders "seem like anomalies that appeared out of nowhere," Vicki Noble remarks that it is "no wonder people are driven to posit extraterrestrial landings to explain the mystery" (Shakti Woman, 231).

66. Eisler, Chalice and the Blade, xxiii, 38; Eisler and Loye, Partnership Way, 85; Eisler, "The Goddess of Nature and Spirituality: An Ecomanifesto," in Campbell and Muses, eds., In All Her Names, 21. Those who see patriarchy as surviving largely through inertia include Borun et al., Women's Liberation, 39; DeMeo, "Origins and Diffusion of Patrism," 252, 254; Deckard, Women's Movement, 189.

67. Donna Henes, speaking at The American Museum of Natural History in New York as part of the program "The Great Goddess: Her Enduring Presence, Power, and Personality," moderated by Cristina Biaggi, 22 March 1997; Neslen, The Origin, 45. See also Noble, Shakti Woman, 231.

68. There is some internal dissension on this point. Many celebrate armed resistance on the part of the matriarchies as a manifestation of women's strength and bravery (see Rohrlich, "State Formation," 90; Jade, To Know, 168; d'Eaubonne, Femmes avant le Patriarcat, chap. 4). But others beg to differ. As Donna Wilshire writes in a letter to the editor of Goddessing Regenerated, "it distresses me to see that Vicki Noble is writing about female warriors as if that were a wonderful occupation for women, then or now. Marija would be very sad. Old Europe was the time of peace, the time before the Bronze Age warriors -- male and later female -- destroyed the matristic Great Goddess cultures" ([Summer/Fall 1996]: 4).

69. Lerner, Creation of Patriarchy, 48, 81.

70. Hopkins, Great Mother Earth; Pollack, Body of the Goddess, 47. Some feminist matriarchalists see hope so long as goddesses are still in the picture, and do not regard patriarchy as having triumphed until the Roman Empire, under the banner of Christianity, forbade the worship of the ancient goddesses (see, for example, Redmond, When the Drill/liners Were Women, 137; Eisler, Sacred Pleasure, 30; Christ, Rebirth of the Goddess, 47).

71. See Cavin, Lesbian Origins, 84; Walker, Skeptical Feminist, 188-89; Christ, Rebirth of the Goddess, 94.

72. See Bolen, Crossing to Avalon, 24; Read, Goddess Remembered; Streep, Sanctuaries, 200; Abrahamsen, "Essays in Honor of Gimbutas," 73; Rose, "Black Madonnas," 18.

73. Neslen, The Origin, 47; Eisler, "Chalice and the Blade," 7; Austen, Heart of the Goddess, xviii. This belief that patriarchy is currently self-destructing is sometimes accompanied by the conviction that things will get worse before they get better. As Elizabeth Gould Davis explains in The First Sex, "The ages of masculism are now drawing to a close. Their dying days are lit up by a final flare of universal violence and despair such as the world has seldom before seen" (339).

74. Stephenson, Women's Roots, 327.

75. Canan, "Goddesses, Goddesses," in Marler, ed., Realm of the Ancestors, 568; Stein, Dreaming the Past, 118; Brooke Medicine Eagle, "Introduction," in Francia, Dragontime, xiii; Spretnak, "Female Psyche/Soma"; Walker, Skeptical Feminist, 128; Read, Goddess Remembered.

76. Christ, Rebirth of the Goddess, 164-65.

77. Mor and Sjoo, "Respell the World," 21; Shekhinah Mountainwater, Moonspell (self-published pamphlet, 1983), 2-3; Stein, Dreaming the Past, 149; Zsuzsanna Budapest, quoted in Adler, Drawing Down the Moon, 183.

78. Davis, First Sex, 18. Descriptions of utopian futures can be found in Eisler, Chalice and the Blade, 198-203; Walker, Skeptical Feminist, 265-77; Starhawk, Truth or Dare, 334-36.
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Re: The Myth of Matriarchal Prehistory: Why an Invented Past

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Part 2 of 3

4. The Eternal Feminine

1. Bolen, Crossing to Avalon, 52-53; Margaret Roy, "Politics of Women's Power," in Matriarchy Study Group, ed., Politics of Matriarchy, 47; Henes, Mythology; Noble, Shakti Woman, 6; Wilshire, Virgin Mother Crone, 123.

2. See, for example, "Oneness," a newsgroup posting by Joan, http://boris.qub.ac.- uk/archives/fox/fox-12-1995/0002.html, November 1995; Sjoo, New Age and Armageddon, 15; Iglehart, Womanspirit, 146-47.

3. Wilshire, Virgin Mother Crone, 272-73; Spretnak, "Female Psyche/Soma." Spretnak calls this "the matriarchal uncertainty principle."

4. Alpert, "Mother Right," 92; Mackey, Horses at the Gate, 136-54.

5. It has been my impression in researching the feminist spirituality movement (in which matriarchal myth is especially prevalent) that there are a disproportionate number of childless women, whether married or single, heterosexual or lesbian. Silverskye, a former goddess worshipper, complains in a newsgroup posting that "sometimes, Goddess spirituality seems like a reversion to the 'biology is destiny' argument, as if womanhood meant motherhood and birthing only. I chose not to have kids. I get a little tired of birthing imagery sometimes!" ("The Madeline Threads," http://boris/ qub.ac.uk/archives/fox/fox-01-1996/0163.html, January 1996).

6. Meinrad Craighead, quoted in Gadon, Once and Future Goddess, 241.

7. Carson, Goddesses and Wise Women, 4. Focusing on menstruation also has the potential to offend, however, since not all women menstruate. Feminist matriarchalists apologize for this also. For example, in Dragontime, Luisa Francia insists that all women can participate in menstrual rituals, whether they are menstruating at that time or not, or even if they are past menopause or lack a uterus (81).

8. Gartner-Abendroth, Dancing Goddess, 225. It is also considerably easier to romanticize childbirth now that it is relatively safer. At least in the middle and upper classes of the industrialized world where feminist matriarchalist myth thrives, one can choose whether or not to experience childbirth and can be assured that one will almost certainly live through it. Though some feminist matriarchalists have rhetorically located the power of childbirth in its stance between life and death (see especially Noble, Shakti Woman, 68), the fact remains that people are less likely to view childbirth as an awesome miracle when there is a good chance that it will kill them or their loved ones (see King, Women and Spirituality, 80).

9. Murdock, Heroine's Journey, 173-74; Dexter, Whence the Goddesses, 183; Walker, Skeptical Feminist, 16-17; Chesler, "Amazon Legacy," in Spretnak, ed., Politics of Women's Spirituality, 101.

10. Spretnak, ed., Politics of Women's Spirituality, 571; Davis, First Sex, 335-36; Gaube and von Pechmann, Magie, Matriarchat, und Marienkult, 211.

11. Stone, Return of the Goddess; Walker, Skeptical Feminist, 90; Shinell, "Women's Primacy," in Heresies Collective, ed., Great Goddess, 49; Barbara Starrett, "The Metaphors of Power," in Spretnak, ed., Politics of Women's Spirituality, 187-88.

12. Davis, First Sex, 34-35. See also Neslen, The Origin, 44; Shinell, "Woman's Primacy," in Heresies Collective, ed., Great Goddess, 46; Pollack, Body of the Goddess, 22.

13. Ranck, Cakes for the Queen of Heaven [Delphi], 39; Miles, Women's History of the World, 3. See also Sherfey, Female Sexuality, 141. In her review article "Hormones, Sex, and Gender," Carol Worthman says that recent embryological research renders the "female default model" obsolete. It is now thought that sex determination does not follow a "switch model," where at a certain point in fetal development males are switched onto another track, but rather that it follows a "guided-path model," in which sex differences are part of fetal development before the differentation of their sex organs (604).

14. See, for example, Starhawk, Dreaming the Dark, 11; Zsuzsanna Budapest, quoted in Kimball, Women's Culture, 240-41; Noble, "Shakti Woman," 28; Paper, Through the Earth Darkly, 266.

15. Noble, Motherpeace. 201, and Shakti Woman, 23S; Sjoo, New Age and Armageddon, 212.

16. Woolger and Woolger, Goddess Within, 10; Iglehart, Womanspirit, xiii; Poth, Goddess Speaks, 4; Murdock, Heroine's Journey, 156.

17. Starhawk, quoted in Edelson, "Story Box," 60.

18. Eisler, "Rediscovering Our Past," in Marler, ed., Realm of the Ancestors, 336; Eisler, Sacred Pleasure, 21, 403-405.

19. Wilshire, Virgin Mother Crone, 5, 277.

20. Judd, "Myths of the Golden Age," in Keller, ed., Views of Women's Lives, 54.

21. Eisler, Chalice and the Blade, xix-xx, and "Rediscovering Our Past," in Marler, ed., Realm of the Ancestors, 33S-36; Eisler and Loye, Partnership Way, 179, 183-85. Another such table, "Categories of Opposition in Matriarchy and Patriarchy," can be found in Ruth, Take Back the Light, 132-33.

22. Alpert, "Mother Right," 91; Reis, Through the Goddess, 18; Shinell, "Woman's Primacy," in Heresies Collective, ed., Great Goddess, 46. An exception is Christine Downing, who believes that it might be desirable to free ourselves from "thinking always primarily along this fault line" of gender. However, she also cautions that "fantasies of nongenderedness are fantasies which deny otherness, separation, finitude, and particularity," and as such, are unrealistic (Women's Mysteries, 40, 76).

23. Chodorow, Reproduction of Mothering. See also Starrett, "Metaphors of Power," in Spretnak, ed., Politics of Women's Spirituality, 188.

24. See Gross, Feminism and Religion, 23; Christ, "Eliade and the Feminist Paradigm Shift," 75; Lerner, "Writing Women into History," 7.

25. Socialist matriarchalists, in contrast, do insist that gender as we know it is a patriarchal invention. See, for example, Coontz and Henderson, eds.,Women's Work, I; Leacock, "Origins of Gender Inequality," 267; Gailey, "Evolutionary Perspectives," 54; Dobbins, From Kin to Class, 7-8.

26. Appiah, In My Father's House, 175; Grosz, Volatile Bodies, 208. See also Cott, "Feminist Theory," 59; Sered, "Ideology, Autonomy, and Sisterhood," 500-503; Joan Scott, cited in Kristol, "Just the Facts," 41. Difference feminism is the most general term available for those feminists who emphasize sex differences and female "specialness" in their political programs. However, there are other terms available that describe the type of feminism held in favor by feminist matriarchalists. Judith Clavir's term "metaphysical feminism" (Eisenstein, Contemporary Feminist Thought, 134) applies to feminist matriarchalists, as does Jean Bethke Elshtain's "sex polarity" ("New Feminist Scholarship," 15).

27. Jordanova, Sexual Visions, 21. See also Micaela di Leonardo, cited in Conkey and Tringham, "Archaeology and the Goddess," 234; Silvia Bovenschen, quoted in Walters, "Caught in the Web," 29. On women's exclusion from historical processes, see Talalay, "Feminist Boomerang," 173; Riley, "Am I That Name?" 103; Purkiss, Witch in History, 46; Blok, "Sexual Asymmetry," 11, 39-40. Though feminist matriarchalists are eager to buy their way back into history by putting matriarchy and patriarchy on a linear timeline, one can't fail to notice the relative stasis of prehistory, during which motherhood was the hub of society and the locus of religion, as compared to the dramatic events touched off by the patriarchal revolution.

28. Ortner, Making Gender, 179-80, and "Is Female to Male," 10; Simone de Beauvoir, quoted in King, "Healing the Wounds," 110. Others who have made this critique of feminist matriarchalist thought include Walters, "Caught in the Web," 25- 26; Denfeld, New Victorians, 143; Nelson, Gender in Archaeology, 161; Pateman, Sexual Contract, 219; Biehl, Rethinking Ecofeminist Politics, 13, 16-17; Hewitt, Critical Theory of Religion, 201-2.

29. Bolen, Crossing to Avalon, 242. The term pseudomen comes from Kim Chernin's Reinventing Eve (xv).

30. Murdock, Heroine's Journey, 1-2, 7, 9, 14, 73.

31. Perera, Descent to the Goddess, 7-8.

32. Chernin, Reinventing Eve, xv.

33. Dworkin, Right-Wing Women, 206-207.

34. Kwame Anthony Appiah makes this point in distinguishing between "racialism," the belief that there is a "racial essence" which entails "moral and intellectual dispositions," and "racism," the belief that certain races are to be preferred to others because of these differential moral and intellectual dispositions. He suggests that the first is a question of fact (or in this case, of factual error), the second of value (In My Father's House, 13).

35. If, as Sherry Ortner suggests, "gender is itself centrally a prestige system," differential value for the genders may be unavoidable (Making Gender, 143).

36. For its role in the Nazi Holocaust, see Davis, "Goddess and the Academy," 62.

37. Kidd, Dance of the Dissident Daughter, 2-3. For a critique of this view, see Moore, Feminism and Anthropology, 190, 196; Sherry Ortner, "Gender and Sexuality in Hierarchical Societies," in Ortner and Whitehead, eds., Sexual Meanings, 397, 401.

38. Worthman, "Hormones, Sex, and Gender," 607.

39. Bleier, Science and Gender, 94.

40. Bleier, Science and Gender, 94, 104-5; Morelli, "Growing up Female," 212; Mann, The Difference, 23.

41. The human ability to negotiate the basic facts of biological life -- through cultural innovation -- is arguably the central defining feature of our species. It, more than anything else, is what explains the fact that we have covered the globe, adapting to climates ranging from deserts to jungles to arctic tundra. Thanks to Linda van Blerkom of the Anthropology Department at Drew University for an illuminating discussion of this point.

42. Goldberg, "Status of Women."

43. Gross, Feminism and Religion, 163.

44. Schor, "Feminist and Gender Studies," 277-78; Laqueur, Making Sex, viii, 11, 152-53. See also Pateman, Sexual Contract, 225.

45. Vicki Noble, quoted in Wynne, Womanspirit Sourcebook, 261. See also Virginia Beane Rutter, "Marija Gimbutas: Archaeologist of the Feminine Soul," in Marler, ed., Realm of the Ancestors, 600; Hopkins, Great Mother Earth. Elsewhere Noble seems to say that women do have a special access to the feminine, through the "blood mysteries" of the female body (Shakti Woman, 11).

46. Judith Butler, cited in Morris, "All Made Up," 572-73. The classic formulation of this position is Judith Butler's Gender Trouble.

47. Salvatore Cucchiari, "The Gender Revolution and the Transition from Bisexual Horde to Patrilocal Band: The Origins of Gender Hierarchy," in Ortner and Whitehead, eds., Sexual Meanings, 52; Appiah, In My Father's House, 13; Appiah, "Race," 276-77. As Appiah points out, the presumed existence of other racial traits does not downgrade the absolute primacy of skin color, for "if, without evidence about his or her impulses, we can say who is a Negro, than it cannot be part of what it is to be a Negro that he or she has them; rather it must be an a posteriori claim that people of a common race, defined by descent and biology, have impulses, for whatever reason, in common" (33).

48. Riley, "Am I That Name?" 1-2, 112.

49. Coward, Patriarchal Precedents, 286; Verena Stolcke, "Is Sex to Gender as Race is to Ethnicity?" in del Valle, ed., Gendered Anthropology, 18-19; Appiah, "Race," 276.

50. Delphy, Close to Home, 23.

51. Riley, "Am I That Name?" 2-3.

52. Downing, Women's Mysteries, 19-20.

53. Millicent Fawcett, quoted in Sheila Ryan Johansson, '''Herstory' as History: A New Field or Another Fad?" in Carroll, ed., Liberating Women's History, 403.

5. Finding Gender in Prehistory

1. On the face of it, it seems suspicious that literate cultures, which by their very nature are better documented, should all turn out to be male dominated, while pre-literate, more poorly documented cultures are supposed to have been matriarchal. Feminist matriarchalists never suggest that the skill of writing can only develop under social conditions of male dominance -- in fact some suggest it was already in use in matriarchal societies (see chapter 3) -- so it seems a peculiar coincidence that matriarchies should turn out to be preliterate. In The Alphabet Versus the Goddess, Leonard Shlain suggests that there is a direct correlation between literacy and patriarchy, which would explain why matriarchal cultures are not documented textually. I suspect that this view will soon be adopted by feminist matriarchalists, since it provides an explanation of the coincidence of literacy and the patriarchal revolution that is not demeaning to women.

2. Noble, Shakti Woman, 173; Christ, "Eliade and the Feminist Paradigm Shift," 77- 78.

3. Frazer, Golden Bough, viii-ix; McLennan, "Early History of Man," 541-42; Morgan, Ancient Society, vii. Sue Blundell notes that this habit of seeing other cultures as reflecting an earlier portion of one's own history was already present among the ancient Greeks and Romans (Origins of Civilisation, 198). The quintessential definition of "survivals" and their usage can be found in E. B. Tylor's Primitive Culture (16) and is summarized in Tambiah, Magic, Science, Religion, 44.

4. An early, and still one of the best critiques of "survivals" doctrine can be found in Boas, "Limitations of the Comparative Method," 277.

5. Marvin Harris makes the case for continuing to regard "contemporary primitive groups" as "surviving stone-age cultures" in The Rise of Anthropological Theory (154- 55).

6. Conkey with Williams, "Original Narratives," 105; Gill, "Making Them Speak," 7; Keesing, "Exotic Readings of Cultural Texts." I thank my anthropologist brother-in-law, Robert Wolfe, for his explanation of the Kamchatka syndrome.

7. Some anthropologists sought to work around this conundrum by becoming more analytically precise about what constitutes women's social status and how it can be properly assessed. Arguing that women's status is made up of many things, they divided it, for example, into "their productive activities and control over production, their formal authority and decision-making power in sacred and secular domains ... [and] their relative cultural valuation/devalution" (Maureen Giovanni, in Leacock, "Women's Status," 262). One anthropologist, Martin King Whyte, developed fifty-two different scales-including such items as female infanticide, authority over children, menstrual taboos, control of property, sexual double standards, etc.-against which women's status relative to men's could be measured. But applying these scales to ninety-three culture groups, Whyte came to the daunting conclusion that "we can find no evidence for the existence of any general 'status of women' complex that varies consistently from culture to culture." In a phrase, he argued, "there is no such thing as the status of women" (Status of Women, 10, 116, 169). Other feminist efforts to dissect the various elements of the status of women can be found in Johansson, "'Herstory' as History," in Catroll, ed., Liberating Women's History; Janssen-Jurreit, Sexism, 89; Schlegel, Sexual Stratification, 3; and Ortner, Making Gender, 140-41.

8. The best twentieth-century example of this is the various ethnographies of Australian aborigines. which report wildly different statuses for women even within the same population groups. For a review of this literature, see Merlan, "Gender in Aboriginal Social Life."

9. Ortner, Making Gender, 18, 141, 146. See also Moore, Feminism and Anthropology, 30. Ortner discusses the entire "status of women" debate within anthropology in her article "Gender Hegemonies," included in the Making Gender volume. She draws a fairly sharp distinction between differential prestige for men -- which by itself, she argues, makes a society male dominant -- and any power that women may actually wield behind the scenes (142).

10. Schlegel, Sexual Stratification, 264. Another example of this phenomenon is this description of the position of women among the Agta of the Philippine Islands offered by anthropologists Agnes Estioko-Griffin and P. Bion Griffin: "They .. control the distribution of their acquired food, sharing first with their own nuclear family and extended family, then trading as they see fit. They may procure nonfood goods as they desire. Men may do the same; generally spouses discuss what work to do, what needs should be satisfied, and who will do what. ... Women are as vocal and as critical in reaching decisions as are men" ("Woman the Hunter: The Agta," in Dahlberg, ed., Woman the Gatherer, 136). This is a fitting description of the majority of American families, even some that most feminists would regard as reprehensibly sexist.

11. Silverblatt, "Women in States," 429; Marianne Gullestad, "Home Decoration as Popular Culture," in del Valle, ed., Gendered Anthropology, 128. See also Yanagisako and Collier, "Unified Analysis," 35,48; Morris, "All Made Up," 570.

12. Stuart Piggott, quoted in Finley, "Archaeology and History," 169-70.

13. Nurit S. Goldman-Finn, Sandra L. Dunavan, and J. Benjamin Fitzhugh, "Introduction," in Bacus et al., eds., Gendered Past, 3. See also Alison Wylie, "Foreword," in Bacus et al., eds., Gendered Past, ix. The seminal article which critiqued the implicit sexism of earlier archaeological interpretation was "Archaeology and the Study of Gender" by Margaret Conkey and Janet Spector, which was published in 1984.

14. See Cheryl Claassen, "Questioning Gender: An Introduction," in Claassen, ed., Exploring Gender through Archaeology, 3. The most frequently cited case of a third gender is that of the "two-spirit" or berdache found in one form or another in several Native American cultures. Others include the hijra of India, the kathoey of Thailand, the mahu of Hawaii. the xanith of Oman, and the sarombavy of the Malagasy Republic (see Herdt, ed., Third Sex; Morris, "All Made Up," 570; Weston, "Lesbian/ Gay Studies," 350-53). These "third genders" are not all the same by any means, but they most commonly refer to men who to some degree take on the outward signs of what that culture defines as femininity, either in dress, occupation, kinship status, or sexuality. A description of the range of genetic and morphological "intersex" anomalies can be found in Fausto-Sterling, Myths if Gender, 77-88.

15. Most of the much-celebrated cases of third genders are susceptible to critique. It is not clear whether what has been observed ethnographically is the exotic (to us) presence of a "third gender" or merely what we already -- less prosaically -- name transvestism or homosexuality. Certainly the Polynesian examples cited by Niko Besnier sound hauntingly like stereotypical American images of effeminate male homosexuals, right down to the taunting of male children with the name of these "third gendered" individuals as a form of discipline ("Polynesian Gender Liminality," in Herdt, ed., Third Sex, 310). All these "third genders" lack the typical linguistic accoutrement of gender: a set of pronouns and/or kinship terms unique to them. They are also more frequently biological males than females (Weston, "Lesbian/ Gay Studies," 354). Furthermore, since "third gender" categories are so frequently derived from masculine and feminine gender characteristics, it could be said with a certain justice that "far from undermining the two-gender model, [they] underwrite it" (Cucchiari, "Gender Revolution," 34). In short, I don't think it is untoward to assume -- recognizing that we may be wrong -- that when we dig up a female skeleton we are looking at a woman.

16. Catherine Roberts, "A Critical Approach to Gender as a Category of Analysis in Archaeology," in du Cros and Smith, eds., Women and Archaeology, 18. Conkey and Tringham, "Archaeology and the Goddess," 204; Engelstad, "Images of Power," 504-505; Barbara Bender, "Writing Gender," in Moore and Scott, eds., Invisible People and Processes, 180. The claim is frequently made that one can practice a "gendered archaeology" without attributing particular material remains to one sex or the other (see, for example, Shelby Brown, "Feminist Research in Archaeology: What Does it Mean? Why Is it Taking So Long?" in Rabinowitz and Richlin, eds., Feminist Theory and the Classics, 252; Bailey, "Representation of Gender," 216-17), though just how this would be done is rarely made clear, at least to the nonspecialist such as myself.

17. See, for example, Naomi R. Goldenberg, "Marija Gimbutas and the King's Archaeologist," in Marler, ed., Realm of the Ancestors, 45.

[8. Bernard Wailes, quoted in Steinfels, "Idyllic Theory," C 12. Shelby Brown argues that "professional disagreement with Gimbutas's view of a powerful gynocentric past is largely expressed through silence," adding that "Gimbutas is an 'insider' with an impressive record of excavation and publication, and she does not threaten the archaeological status quo by criticizing her colleagues" ("Feminist Research in Archaeology," in Rabinowitz and Richlin, eds., Feminist Theory and the Classics, 256). Most early criticism of Gimbutas by archaeologists appeared in book reviews (see, for example, Fagan, "Sexist View" ) or was offered informally in interviews with journalists (see Leslie, "Goddess Theory"; Knaster, "Raider of the Lost Goddess"; Steinfels, "Idyllic Theory"). An early article-length critique of Gimbutas's theories was offered by Brian Hayden ("Old Europe," in Bonanno, ed., Archaeology and Fertility Cult). There has been considerably less silence since Gimbutas's death in 1994. Archaeologists are much more likely to criticize Gimbutas vigorously now that she is gone and all that is left are her nonarchaeologically trained disciples.

19. Amy Richlin, "The Ethnographer's Dilemma and the Dream of a Lost Golden Age," in Rabinowitz and Richlin, eds., Feminist Theory and the Classics, 285.

20. Christ, Rebirth of the Goddess, 31, 34-35; Hodder, Reading the Past, 106.

21. Bell, Reconstructing Prehistory, 22, 28, 51-52. Problems with falsifiability arise perhaps most strongly when feminist matriarchalists reconstruct prehistory by offering evidence from memories of past lives, channelled information from disembodied spirits, or questionable sources of information such as the "collective unconscious" or "cellular memory," as they sometimes do (see, for example, Rigoglioso, "Awakening to the Goddess," 65; Stein, Dreaming the Past; Lucia Chiavola Birnbaum, "Marija Gimbutas and the Change of Paradigm," in Marler, ed., Realm of the Ancestors, 350; George, "Dark Moon," 31; Mor and Sjoo, "Respell the World," 18-19; Gadon, Once and Future Goddess, 261; Starhawk, Truth or Dare, 32). For the purposes of this book, I am going to rule all evidence of this kind inadmissible, on the grounds that it is not falsifiable: not that it is not true, or potentially true, or that its sources are unconventional. For it could well be that the collective unconscious exists, and that we all go fishing in it from time to time (while we are asleep, perhaps), pulling out stunningly detailed and accurate information about our prehistoric past, far richer than the pathetic scraps we are able to dig out of archaeological sites. But if what the collective unconscious tells you turns out to be different from what it tells me, who will-who can-referee our debate? There is simply no agreed upon method for adjudicating competing truth claims amongst different dreams, past lives, or disembodied spirits. (Such methods exist in some cultures which rely on dreams or trances to attain knowledge, but this is not the case in Western culture.)

6. The Case Against Prehistoric Matriarchies I: Other Societies, Early Societies

1. W. E. Roth, quoted in Leach, "Virgin Birth," 86-87; Malinowski, Father in Primitive Psychology, 12.

2. Malinowski, Father in Primitive Psychology, 70-71; 87-88,93; Powell, Social Structure in the Trobriands, 277-78. An even later ethnographer, Annette Weiner, claimed that the official denial of physiological paternity in the Trobriands was a social mechanism directed toward "preventing shame and open conflict" under the circumstance of widely practiced extramarital sex (Women of Value, 122). Malinowski's comments on how Trobrianders believed pigs to reproduce were published in 1916; in the 1927 publication of The Father in Primitive Psychology, Malinowski stated that his earlier remarks were in error and that his Trobriand informants insisted that pigs, like humans, did not require sexual intercourse to become pregnant (63-64, 66). A few anthropologists continue to believe that some cultures are or were ignorant of a connection between sexual intercourse and conception; see Cucchiari, "Gender Revolution," in Ortner and Whitehead, eds., Sexual Meanings, 45; Spiro, "Virgin Birth."

3. Dixon, "Virgin Birth" correspondence, 653-54; Leach, "Virgin Birth," 90, 119- 20 n. 1.

4. Montagu, Coming into Being, 226, 332.

5. Delaney, "Meaning of Paternity," 497; Rene Gremaux, "Woman Becomes Man in the Balkans," in Herdt, ed., Third Sex, 268. Delaney notes that human reproduction was explained to her in 1950SAmerica with these same metaphors of male/seed and female/earth. For descriptions of Aristotle's views of conception, see Laqueur, Making Sex, 41, 255 n. 36; Cantarella, Pandora's Daughters, 60.

6. Leach, "Virgin Birth," 93-94; Anderson and Zinsser, History of Their Own, 6; Mellaart, Neolithic of the Near East, 107, fig. 57. Riane Eisler calls the plaque from Catalhoyuk "a lesson in sex education, demonstrating that our Neolithic ancestors understood the connection between sexual intercourse and birth" (Sacred Pleasure, 63).

7. In my research on this issue, I was unable to find any ethnographies of groups that do not give fathers -- whether biological or adoptive -- strong and frequently decisive roles in relationship to their children. Many groups leave much of the basic caretaking work to women but still regard men as significantly and legitimately concerned with their children's welfare and able to make decisions on their behalf.

8. This transition is explained by some as being related to the rise of property, and men's desire to transmit it to their own progeny, but most feminist matriarchalists leave this transition virtually untheorized.

9. Ortner, "Gender and Sexuality," in Ortner and Whitehead, eds., Sexual Meanings. On the improved status of menopausal or otherwise sterile women, see Godelier, "Male Domination," 12-13; Murphy and Murphy, Women of the Forest, 105.

10. Schlegel, Sexual Stratification, 7. As Timothy Taylor notes, "child-rearing is hardly ever recognized as a job in market economic terms" (Prehistory of Sex, 205).

11. See, for example, Luisa Francia, "Dance of Life," anonymous spiritual feminist publication, I; Chernin, Reinventing Eve, 174, 177-78; Walker, Skeptical Feminist, 51, 115, 186; Stein, Women's Spirituality Book, 6-7; Davis, First Sex, 148, 152-53; Deming, "Remembering."

12. Hiatt, "Pseudo-Procreation Rites," 77-80; Meigs, Food, Sex, and Pollution, 131- 32; Cucchiari, "Gender Revolution," in Ortner and Whitehead, eds., Sexual Meanings, 33. In Wogeo, New Guinea, men periodically cut their penises and bleed into the ocean, explaining that they do so to rid their bodies of contamination, just as women rid their bodies of contamination by menstruating. In fact, the same word, baras, is used to refer to both menstruating women and men who have recently bled their penises (Hobgin, Island of Menstruating Men, 88). The same cleansing function is achieved among Sambia men by inducing bleeding from their noses (Herdt, Guardians of the Flutes, 64-65). Subincision as practiced among some Australian aborigines seems to be a difterent matter. It is performed once, as an initiation rite, and permanently alters the penis. Some feminist matriarchalists who have discussed this ritual regard subincision as an effort to "make the penis more closely resemble the female vulva" (Davis, First Sex, 152-53; Judy Grahn, "From Sacred Blood to the Curse and Beyond," in Spretnak, ed., Politics of Women's Spirituality, 273), and anthropologist Ashley Montagu concurs, claiming that the subincised penis "is called by the same name as that of the female vulva" (Natural Superiority of Women, 20). But Philip Singer and Daniel Desole report that there is "no mention at all, either in a derogatory or favorable way, of the penis as vulva, or, in fact, of the penis resembling a vulva in either form or function." In fact, Singer and Desole make a rather persuasive case for regarding subincision as an effort to make human penises resemble those of kangaroos. They note that Australian aboriginal cultures stress erotic pleasure, and that in such a context, "the prolonged copulation of the kangaroo, up to two hours," would not go unnoticed. They also point out that subincision greatly enlarges the width of the penis, causing it to look more like a kangaroo's. In any event, subincision does not entail a great deal of bleeding, and thus is unlikely to be an explicit imitation of menstruation ("Australian Subincision Ceremony Reconsidered," 356-58).

13. Hiatt, "Pseudo-Procreation Rites," 77; Meigs, Food, Sex, and Pollution, 37, 131- 32.

14. See Estioko-Griffin and Griffin, "Woman the Hunter," in Dahlberg, ed., Woman the Gatherer, 138-39; Gell, Metamorphosis of the Cassowaries, 94-95; Divale and Harris, "Male Supremacist Complex," 525; Poewe, "Universal Male Dominance," 116.

15. Mark N. Cohen and Sharon Bennett, "Skeletal Evidence for Sex Roles and Gender Hierarchies in Prehistory," in Miller, ed., Sex and Gender Hierarchies, 287; Naomi Hamilton, "Figurines, Clay Balls, Small Finds, and Burials" in Hodder, ed., On the Surface, 255; Theya Molleson and Peter Andrews, "The Human Remains," in Catalhoyuk Newsletter, ed. Ian Hodder, 4 (December 1997), http://catal.arch.- cam.ac.uk/catal/Newsletter4; Hays, "When is a Symbol Archaeologically Meaningful?" 84. These estimates are in close accord with ethnographic parallels. Anthropologists estimate life expectancy at birth for tribal peoples as being anywhere from seventeen to thirty-three, figures also typical in most parts of the world through the nineteenth century, and in many parts of the world yet today (see Cavalli-Sforza and Cavalli-Sforza, Great Human Diasporas, 8). This is in sharp contrast with the picture painted by feminist matriarchalists. Mary Mackey's novels of prehistoric matriarchy are filled with queens, priestesses, and elders in their fifties and sixties, some over ninety years old, not to mention the more commonplace mothers and grandmothers whose age must average between thirty and fifty, even if they had their children at a very young age (Mackey, Year the Horses Came, 64, 74, and Horses at the Gate, 258). Though some individuals in any population live to an advanced age, regardless of the average age at death (see Andrew T. Chamberlain, "Missing Stages of Life- Toward the Perception of Children in Archaeology," in Moore and Scott, eds., Invisible People and Processes. 249), it is still difficult to reconcile "the good life" which feminist matriarchalists attribute to Paleolithic and Neolithic peoples with the fact that few women would live to see four decades.

16. DeMeo, "Origins and Diffusion of Patrism," 261; Feder and Park, Human Antiquity, 75. See also Gimbutas, "Women and Culture," in Plaskow and Christ, eds., Weaving the Visions, 64.

17. Mellaart, Catal Huyuk, 60, 79, 208-209; Mellaart, Neolithic of the Near East, 101- 102.

18. See Gadon, Once and Future Goddess, 27-28; Lerner, Creation of Patriarchy, 32- 35; Eisler, Chalice and the Blade, 25.

19. Hamilton, "Figurines," in Hodder, ed., On the Surface, 257.

20. Hamilton, "Figurines," in Hodder, ed., On the Surface, 252, 262; Theya Molleson and Peter Andrews, "The Human Remains," in Catalhoyuk Newsletter, ed. Ian Hodder, 4 (December 1997), http://catal.arch.cam.ac.uk/catal/Newsletter4; Ian Hodder and Anita Louise, "Discussions with the Goddess Community," http://- catal.arch.cam.ac.uk/catal/goddess.html, n.d.

21. Mellaart, Catal Huyuk, 205-206; Hamilton, "Figurines," in Hodder, ed., On the Surface, 254, 256.

22. Sherratt, "Mobile Resources," 14; Mellaart, Catal Huyuk, 212.

23. Whyte, Status of Women, 171. Of the 1,179 societies in the HRAF files compiled by Murdock, 75 percent are patrilocal while only 10 percent are matrilocal (Divale and Harris, "Male Supremacist Complex," 521). I am using the term "patrilocal" to include residence with the husband's family and "matrilocal" to include residence with the wife's family rather than the more precise terms "virilocal" and "uxorilocal."

24. Rose, "Prehistoric Greece," 214-15; Murphy and Murphy, Women of the Forest, 76-77; Malinowski, Father in Primitive Psychology, 16-17; Hogbin, Island of Menstruating Men, 17-19, 99; Hultkrantz, Native Religions, 89-90; Thomas L. Jackson, "Pounding Acorn: Women's Production as Social and Economic Focus," in Gero and Conkey, eds., Engendering Archaeology, 318-19; Panoff, "Patrifiliation," 178-79; Janssen-Jurreit, Sexism, 66; Fluehr-Lobban, "Marxist Reappraisal," 348; Divale, Matrilocal Residence, 35,194. Marvin Harris claims that there is "universal recognition of some degree of kinship with both maternal and paternal relatives, regardless of the nature of the unilineal rule (Rise of Anthropological Theory, 187).

25. Ortner, "Gender and Sexuality," in Ortner and Whitehead, eds., Sexual Meanings, ed. 400; Colin M. Turnbull, "Mbuti Womanhood," in Dahlberg, ed., Woman the Gatherer, 205-206.

26. Frayser, Sexual Experience, 355; Merlan, "Gender in Aboriginal Social Life," 28, 49; Raymond, review of The Subordinate Sex, 457.

27. Mann, The Difference, 211. The line of direction here is important, for sometimes goddesses are said to legitimize power for women, but just as often it is said that goddesses were invented as a reflection of human women's power (see, for example, Johnson, Lady of the Beasts, 348-49; Miles, Women's History of the World, 17; Gimbutas, Civilization of the Goddess, 342; Judd, "Myths of the Golden Age," in Keller, ed., Views of Women's Lives, 58). The assumption that goddesses are projections of human women can lead to some rather ridiculous interpretations of goddess myths. For example, Ruby Rohrlich concludes that in early Sumer, women were "involved as warriors and generals" since in Sumerian myth Inanna slayed "the dragon Kur" ("State Formation," 90). One might as easily state that women in the first two millennia CE seem to have reproduced parthenogenetically, as reflected in the myth of the Virgin Mary giving birth to Jesus.

28. See chapter 3, note 42.

29. Lefkowitz, "New Cults of the Goddess," 266; Nicole Loraux, "What is a Goddess?" in Pantel, ed., History of Women, 35. Native Americans and aboriginal Australians have often been said to worship a supreme mother goddess above all other deities, but in both cases, it has been quite conclusively shown that "Mother Earth" was a creation of European ethnographers rather than native peoples (see Gill, Mother Earth; Gill, "Making Them Speak"; Swain, "Mother Earth Conspiracy," Interpreting Aboriginal Religion; Hamilton, "Knowledge and Misrecognition," in Gewertz, ed., Myths of Marriarchy Reconsidered, 62). John Stratton Hawley notes that Hindu goddesses "tend to be seen as close relatives of one another ... in a way that is somehow less true of the male side of the Hindu pantheon" ("The Goddess in India," in Hawley and Wulff, eds., Devi, 6). This would hint at a sort of goddess monotheism (the presence of so many male gods alongside "the Goddess" notwithstanding). But one could also interpret the perceived unity of the goddesses as a revealing example of a general attitude that regards women as being more undifferentiated -- more defined by their group status as females -- and less individuated than men. Furthermore, in her article "The Western Kali," Rachel Fell McDermott suggests that this tendency to view the Hindu goddesses as representatives of "an overarching female power" did not develop until the sixth century CE, before which time a more traditional form of polytheism probably prevailed (in Hawley and Wulff, eds., Devi, 297).

30. Ras Shamra text, quoted in Heine, Matriarchs, 47; Frymer-Kensky, Wake of the Goddesses, 29; Motz, Faces of the Goddess, 12-13; Ralph W Nicholas, "The Village Mother in Bengal," in Preston, ed., Mother Worship, 205-206.

31. Stern, Prehistoric Europe, 286. Goddesses sometimes function as warnings to men of the dangers women pose. For example, scholars of Hinduism have drawn a distinction between "small" goddesses, who are "beneficent and auspicious" -- and, not incidentally, "controlled by males" -- and "big" goddesses, who, since they are celibate, are independent of males and who are dangerous, death-dealing figures. As John Stratton Hawley concludes, "it is hard to consider Hindu visions of how the sexes may interact at the divine level without developing a powerful sense of men's fear of women. Such fear is often expressed as the desire to control" ("Goddess in India," in Hawley and Wulff, eds., Devi, 14). On the other hand, Hawley also notes that not all Hindu goddesses fit this schema and may be both independent of males and benevolently maternal (15-18).

32. Cynthia Ann Humes, "Glorifying the Great Goddess or Great Woman?" in King, ed., Women and Goddess Traditions, 51-52; Hawley, "Goddess in India," in Hawley and Wulff, eds., Devi, 23 (Hawley is citing Humes's work). Humes found exceptions to this rule, women who saw the goddess as empowering for women, but they had all "been educated in westernized Christian schools or had actually lived in the West" and "already occupied a privileged position in society."

33. See Frymer-Kensky, Wake of the Goddesses, vii. James Preston remarks on the absence of Mariolatry in Protestantism, where women's rights have been most stressed within Christianity (Mother Worship, 338).

34. Eisler, Chalice and the Blade, xvi; Riane Eisler, cited in Mason, Unnatural Order, 157; Kidd, Dissident Daughter, 168. See also Perenna, "Matriarchal Manifesto," in Matriarchy Study Group, ed., Politics of Matriarchy, 17; Ranck, Cakes for the Queen of Heaven, 28-29, 31 [UUA]; Daly, Beyond God the Father, 13, 19.

35. Woolger and Woolger, Goddess Within, 18-19; Lerner, Creation of Patriarchy, 160. Feminist matriarchalists are not directly contradicting themselves when they revel in the goddess worship of classical Greek culture, for they regard classical goddess worship as "the afterglow of Old European times" (Haarmann, "Writing in the Ancient Mediterranean," in Marler, ed., Realm of the Ancestors, 108-109). What they celebrate in classical religion is not the goddess worship of a patriarchal culture, but the persistence of matriarchal religion into patriarchal times. Thus it is possible to condemn Athenian patriarchy but still notice its '''softer,' more creative, more 'feminine' underside" (Eisler, "Rediscovering Our Past," in Marler, ed., Realm of the Ancestors, 341). Also, not all classicists agree with the dismal picture I have painted here for women in ancient Greece. Marilyn Skinner, for example, suggests the possibility that "women's domestic sphere may have constituted a separate and autonomous culture ... that did not necessarily acquiesce in the attitudes of the dominant male culture" ("Greek Women and the Metronymic," 41). See also Monique Saliou, "The Process of Women's Subordination in Primitive and Archaic Greece," in Coontz and Henderson, eds., Women's Work, 171; Lefkowitz, Women in Greek Myth, 133-34.

36. Dexter, Whence the Goddesses, 8s. An especially difficult test case for feminist matriarchalists is Mariolatry. Their theory would seem to predict that worship of Mary would at least mitigate the ill effects of patriarchal Christianity, and some matriarchalists argue that it has done just that. For example, Thomas Berry sees Western culture becoming more patriarchal in the sixteenth century, at the same time that Mary "was rejected as a 'pagan' intrusion into the Christian world" (Dream of the Earth, 150). However, the Catholic priests who authored the Malleus Mallificarum, and thus kicked off several centuries of witch-hunting that preferentially targeted women, were "ardent worshippers of Mary" (Heine, Matriarchs, 143).

37. Heine, Matriarchs, 105: Ena Campbell, "The Virgin of Guadalupe and the Female-Self-Image," in Preston, ed., Mother Worship, 10, 18, 21. Tullio Tentori makes a similar report for Marian worship in Naples, Italy ("An Italian Religious Feast," in Preston, ed., Mother Worship, 112).

38. Whyte, Status of Women, 7, 103. Peggy Reeves Sanday comes to different conclusions in her ethnographic survey, claiming that male gods correlate with male power, while goddess worship or mixed-sex pantheons correlate with greater status for women (Female Power).

39. Leibowitz, "Sexual Division of Labor," 125, 139; Divale and Harris, "Male Supremacist Complex," 524. On horticultural divisions of labor, see Murphy and Murphy, Women of the Forest, 137-38; Reichel-Dolmatoff, Amazonian Cosmos, 3, 11: Tooker, "Women in Iroquois Society," 121; Lancaster, Goha, 186-87.

40. Milisauskas, European Prehistory, 172-73, It is possible of course that these items did not belong to the deceased, but were bestowed on them as part of funerary customs (see Hodder, Reading the Past, 53; Hayden, "Observing Prehistoric Women," in Claassen, ed., Exploring Gender through Archaeology, 37). Thus they may not reflect a sexual division of labor at all.

41. Faris, "Form to Content," 106; Burton and White, "Sexual Division of Labor," 569. For additional comments on the sexual division of labor, see Spector, "Male/ Female Task Differentiation," 124; Liebowitz, "Sexual Division of Labor," 125.

42. Danziger, "Man and Language in Prehistory"; Aaby, "Engels and Women," 35: Leibowitz, "Sexual Division of Labor," 127.

43. Whyte, Status of Women, 153, 155; Marshall Sahlins, quoted in Flanagan, "'Egalitarian' Societies," 246: Segler, "Sex, Status, and Authority," 573; Flanagan, "'Egalitarian' Societies," 258. Earlier anthropologists regarded sex as a "natural" axis of inequality, and thus nor worth noting as an exception to the egalitarianism of "egalitarian" societies (see Taylor, "'Brothers' in Arms?" 37).

44. Bonvillain, Women and Men, 21, 29; Begler, "Sex, Status, and Authority," 585; Marjorie Shostak, quoted in Marvin Harris, "The Evolution of Human Gender Hierarchies: A Trial Formulation," in Miller, ed., Sex and Gender Hierarchies, 59; Turnbull, "Mbuti Womanhood," in Dahlberg, ed., Woman the Gatherer, 207, 210; Janssen-Jurreit, Sexism, 89. For general statements on male dominance in foraging societies, see Ronald Cohen, quoted in Leacock, "Women's Status," 258; Rosaldo, "Use and Abuse," 411-12. Some feminist anthropologists and feminist matriarchalists, most notably Eleanor Leacock, have argued that none of these examples can be trusted to reflect what prehistory was like because the groups under observation had all already come under the unhealthy influence of the West. (A summary of Leacock's arguments on colonial influence can be found in Moore, Feminism and Anthropology, 31-32.) Before ethnographers had a chance to see them in their undefiled state, they had been missionized and colonized, or even been the victims of full-out imperialist conquest. This argument fails on several grounds. First, some ethnographers have shown that Western contact has improved women's status in some cultures (see, for example, Ann McElroy, quoted in Leacock, "Women's Status," 264; Cara Richards, quoted in Sempowski, "Differential Mortuary Treatments," 35-36). Second, it is quite clear that male domination and/or violence against women predated Western contact in some cultures (see, for example, Matthew Spriggs, "Quantifying Women's Oppression in Prehistory: The Aneityum [Vanuatu] Case," in du Cros and Smith, eds., Women and Archaeology, 143-44; Herdt, Guardians of the Flutes). And finally, the argument fails not only on empirical grounds, but on theoretical ones, since it is unclear how we might discriminate between "products of the colonial experience" and those that "bespeak a persisting tradition" (Marilyn Strathern, quoted in Leacock, "Women's Status," 267). These can sometimes be sorted out: we may know that it was European imperialists who brought agriculture, horses, Christianity, or a cash economy to a native culture. But things are much more murky in the case of gender relations, which presumably existed in one form or another long before any Western contact. Without a preexisting theory to decide exactly what effect Western contact would necessarily have on gender relations -- or direct evidence of precontact life -- it is arbitrary to assign certain patterns (i.e., male dominance) to colonial influence and others (i.e., relative sexual equality) to aboriginal life (see Ortner, Making Gender, 142-43).

45. On foraging societies, see Lee and DeVore, cited in Aaby, "Engels and Women," 27; Chapman, Drama and Power, 63. On horticultural societies, see Aaby, "Engels and Women," 27; Ehrenberg, Women in Prehistory, 99, 155. For general statements regarding the correlation between women's work and women's status, see Peggy Reeves Sanday, cited in Parker and Parker, "Myth of Male Superiority," 293; Maureen Giovanni, quoted in Leacock, "Women's Status," 262.

46. See Delphy, Close to Home, 61.

47. Reichel-Dolmatoff, Amazonian Cosmos, 3, 11; Murphy and Murphy, Women of the Forest, 62, 64; Murphy, "Social Structure and Sex Antagonism," 92; Weiner, Women of Value, 137; Parker and Parker, "Myth of Male Superiority," 292; Divale and Harris, "Male Supremacist Complex," 524.

48. Tooker, "Women in Iroquois Society," 115-17; Murphy and Murphy, Women of the Forest, 5-6, 60-62, 78, 87, 106, 108, 127-28, 131-32; Murphy, "Social Structure and Sex Antagonism," 93. Rape and forced sex are so common among the Mundurucu that Mundurucu males joke "we tame our women with the banana" (Murphy, "Social Structure and Sex Antagonism," 95). Martin King Whyte undertook a cross-cultural investigation of relationships between women's control over the products of their labor and women's status in other spheres, and found them "generally very weak" (Status of Women, 145).

49. Until very recently, it was quite common for cultural anthropologists and archaeologists, like feminist matriarchalists, to defend or at least proclaim the theory that women invented agriculture (see, for example, Durant, Story of Civilization, 8, 34; Haaland and Haaland, "Levels of Meaning," 299). Given that there is no evidence for this theory and no way to verify it, one has to assume that these scholars were mouthing the theory mainly to throw women a bone, especially after all of the major evolutionary advances of the human race had been handed over to "man the hunter." The irony is that once women were accorded this leading role in agriculture, the Neolithic revolution began to be viewed as the proverbial fall from paradise rather than as the great switching point between a primitive, apelike existence and "civilization." This is a particularly sharp irony since one of the best things about foraging societies, according to many commentators, was the relative equality it offered to women. Thus women are now blamed for creating the conditions of their own oppression.

50. See Crabtree, "Gender Hierarchies."

51. Bridges, "Changes in Activities"; Cassidy, cited in Cohen and Bennett, "Skeletal Evidence," in Miller, ed., Sex and Gender Hierarchies, 277-78; Goodman et al., cited in Cohen and Bennett, "Skeletal Evidence," in Miller, ed., Sex and Gender Hierarchies, 277-78.

52. Ammerman and Cavalli-Sforza, Neolithic Transition, 9-10, 63, 71, 133-34; Cavalli-Sforza and Cavalli-Sforza, Great Human Diasporas, 16, 138, 149; Washburn and Lancaster, "Evolution of Hunting," 303.

53. See Ortner, "Gender and Sexuality," in Ortner and Whitehead, eds., Sexual Meanings, 397.

54. In her textbook, Women and Men: Cultural Constructs of Gender, Nancy Bonvillain suggests that gender equality is "most likely" to be found in foraging societies, while gender inequality is "most marked" in complex state societies (3). Whatever the validity of these statements as generalizations, they are certainly not universal rules of the sort that could justify speculations about the status of women in prehistory.

55. Divale and Harris, "Male Supremacist Complex," 527; Steven J. Mithen, "The Mesolithic Age," in Cunliffe, ed., Oxford Illustrated Prehistory, 121; Hayden, "Archaeological Evaluation." Archaeologist Peter Warren suggests that the cut marks found on some children's skeletons from Minoan Crete resemble those found on slaughtered animals, and indeed these skeletons were found with the skeletons of slaughtered animals (Biehl, Rethinking Ecofeminist Politics, 38-39; Hewitt, Critical Theory of Religion, 191; for other comments on possible human sacrifice, see Anthony, "Nazi and Eco-feminist Prehistories," 94; Meskell, "Goddesses," 79). Marija Gimbutas has herself noted the possible "ritual offering of small children" or "dedicatory sacrifice" at certain Neolithic sites, though she elsewhere suggests that cut marks on skeletons can be attributed to burial practices rather than human sacrifice (cited in Biehl, Rethinking Ecofeminist Politics, 32; Gimbutas, Civilization of the Goddess, 292).

56. Gimbutas, Civilization of the Goddess, 352, "World View of the Culture of the Goddess," 46, and Age of the Great Goddess; Anthony, "Nazi and Eco-feminist Prehistories," 93-94, and quoted in Denfeld, New Victorians, 140.

57. Gimbutas, Civilization of the Goddess, 55, 160, 324, 352; Anthony, "Nazi and Eco-feminist Prehistories, 93-94; Milisauskas, European Prehistory, 177; Hayden, "Archaeological Evaluation." Elaborate fortifications are also noted for the Middle Eastern site of Jericho as early as the eighth millennium BCE (Mellaart, Catal Huyuk, 20; Motz, Faces of the Goddess, 36).

58. Harris, Cultural Anthropology, 246; Arthur Demarest, quoted in Wilford, "What Doomed the Maya?" C1, C10.

59. Such burials have actually been found in ancient Sumer (in the early dynastic period, 2600-2350 BCE), but so have burials in which a man was interred with murdered females. As these are royal tombs, the operative distinction would seem to be class rather than sex (Susan Pollock, "Women in a Men's World: Images of Sumerian Women," in Gero and Conkey, eds., Engendering Archaeology, 378). Feminist matriarchalists sometimes argue that these so-called suttee burials, when the principal corpse is male, are an early indicator of patriarchal revolution (see, for example, Dexter, Whence the Goddesses, 35; Gimbutas, "First Wave," 285, 304-305). Mary Mackey describes this form of burial for a patriarchal chief from the Sea of Grass (Year the Horses Came, 376). However, this type of burial is relatively rare; it is certainly not as though it suddenly became the general custom among, say, the late Neolithic peoples of the Russian steppes.
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Re: The Myth of Matriarchal Prehistory: Why an Invented Past

Postby admin » Sat Nov 03, 2018 6:18 am

Part 3 of 3

7. The Case Against Prehistoric Matriarchies II: Prehistoric Art and Architecture

1. Leroi-Gourhan, cited in Pollack, Body of the Goddess, 70; Jung, Man and His Symbols, 3.

2. Davis, "Goddess and the Academy," 52; Patricia Reis, quoted in Wynne, Womanspirit Sourcebook, 179.

3. See Roosevelt, "Interpreting Female Images," 2; Lauren Talalay, quoted in Osborne, "Women Warriors," 53.

4. Carol Christ has argued that the use of diminutives -- "figurines" and "statuettes" -- in reference to these artifacts "serves to trivialize them." However, they are almost all small, as Christ herself notes ("Eliade and the Feminist Paradigm Shift," 84). I intend no disrespect with the use of these terms.

5. Gro Mandt, "The Women of Vingen: Aspects of Gender Ideology in Rock Art," in Marler, ed., Realm of the Ancestors, 166. It is unquestionably Carl Jung, whose view of symbols has been absorbed by many feminist matriarchalists, who most influenced this method of deriving information from symbols. Gimbutas's first book on goddess symbology, The Gods and Goddesses if Old Europe [1974], explicitly drew upon the work of Erich Neumann, one of Jung's disciples. Though Gimbutas later ceased to acknowledge Neumann -- or only acknowledged him to criticize him (see, for example, Age if the Great Goddess) -- her debt to him and to other Jungians is clear (see Meskell, "Goddesses," 77). A detailed discussion of the scope and nature of Jung's influence upon feminist matriarchal myth will be included in my forthcoming book, From Motherright to Gylany.

6. For particularly egregious examples of tracking symbols across large spans of noncontiguous geography and rime, see Baring and Cash ford, Myth of the Goddess, 42; Streep, Sanctuaries, 41; Harrod, "Upper Paleolithic 'Double Goddess,''' in Marler, ed., Realm of the Ancestors, 493-94. Gimbutas seems to recognize, if only implicitly, the problem of generalizing across a huge swath of time and space. In The Civilization of the Goddess, she painstakingly describes the burial customs, pottery, technology, and so on of various sites in Old Europe and elsewhere, giving detailed evidence of local and chronological variations. It is not until she turns to the topic of prehistoric religion that evidence from a wide array of cultures suddenly becomes grist for a single goddess mill.

7. Conkey and Tringham, "Archaeology and the Goddess," 216-17. See also Anthony, "Nazi and Eco-feminist Prehistories," 95; Hutton, "Discovery of the Modern Goddess," 94. The lack of anthropomorphic art from prehistoric Britain and northwest Europe that might support the thesis of goddess religion has long been a thorn in the side of matriarchalists, so much so that someone apparently decided to remedy the situation with a forgery placed in a Neolithic flint mine in Norfolk in 1939. This "Grimes Graves Goddess" was immediately greeted as proof that Britons, like their prehistoric contemporaries, worshipped a great mother goddess. For details, see Hutton (94-95).

8. Bolen, Crossing to Avalon, ix; Streep, Sanctuaries, 95; Gadon, Once and Future Goddess, 12; Poth, Goddess Speaks, 99.

9. Wilshire, Virgin Mother Crone, 132.

10. This list is a compilation of ones found in Baring and Cashford, Myth of the Goddess, 39-40; Gadon, Once and Future Goddess, 73; Streep, Sanctuaries, 4, 20, 22, 31, 58, 97, 106, 113; Eisler, Chalice and the Blade, 18; Meskell, "Goddesses," 80; Rybakov, "Cosmogony and Mythology," 38; Wilshire, Virgin Mother Crone, 132; Hubbs, Mother Russia, 6; Poth, Goddess Speaks, 1; Gaube and von Pechmann, Magie, Matriarchat, und Marienkult, 211; Mandt, "Women of Vingen," in Marler, ed., Realm of the Ancestors, 166; Frances Stahl Bernstein, "The Goddess of the Garden in Pompeii," in Marler, ed., Realm of the Ancestors, 208.

11. Gimbutas, Goddesses and Gods, 114; Pollack, Body of the Goddess, 61.

12. Pollack, Body of the Goddess, 71.

13. Baring and Cash ford take this illustration from Gimbutas's Goddesses and Gods of Old Europe. Gimbutas does not explicitly name these as images of the moon, but rather as "fourfold signs" that may represent the phases of the moon (91).

14. Paul Mellars, "The Upper Palaeolithic Revolution," in Cunliffe, ed., Oxford Illustrated Prehistory, 74; Bahn and Vertut, Journey through the Ice Age, 75-76. Bahn devotes an entire chapter to problems involved in accurately dating Paleolithic art (chap. 5). Initial efforts to date cave art by radiocarbon methods, like efforts to date it stylistically, have yielded these large ranges of dates for different sites and different individual paintings.

15. Mellars, "Upper Palaeolithic Revolution," in Cunliffe, ed., Oxford Illustrated Prehistory, 70-75; Bacus et al., eds., Gendered Past, 110; Kurten, "Cave Art," 111. Rice and Paterson's study ("Anthropomorphs in Cave Art") reveals that slightly over half of the human representations are sexable, with roughly 75 percent of these being male, and 25 percent female.

16. L. Didon, quoted in Stoliar, "Upper Paleolithic Female Signs," 42-43; Bahn, "No Sex, Please," 99-100, 102. See also Mack, "Archaeology of the Female Body," 87; Marshack, Roots of Civilization, fig. 187.

17. Leroi-Gourhan, "Evolution of Paleolithic Art," 65-66; Stern, Prehistoric Europe, 134-35.

18. Redmond, When the Drummers Were Women, 29; Gimbutas, "Vulvas, Breasts, and Buttocks," 23.

19. Sally R. Binford, "Myths and Matriarchies," in Spretnak, ed., Politics of Women's Spirituality, 546-47.

20. Marija Gimbutas, interestingly, is an exception to this rule. She freely claims that though prehistoric art is full of disembodied vulvas and naked women graphically displaying their genitals, it is not "about" sex. Sounding quite puritanical, Gimbutas happily gives up the sex-is-good rule of feminist matriarchal myth in deference to saving prehistoric art for a chaste religious form of goddess worship. See, for example, "Vulvas, Breasts, and Buttocks," 39; Gimbutas, "The 'Monstrous Venus' of Prehistory: Divine Creatrix," in Campbell and Muses, eds., In All Her Names, 30; Goddesses and Gods, 166.

21. Eisler, Sacred Pleasure, 15, 18; Kingsolver, "Making Peace," 30.

22. Nelson, Gender in Archaeology, 156; Bahn, "No Sex, Please," 101-102.

23. Pollack, Body of the Goddess, 79, fig. cap. 5; Gimbutas, Language of the Goddess, 68, fig. cap. 107; Johnson, Lady of the Beasts, 11. Alexander Marshack notes that the canine teeth of deer, recovered from Paleolithic burials, have the same "buttocks image" shape that Buffie Johnson finds in the Paleolithic German carving (Roots of Civilization, 317). Rather than assuming that the teeth were chosen for their resemblance to "the buttocks image," we might conclude that the human-made pendant was crafted to resemble the teeth of deer.

24. Ucko, Anthropomorphic Figurines, 315-16, 335-36.

25. This is the logic employed by archaeologist A. L. a Campo (cited in Knapp and Meskell, "Bodies of Evidence," 97), who reads all Cypriot figurines of the cruciform type as being female, whether or not they are equipped with breasts, facial elaboration, or intricate necklaces. The breasts of some are used to attribute breasts to the others.

26. Baring and Cashford, Myth of the Goddess, 74-75; Gimbutas, quoted in Young, "Goddesses, Feminists, and Scholars," 124. Occasionally feminist matriarchalists suggest that these phallic figurines were intended to portray harmony between the sexes rather than the containment of the male within the female (see, for example, Pollack, Body of the Goddess, 24).

27. Gadon, Once and Future Goddess, 7; Johnson, Lady of the Beasts, plate 7; Streep, Sanctuaries, 29; Redmond, When the Drummers Were Women, 30; Taylor, Prehistory of Sex, 128. The term "batons de commandement" was coined by the Abbe Breuil, who saw in them a resemblance to military batons.

28. Gimbutas, Age of the Great Goddess; Kehoe, "No Possible, Probable Shadow of Doubt," 129; Knapp and Meskell, "Bodies of Evidence," 194. There are some unambiguous phalluses that have been recovered from Neolithic sites (Talalay, "Feminist Boomerang," 167), though of course it is unknown whether they were used as sexual aids.

29. See Johnson, Lady of the Beasts, 3; Mackey, Year the Horses Came, 20; Thurer, Myths of Motherhood, 8; Streep, Sanctuaries, 63; Keller, "Archaeology and Mythology," in Marler, ed., Realm of the Ancestors, 382. In Civilization of the Goddess, Gimbutas describes a ceramic workshop and speculates that the stacks of bowls found there "may have been waiting to be used for certain rituals" (107) rather than, say, waiting to be used for dinner.

30. Moore, Iconography of Religions, 47; Kurten, "Cave Art," 104; Maurice Bloch, "Questions Not to Ask of Malagasy Carvings," in Hodder et al., eds., Interpreting Archaeology, 212-14.

31. Rice, "Prehistoric Venuses," 412, n. 2; Mellars, "Upper Palaeolithic Revolution," in Cunliffe, ed., Oxford Illustrated Prehistory, 69-70; Bahn, "No Sex, Please," 99. Feminist matriarchalists are generally opposed to the term "Venus," since they see it as diminishing the importance of these figurines. They often substitute titles such as "Lady" or "Goddess." I use the term Venus for convenience.

32. Abramova, "Palaeolithic Art," 65, 67, 70,88; Gvozdover, "Typology of Female Figurines," 44-45; Dobres, "Re-Considering Venus Figurines," 245, 252, 256; Ucko, Anthropomorphic Figurines, 409; Rice, "Prehistoric Venuses," 402; Nelson, "Diversity of 'Venus' Figurines," 15-17; Pamela Russell, "The Palaeolithic Mother-Goddess: Fact or Fiction?" in du Cros and Smith, eds., Women and Archaeology, 95.

33. See Gadon, Once and Future Goddess, 8; Gottner-Abendroth, Matriarchal Mythology, 3; Christ, Rebirth of the Goddess, 10; Ranck, Cakes for the Queen of Heaven [Delphi], 25.

34. Rice, "Prehistoric Venuses," 402, 409. Estimates of the percentage of Paleolithic Venuses who are pregnant range from 17 to 68 percent (McCoid and McDermott, "Decolonizing Gender," 323-24; Rice, "Prehistoric Venuses," 408). This range in itself indicates the difficulty of assessing the Venuses' reproductive status.

35. Gimbutas, Civilizalion of the Goddess, 174; Starhawk, "Marija Gimbutas's Work and the Question of the Sacred," in Marler, ed., Realm of the Ancestors, 519.

36. Pestalozza, "Mediterranean Matriarchate," 52; James, Cult of the Mother-Goddess, 13;Tavris, Mismeasure of Women, 73; G. Chard, quoted in Nelson, "Diversity of 'Venus' Figurines," 15-16; Wendt, In Search of Adam, 359; Kurten, "Cave Art," 112-13.

37. Spretnak, ed., Politics of Women's Spirituality, 577.

38. Abramova, "Paleolithic Art," 66; Faris, "Form to Content," 104-5; Gvozdover, "Typology of Female Figurines," 71. Marcia-Anne Dobres points out that faces are modeled in much greater detail on the Siberian Venuses ("Re-Considering Venus Figurines," 253). An alternative explanation for facelessnessis offered by McCoid and McDermott, who speculate that the figurines are self-representations of women as they see themselves while pregnant: they look down on their swollen breasts and belly (which from that vantage point look "unnaturally large" even if of average size), see only tapering legs, and of course cannot see their own faces ("Decolonizing Gender"). Viewed in this light, the Venuses could be understood to have a didactic function, teaching women about the changes their bodies would undergo in the course of their reproductive lives. Though innovative, this interpretation has not been particularly well received (see, for example, Ucko, "Mother, Are You There?" 302-303).

39. Alasdair Whittle, "The First Farmers," in Cunliffe, ed., Oxford Illustrated Prehistory, 144; Talalay,"Feminist Boomerang," 169; Ucko, Anthropomorphic Figurines, 335-36; Dimitra Kokkinidou and Marianna Nikolaidou, "Body Imagery in the Aegean Neolithic: Ideological Implications of Anthropomorphic Figurines," in Moore and Scott, eds., Invisible People and Processes, 89-90. Similarly extensive figurine assemblages have been found in Neolithic China, India, and in the New World (see Jiao Tianlong, "Gender Relations in Prehistoric Chinese Society: Archaeological Discoveries," in Min, ed., Chalice and the Blade in Chinese Culture, 117; Jayakar, Earth Mother, 167; Roosevelt, "Interpreting Female Images," I; Marcus, "Importance of Context," 285; Guillen, "Chalcatzingo Figurines," 99-100).

40. Kokkinidou and Nikolaidou, "Body Imagery," in Moore and Scott, eds., Invisible People and Processes, 89-90; Hamilton, "Figurines," in Hodder, ed., On the Surface, 225.

41. Rodriguez, Our Lady of Guadalupe, 29.

42. Emmanuel Anati, "The Question of 'Fertility Cults,''' in Bonanno, ed., Archaeology and Fertility Cult; Frymer-Kensky, Wake of the Goddesses, 92; Spaeth, Roman Goddess Ceres, 112-13. The idea that there is a connection between goddess worship and concern for agricultural fertility has a long history among scholars of religion, for example Mircea Eliade (History of Religious Ideas, vol. 1, 400).

43. Reichel-Dolmatoff, "Anthropomorphic Figurines from Colombia," 231-32, 239; Guillen, "Chalcatzingo Figurines," 99-100; Mathews, "Seneca Figurines"; Brumfiel, "Figurines and the Aztec State," 147; Ucko, Anthropomorphic Figurines, 422, 425; Haaland and Haaland, "Who Speaks the Goddess's Language?" 117-18; Roosevelt, "Interpreting Female Images," 10; Orphanides, "Anthropomorphic Figurines," 166.

44. Fleming, "Mother-Goddess," 251; Ucko, Anthropomorphic Figurines, 418.

45. Sherratt, review of Language of the Goddess, 346. Both Islam and Judaism have artistic and iconographic traditions (limited by a generalized suspicion of any representation), but neither permit any representation whatsoever of God Himself (see Unterman, 'Judaism." 44-45; Neusner, "Studying Ancient Judaism," 30-31; Lamya'al-Faruqi, Islam and Art, 14-18; Annemarie Schimmel, "Islamic Iconography," in Eliade, ed., Encyclopedia of Religion, 64-65). Christianity shares this restraint to a degree, though it is not nearly so iconoclastic. Still, representation of the Father God of Christianity is comparatively rare (compared to representation of Jesus or Mary, for example) and is often limited to more abstract symbols (see Apostolos-Cappadona, Dictionary of Christian Art, 146).

46. Vermeule, Greece in the Bronze Age, 282; Dominique Collon, "Mesopotamian Iconography," in Eliade. ed., Encyclopedia of Religion, 27, 30-31. Walter Burkert sees this pattern in classical Greek religion as well (Greek Religion, 42).

47. Frymer-Kensky, Wake of the Goddesses, 160-61.

48. Savina J. Teubal's interpretation of these figurines is not far from this: she sees the pillar figurines as signifying "that the powerful tradition of female figurines associated with reproduction persisted among the women of Israel, even though the nurturing attributes were slowly being transferred to Yahweh, who opens the womb and rewards women with children" ("The Rise and Fall of Female Reproductive Control as Seen through Images of Women," in King, ed., Women and Goddess Traditions, 297).

49. Rohrlich, "State Formation," 80; Lydia Ruyle, letter to editor, Goddessing Regenerated 6 (Winter/Spring (997): 4; Hodder, "'Always Momentary,'" 693-94; Hodder, "Past as Passion," 131. The current excavations are slated to run for twenty-five years and are being carried out by an international team composed mainly of archaeologists from the United States, the United Kingdom, and Turkey. Thus far, the work has mainly involved sifting old evidence, sampling the site, and making decisions about how to approach the excavation as a whole. Findings from this preliminary phase are compiled in Hodder, ed., On the Surface.

50. Mellaart, Catal Huyuk, 23, 30, 32, 49-51, 54-57, 82-84, 101, 167-68.

51. Christ, Rebirth of the Goddess, 13; Hamilton, "Figurines," in Hodder, ed., On the Surface, 215-20, 222-25; Mellaart, Catal Huyuk, 106-7, 178-80. Many have been struck by the resemblance between the "goddess with leopards" and "the image of Cybele or Magna Mater" which appears some three thousand years later. Some have suggested that the two must be related. The much later cult of Cybele was primarily a men's cult, and there is no evidence that the two are connected. There is an enormous gap of space and time between them, and no one has proposed a definite link between the two (see Burkert, Structure and History, 119-20; Phillipe Borgeaud, private communication, November 1996).

52. Mellaart, Catal Huyuk, 124; Hodder, "Contextual Archaeology," 44-45; Ian Hodder and Anita Louise, "Discussions with the Goddess Community," http://- catal.arch.cam.ac.uk/catal/goddess.html, n.d.

53. Eliade, History of Religious Ideas, vol. 1, 46-47; Pollack, Body of the Goddess, 25- 26; Streep, Sanctuaries, 145.

54. Gimbutas, Language of the Goddess, 244, 246, 266; Dorothy Cameron, "The Minoan Horns of Consecration," in Marler, ed., Realm of the Ancestors, 510; Noble, Shakti Woman, 187; Redmond, When the Drummers Were Women, 50.

55. Taylor, Prehistory of Sex, 156-57; William Barnett, cited in Denfeld, New Victorians, 139.

56. Getty, Goddess, 11-12; Hodder, "Contextual Archaeology," 45; Taylor, Prehistory of Sex, 158.

57. Read, Goddess Remembered; Rigoglioso, "Awakening to the Goddess," 144; Stern, Prehistoric Europe, 272; Colin Renfrew, "The Prehistoric Maltese Achievement and its Interpretation," in Bonanno, ed., Archaeology and Fertility Cult, 118. Both Gertrude Rachel Levy (Gate of Horn, 137) and Sibylle von Cles-Reden (Realm of the Great Goddess, 90) noted that the sex of the Maltese statuary was ambiguous.

58. Levy, Gate of Horn, 137; Trump et al., "New Light on Death," 100; Meskell, "Goddesses," 77, fig. cap. 2.

59. J. D. Evans, quoted in Streep, Sanctuaries, 89; Gimbutas, Age of the Great Goddess; Gimbutas, Civilization of the Goddess, 174. Feminist matriarchalists were not the first to advance this theory. As early as 1969, Philip Van Doren Stern was claiming that it had been "seriously suggested that the ground plans of these buildings follow the outlines of the grossly fat Mother Goddess figures that dominated the islands' art" (Prehistoric Europe, 272).

60. Cristina Biaggi, "Temple-Tombs and Sculptures in the Shape of the Body of the Great Goddess," in Marler, ed., Realm of the Ancestors, 499.

61. Sjoo, "Poem in Tribute to Gimbutas," 30.

62. Biaggi, Habitations of the Great Goddess, plate 7.

63. Getty, Goddess, 21; Trump, Prehistory of the Mediterranean, 178-79.

64. Mimi Lobell, quoted in Rachel Pollack, "Body of the Goddess," in Noble, ed., Uncoiling the Snake, 105-106.

65. Anderson and Zinsser, History of Their Own, 447, n. 17; Baring and Cashford, Myth of the Goddess, 121; Thomson, Ancient Greek Society, 178.

66. Thomas, "Matriarchy in Early Greece," 191-92, n. 13.

67. Ucko, Anthropomorphic Figurines, 434; Finley, "Archaeology and History," 170; Marinatos, Minoan Religion, 162, 166-67, 174; Younger, Iconography of Late Minoan and Mycenaean Sealstones, x-xi.

68. Baring and Cashford, Myth of the Goddess, 111-12. See also Poth, Goddess Speaks, 99.

69. Hutchinson, Prehistoric Crete, 208; Marinatos, Minoan Religion, 276-77, n. 5. Part of the reason the "snake goddesses" have been given such an exaggerated importance probably has to do with the eager reception they received when they were first discovered (one served as the frontispiece for the first volume of Sir Arthur Evans's Palace of Minos, published in 1921), and the fact that at least one, and probably several forgeries were successfully sold on the international antiquities market to museums (see Butcher and Gill, "The Director," 383, 401).

8. Was There a Patriarchal Revolution?

1. See, for example, Makkay, "Linear Pottery," 176-77; Renfrew, Archaeology and Language, 3; Cavalli-Sforza et al., "Reconstruction of Human Evolution," 6005.

2. David W. Anthony and Bernard Wailes, quoted in Renfrew, review of Archaeology of Language, 444; Sherratt, "Mobile Resources," 14.

3. See Renfrew, Archaeology and Language, 1; Mallory, Indo-Europeans, 24-26. Though it is assumed that there were other, non-Indo-European languages in Europe prehistorically, only Etruscan, Basque, and representatives of the Finno- Ugaric languages (Hungarian, Finnish, and Estonian) have survived into historical times, making it difficult to know what, if anything, preceded Indo--European linguistic dominance (Beekes, Comparative Indo-European Linguistics, 8; Renfrew, Archaeology and Language, 145).

4. The protolexicon is a very abbreviated list of words from what must have been a far larger vocabulary. For example, the protolexicon includes a word for "snow" but none for "rain," but it seems unlikely that these peoples lived in a region where it snowed but never rained (Renfrew, Archaeology and Language, 14; A. B. Keith, cited in Renfrew, Archaeology and Language, 81). A complete list of what is now thought to be in the Indo-European protolexicon can be found in Beekes, Comparative Indo- European Linguistics, arranged both topically (34-40) and alphabetically by English translation (350-54). Another such lexicon, linked to Gimbutas's work, is published as an appendix in Gimbutas's Kurgan Culture (Martin E. Huld, "The Vocabulary of Indo-European Culture," 373-93).

5. Beekes, Comparative Indo-European Linguistics, 34-35; D'iakonov, "Original Home," 61-62; Mallory, Indo-Europeans, 114-17, 120; Childe, Aryans, 82.

6. Szemerenyi, "Kinship Terminology," 33, 73, 92, 198-99, 205-206; Beekes, Comparative Indo-European Linguistics, 38; Benveniste, Indo-European Language, 165, 167, 193, 195. Benveniste argues that special terms for "mother's uncle" in Indo- European languages suggest that the kinship system of the proto-Indo-Europeans may have included matrilineal features (180, 191-92, 221-22). His thesis has not won general favor, and Szemerenyi in particular argues strenuously against it.

7. Mallory, Indo-Europeans, 131-32; Benveniste, Indo-European Language, 277. Mallory explains the lower castes in India as being made up of "the suppressed indigenous populations" (suppressed, he assumes, by Aryan invaders).

8. Beekes, Comparative Indo-European Linguistics, 37, 39, 41-42; Benveniste, Indo- European Language, 137; Childe, Aryans, 80-81.

9. V. Gordon Childe reviewed all the extant possibilities for a proto-Indo-European homeland in 1926 and settled -- with equivocation -- on southern Russia, as Gimbutas was to do decades later (Aryans, 200). This proposed homeland is now favored by Mallory, among others (Indo-Europeans, (77). W. P. Lehmann considers a southern Russian homeland to be "the standard view of the early history of the Indo-European community" ("Frozen Residues," 223).

10. D'iakonov, "Original Home," 51-52; Mallory, Indo-Europeans; Gimbutas, Kurgan Culture, 334-44; Gimbutas, "Homeland of the Indo-Europeans." Gimbutas makes a lucid and persuasive case against an Anatolian homeland for proto-Indo-European. Recent advocates of an Anatolian homeland include Renfrew (Archaeology and Language) and Gamkrelidze and Ivanov ("Ancient Near East and the Indo-European Question").

11. Cunliffe, ed., Oxford Illustrated Prehistory, 3; Beekes, Comparative Indo-European Linguistics, 52; Edgar C. Polome, "The Impact of Marija Gimbutas on Indo-European Studies," in Marler, ed., Realm of the Ancestors, 103-104.

12. Mallory, Indo-Europeans, 23, 126-27; Andrew Sherratt, quoted in Renfrew, review of Archaeology and Language, 459; Beekes, Comparative Indo-European Linguistics, 49. It is possible that words associated with the secondary products revolution and metallurgy were developed after the initial dispersal, and then traded among the now differentiated Indo-European languages, so this cannot be regarded as an ironclad argument for a dispersal after 4000 BCE.

13. See Beekes, Comparative Indo-European Linguistics, 45; Wolfgang Meid, "The Indo-Europeanization of Old European Concepts," in Marler, ed., Realm of the Ancestors, 123. In spite of this caution, the history of Indo-European linguistics is full of easy equivalences drawn between languages and people. This contributed, among other things, to propaganda for the Nazi Holocaust. Nazi ideologues assigned the Indo-European homeland to Germany and described the original Indo-Europeans as tall, blond, strong Aryans, a superior race to all those it overcame linguistically, and, so the theory went, militarily. In general, there have been only spotty and often clumsy attempts to line up the linguistic record with the archaeological record. Some feminist matriarchalists credit Gimbutas with being the first to marry archaeological and linguistic evidence (see, for example, Rigoglioso, "Awakening to the Goddess," 68; Marler, ed., Realm of the Ancestors, 50), but others before her, such as Gordon Childe, did essentially the same thing.

14. Beekes, Comparative Indo-European Linguistics, 50-51; Mallory, Indo-Europeans, 27-30; Gimbutas, Civilization of the Goddess, 219; Eisler, Chalice and the Blade, 17.

15. Andrew Sherratt, "The Transformation of Early Agrarian Europe," in Cunliffe, ed., Oxford Illustrated Prehistory, 191-93; Gimbutas, Kurgan Culture, 319, 327; L. Luca Cavalli-Sforza, "Genetic Evidence Supporting Marija Gimbutas's Work on the Origins of Indo-European People," in Marler, ed., Realm of the Ancestors, 98; Mallory, Indo-Europeans, 259; Polome, "Impact of Gimbutas," in Marler, ed., Realm of the Ancestors, 103-104; Anthony and Wailes, in Renfrew, review of Archaeology and Language, 444; Beekes, Comparative Indo-European Linguistics, 37, 50-52.

16. Robert Coleman, in Renfrew, review of Archaeology and Language, 452; Leach, "Aryan Invasions," 231; Mallory, Indo-Europeans, 259. Robert Coleman gives the example of the Roman Empire, which had a dramatic military impact on the eastern Mediterranean, but virtually no linguistic impact; Edmund Leach gives another example, that of the British Isles between the fifth and seventh centuries CE, when the linguistic dominance of Latin moved from west to east, while the military dominance of the Anglo-Saxons moved from east to west (Coleman, in Renfrew, review of Archaeology and Language, 452; Leach, "Aryan Invasions," 231). J. P Mallory, on the other hand, notes that languages have spread under conditions of friendly trade (Indo-Europeans, 259).

17. Colin Renfrew, quoted in Young, "Goddesses, Feminists, and Scholars," 152; Renfrew, Archaeology and Language, 94-95.

18. An exception is Ian Hodder, who regards "the Corded Ware/Bell Beaker phenomena" as "a story about the foreign, imposed, violent nature of power," a story effectively told through artifacts ("Material Culture in Time," in Hodder et al., eds., Interpreting Archaeology, 165).

19. Anthony, "Nazi and Eco-feminist Prehistories," 95; David W. Anthony, quoted in Steinfels, "Idyllic Theory," C12; Mallory, Indo-Europeans, 185.

20. Ammerman and Cavalli-Sforza, Neolithic Transition, 139; Cavalli-Sforza, "Genetic Evidence," in Marler, ed., Realm of the Ancestors, 95.

21. Ammerman and Cavalli-Sforza, Neolithic Transition, 87, 105, 108, Cavalli-Sforza, "Genetic Evidence," in Marler, ed., Realm of the Ancestors, 96-97. In The Neolithic Transition, Cavalli-Sforza and Ammerman say the second principal component represents "movement from central Asia or parts of the Soviet Union toward Europe" rather than the north-to-south movement postulated in Cavalli-Sforza's earlier work, and they say this movement is potentially associated with "groups of pastoral nomads in the third millennium B.C. continuing through historical times" (107- 108). But it is only the third principal component that Cavalli-Sforza has explicitly, if speculatively, linked to Indo-European migrations.

22. See, for example, Sprernak, ed., Politics of Women's Spirituality, rev. ed., x; Rigoglioso, "Awakening to the Goddess," 68; Abrahamsen, "Essays in Honor of Gimbutas," 70.

23. Ammerman and Cavalli-Sforza, Neolithic Transition, 108; Cavalli-Sforza, "Genetic Evidence," 97. 99; Jenny Blain, quoted in Kramer-Rolls, ed., "Reader's Forum."

24. Snell, Ancient Near East, 20, 34-35; Frymer-Kensky, Wake of the Goddesses, 48, 79, 92; Lerner, Creation of Patriarchy, 89, 102; Olsen, Chronology, 2. Some feminist matriarchalists still claim that Sumer -- at least early Sumer -- was matriarchal, especially on the basis of its goddess worship and women's roles as priestesses (see Getty, Goddess, 18; Redmond, When the Drummers Were Women, 59). However, Sumer is always regarded in feminist matriarchal thought as a transitional civilization, since by the time of its destruction in the second millennium BCE, it was clearly warlike and patriarchal (see, for example, Eisler, Sacred Pleasure, 68).

25. Marinatos, Minoan Religion, ,65-66; Chadwick, Linear B, 37, 43, 45, 47; Ventris and Chadwick, Mycenaean Greek, 124, 134, 155-56, 162; Pomeroy, Goddesses, Whores, Wives, and Slaves, 2d ed., x-xi; Cantarella, Pandora's Daughters, 16.

26. Cantarella, Pandora's Daughters, 27, 32. See also Sarah B. Pomeroy, "A Classical Scholar's Perspective on Matriarchy," in Carroll, ed., Liberating Women's History, 219. Homer is thought to have been illiterate. The poems he gathered together and/or composed were transmitted orally until the sixth century BCE (Pomeroy, Goddesses, Whores, Wives, and Slaves, 17).

27. Anderson and Zinsser, History of Their Own, 27; Zeitlin, "Signifying Difference," 54-56, 57, 60-61, 84; Loraux, Children of Athena, 74. The myth of Pandora can be found in Hesiod, Works and Days, 90-105.

28. Zeitlin, "Signifying Difference," 59; Keuls, Reign of the Phallus, 1. See also Lerner, Creation of Patriarchy, 202; Cantarella, Pandora's Daughters, 40, 46, 85, 115; Pomeroy, Goddesses, Whores, Wives, and Slaves, 2d ed., xii-xiii; Blok, "Sexual Asymmetry," 9. Just as ethnographers of aboriginal Australia have offered widely divergent opinions on the status of women among the aborigines, so too have classicists disagreed on the status of women in classical antiquity. The history of this debate is recounted in Katz, "Ideology and 'The Status of Women'" and Blok, "Sexual Asymmetry."

29. Starhawk, Truth or Dare, 63; Noble, Shakti Woman, 3; Getty, Goddess, 20; Redmond, When the Drummers Were Women, 145; Antiga, "Goddess in Me," in King, ed., Divine Mosaic, 181. Translations of and commentary on the Enuma Elish, the Babylonian epic of creation featuring the story of Tiamat and Marduk, can be found in Kramer and Maier, Myths of Enki, and McCall, Mesopotamian Myths.

30. Pollack, Body of the Goddess, 6, '10; Valaoritis, "Cosmic Conflict," in Marler, ed., Realm of the Ancestors, 250. The myth of Athena's birth can be found in Hesiod, Theogony, 886-95.

31. Pomeroy, Goddesses, Whores, Wives, and Slaves, 1; Norman O. Brown, Introduction, Hesiod, Theogony, 15-18, 41.

32. Sheila Murnaghan, personal communication, January 1997; Alan Sommerstein, Introduction, Aeschylus, Eumenides, 1; Aeschylus, Oresteian Trilogy, 169-70, 172.

33. Augustine, City of God, 616. The flood was apparently standard operating procedure for Poseidon, who retaliated with a deluge when he faced other losses as well (Pembroke, "Women in Charge," 25).

34. Abby Wettan Kleinbaum, "Amazon Legends and Misogynists: The Women and Civilization Question," in Keller, ed., Views of Women's Lives, 84. As the Greek orator Lysias said of the Amazons in 389 BCE, "when matched with our Athenian ancestors they appeared in all the natural timidity of their sex, and showed themselves less women in their external appearance than in their weakness and cowardice" (quoted in Lefkowitz, Women in Greek Myth, 23). Interestingly, there is growing archaeological evidence for female warriors on the southern Russian steppes, one of the areas broadly defined in Greek myth as an Amazon homeland. A number of graves containing weapons of war with female skeletons -- some displaying bowed legs, presumably from horse-riding, along with injuries from arrowheads -- suggest that some women in this area were in fact warriors. However, these women were clearly part of a culture that included men, and most of their female peers were buried not with weapons, but with jewelry and domestic tools (see Davis-Kimball, "Warrior Women," 47; Timothy Taylor, "Thracians, Scythians, and Dacians, 800 BC-AD 300," in Cunliffe, ed., Oxford Illustrated Prehistory, 394-96; a summary of Davis-Kimball's findings and scholarly reactions to them can be found in Osborne, "Women Warriors").

35. Hesiod excludes women until the "silver race" appears. These men have "prudent mothers" (Works and Days, 131).

36. Hesiod, Works and Days, 113-14.

37. Blundell, Origins of Civilisation, 136. Histories of golden age myths and their narrators can be found in Blundell, and also in Levin, Myth if the Golden Age.

38. Eisler, Sacred Pleasure, 74.

39. Georgoudi, "Myth of Matriarchy," in Pantel, ed., History of Women, 455-56. See, for example, Gadon, Once and Future Goddess, 2; Iglehart, Womanspirit, 80-81.

40. Rose, "Alleged Evidence for Mother-Right," 289; Rose, "Prehistoric Greece," 235; Sommerstein, Introduction, Aeschylus, Eumenides, 1.

41. Marler, ed., From the Realm of the Ancestors, 212; Eliade, Myth of the Eternal Return, 44-45.

42. As Walter Burkert explains, "All interpretations [of myth as history] must use Procrustean methods to make the tale isomorphic with the purported reality, must cut off excesses attributed to uncontrolled 'fantasy'" (Structure and History, 4).

43. The term "patriarchal accretions" is Ranck's (Cakes for the Queen of Heaven [Delphi], 8-9).

44. Iglehart, Womanspirit, 99.

45. For descriptions of cross-cultural myths of women's former dominance, see Tuzin, Voice of the Tambaran, 34; Heritier, "Sang du Guerrir"; Murphy, "Social Structure and Sex Antagonism," 92-93; Murphy and Murphy, Women of the Forest; Borun et al., Women's Liberation, 21; Godelier, "Male Domination," 16; L. B. Glick, quoted in Gewertz, ed., Myths of Matriarchy Reconsidered, 113; Hobgin, Island of Menstruating Men, 100-101; Juillerat, '''An Odor of Man,''' 69-70; Hamilton, "Knowledge and Misrecognition," in Gewertz, ed., Myths of Matriarchy Reconsidered, 59-60; Meigs, Food, Sex, and Pollution, 37, 45; Gillison, "Cannibalism Among Women," 44-45; Reichel-Dolmatoff, Amazonian Cosmos, 169-70. New Guinea and South America are the "hot spots" for myths of this type, but similar myths of women's former dominance can be found elsewhere. See Turnbull, "Mbuti Womanhood," in Dahlberg, ed., Woman the Gatherer, 218; Anna-Stina Nykanen, "Women in Finland: An Overview," http://www.helsinki.fi/kris-ntk/doc/etane95.html. 1995; Kenyatta, Facing Mount Kenya, 5-10.

46. Chapman, Drama and Power, 66-71.

47. Ibid.

48. Chesler, "Amazon Legacy," n.p.

49. Malinowski, Sex, Culture, and Myth, 249-50, and Myth in Primitive Psychology, 32-33, 58-59, 91-92.

50. Michael W Young, "The Matriarchal Illusion in Kalauna Mythology," in Gewertz, ed., Myths of Matriarchy Reconsidered, 5; Parker and Parker, "Myth of Male Superiority," 292, 300; Juillerat, "'An Odor of Man,''' 90; Hauser-Schaublin, "Mutterrecht und Frauenbewegung," 147; Borun et al., Women's Liberation, 20-21; Lincoln, Discourse and the Construction of Society, 4-5. Joan Bamberger made the earliest, and still the best case that myths of women's former dominance work to legitimate male dominance ("The Myth of Matriarchy: Why Men Rule in Primitive Society," in Rosaldo and Lamphere, eds., Woman, Culture, and Society).

51. Chapman, Drama and Power, 113, 154; Terence Hays, "'Myths of Matriarchy' and the Sacred Flute Complex of the Papua New Guinea Highlands," in Gewertz, ed., Myths of Matriarchy Reconsidered, 106; Marie Reay, "Man-Made Myth and Women's Consciousness," in Gewertz, ed., Myths of Matriarchy Reconsidered, 130. It is interesting to note that for the women in this group, the myth of former female dominance apparently works as wish-fulfillment, in much the way that it does for contemporary feminist matriarchalists in the West (139).

52. Lefkowitz, Women in Greek Myth, 22. Sarah Pomeroy notes that Plutarch, writing about Amazons in Bronze Age Greece "apologizes for resorting to the use of legends as history" ("Classical Scholar's Perspective on Matriarchy," in Carroll, ed., Liberating Women's History, 221). William Blake Tyrell suggests that the Greeks "regarded myths as history because they told of universal truths, not the details we deem to be historical facts" (Amazons, 25; see also Veyne, Did the Greeks Believe in Their Myths?). In other words, it was not a chronological history that the Greeks wished to establish in their myths; rather it was a worldview they sought to capture. This was true not only for myths per se, but even for ancient Greek histories. The sort of truth standards that we seek to apply today were simply not relevant for most classical writers.

53. Arthur, review of Amazons, 592. See also Cantarella, Pandora's Daughters, 19; Vidal-Naquet, "Slavery," 190; Skinner, "Greek Women and the Metronymic," 39. Battles with Amazons were often set alongside battles with giants and centaurs in both Greek art and literature, so it is not immediately clear why Amazons should be viewed as any less mythical than centaurs. Furthermore, the purported homeland of the Amazons shifted throughout Greek history as Greeks actually traveled to the places they believed Amazons to live and failed to find them there (see Lefkowitz, Women in Greek Myth, 20, 22; Pomeroy, "Classical Scholar's Perspective on Matriarchy," in Carroll, ed., Liberating Women's History, 221).

54. Cantarella, Pandora's Daughters, 16-17; Pembroke, "Women in Charge," 29-30; Vidal-Naquet, "Slavery," 190; Loraux, Children of Athena, 60; Loraux, "What is a Goddess'" in Pantel, ed., History of Women, 40; Tyrrell, Amazons, 30.

55. Chesler, "Amazon Legacy," n.p.

56. This seems to be the driving force behind much of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century preoccupation with prehistoric matriarchies, when scholarly men announced that prehistory was matriarchal, but that we could all rest easy since "progress" and "evolution" had elevated us to the high state of male dominance. (This topic will be covered at length in my forthcoming book, From Motherright to Gylany.)

9. On the Usefulness of Origin Myths

1. Miles, Women's History of the World, xiii; Gailey, "State of the State," 78-79; Rosaldo, "Use and Abuse," 391.

2. Theodore Roszak, quoted in Walters, "Caught in the Web," 28.

3. See, for example, Ruether, Sexism and God-Talk, 84-85.

4. See Stephen Jay Gould and Elisabeth Vrba, cited in Gable, Timewalkers, 5.

5. Rowbotham, "When Adam Delved," 10; Eichler, "Sex Inequality," 341, 345.

6. Taylor, "'Brothers' in Arms?" 37.

7. An exception is Cavin, Lesbian Origins, 170.

8. Given how closely feminist matriarchal myth mirrors the basic plot line of Jewish and Christian creation and eschatological myths, it is possible that part of the attraction of feminist matriarchal myth is its familiarity to a Western audience.

9. Cavin, Lesbian Origins, 22; Millett, Sexual Politics, 110.

10. Judith Ochshorn, "Goddesses and the Lives of Women," in King, ed., Women and Goddess Traditions, 380; Richard Leakey, cited in Dobbins, From Kin to Class, 19; Gerda Lerner, cited in Richlin, "Ethnographer's Dilemma," in Rabinowitz and Kichlin, eds., Feminist Theory and the Classics, 284.

11. Kathleen Bolen, "Prehistoric Construction of Mothering," in Claassen, ed., Exploring Gender through Archaeology, 49; Cucchiari, "Gender Revolution," in Ortner and Whitehead, eds., Sexual Meanings, 33; Godelier, "Male Domination," 11; Gailey, "Evolutionary Perspectives," 37.

12. Whyte, Status of Women, 180.
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Re: The Myth of Matriarchal Prehistory: Why an Invented Past

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Re: The Myth of Matriarchal Prehistory: Why an Invented Past

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ILLUSTRATION CREDITS

The following illustrations have been reprinted with permission: 1.1. Courtesy of Andrea Evans, Declarations of Emancipation. 2.1. Courtesy of Helene de Beauvoir. 2.2. Courtesy of Adrienne Momi, AnaTours. 7.1. From Marija Gimbutas, Goddesses and Gods if Old Europe, new and updated ed. (London: Thames and Hudson, [981, and Berkeley: University of California Press, 1982),90, fig. 46. By permission of Thames and Hudson and University of California Press. 7.2. From Andre Leroi- Gourhan, "Evolution of Paleolithic Art," Scientific American 218 (February [968): 67. Courtesy of Nelson H. Prentiss and Mme. Leroi-Gourhan. 7.3. From Layne Redmond, When the Drummers Were Women (New York: Crown, 1997),29. Courtesy of Tommy Brunjes. 7.4. From Marija Gimbutas, The Language if the Goddess (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1989),68, fig. 107. By permission of Harper- Collins Publishers, Inc. 7.5 and 7.6. From Alexander Marshack, The Roots of Civilization (New York: McGraw Hill, 1972),284, fig. 156, and 309, fig. 179. Courtesy of Alexander Marshack. 7.7. From Marija Gimbutas, Goddesses and Gods of Old Europe, new and updated ed. (London: Thames and Hudson, 198 I, and Berkeley: University of California Press, 1982), 139, figs. 120 and 121. By permission of Thames and Hudson and University of California Press. 7.8 and 7.9. From Alexander Marshack, The Roots of Civilization (New York: McGraw Hill, 1972),289, fig. 16Ia, and 330, fig. 198. Courtesy of Alexander Marshack. 7.10. From Alice B. Kehoe, "No Possible, Probable Shadow of Doubt," Antiquity 65 (1991): 129, fig. 2. By permission of Alice B. Kehoe and Antiquity Publications Ltd. 7.11. From Helena Wylde Swiny and Stuart Swiny, "An Anthropomorphic Figurine from the Sotira Area," Report of the Department of Antiquities (Nicosia, Cyprus, 1983), 57, fig. I. Courtesy of Stuart Swiny. 7.12. "Venus ofWillendorf," © Naturhistorisches Museum Wien. 7.13. "Venus of Lespugue," © Musee de l'Homme, Paris. 7.14. From Bjorn Kurten, How to Deep-Freeze a Mammoth (New York: Columbia University Press, 1986), 1I4-15. Courtesy of Dr. Gregory S. Pepper. 7.15. From Max Geisberg, The German Single-Leaf Woodcut: 1500-1550, vol. 1 (New York: Hacker Art Books, 1974), 376, fig. G410. By permission of Hacker Art Books. 7.16. Courtesy of Museum of Anatolian Civilizations, Ankara, Turkey. 7.17 and 7.18. From James Mellaart, Catal Huyuk (London: Thames and Hudson, 1967), 116, fig. 28, and 128, fig. 41. Courtesy of James Mellaart. 7.19. From Dorothy Cameron, Symbols of Birth and Death in the Neolithic Era (London: Kenyon-Deane, 1981). By permission of Peter Assinder. 7.20, 7.21, and 7.22. From). D. Evans, The Prehistoric Antiquities of the Maltese Islands (London: Athlone Press, 1971), plate 40/8 and plans 38A and 18A. ©J. D. Evans 1971 by permission of The Athlone Press. 7.23, 7.24, and 7.25. By permission of Hellenic Republic, Ministry of Culture. 8.1. From Barry Cunliffe, ed., The Oxford Illustrated Prehistory of Europe (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994), 169. By permission of Oxford University Press.
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