The Myth of Matriarchal Prehistory: Why an Invented Past

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

Postby admin » Mon Nov 05, 2018 2:39 am

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

Postby admin » Mon Nov 05, 2018 3:10 am

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

My first debt of gratitude goes to the Center for the Study of American Religion (now the Center for the Study of Religion) at Princeton University. The CSAR has been unfailingly supportive and unstintingly generous over the past four years, giving me access to a wonderful community of scholars and an unparalleled research library. I want to thank Robert Wuthnow and Anita Kline in particular, who have done a great deal to smooth my path at Princeton. The members of the CSAR workshop, especially Ann Braude and Marie Griffith, have provided much encouragement and helpful criticism. Ann Taves and Grey Gundaker deserve a special thank you for continuing to insist over my protests that I was really writing two books rather than one, until I finally came to believe them.

Many librarians have shared their passion for information by tracking down obscure sources for me. Lois Nase, Robert G. Margolis, and Patti Ponzoli of the Firestone Library Interlibrary Services have enriched this project enormously, as have Nancy Janow, Joyce McKee, Lindita Cani, and Catherine Sullivan of the South Orange Public Library. Jo Ann Troncone of Summit Bank walked me through the labyrinthine process of sending international money orders, and I thank her for her expertise. For translations, I am indebted to Rosa Zagari-Molinari, Tamara Schoenbaum, Teresa Shaw, Pamela Klassen, and Vondah Sheldon.

Readers of this manuscript have provided an invaluable service to me (and to all future readers). Lauren Bryant, Faulkner Fox, Elizabeth Reis, Teresa Shaw, and Sylvia Wolfe took on the thankless task of wading through a sprawling first draft. With patience and tact, they helped me to see how it could be reworked and cut down to size, and I am extremely appreciative of their efforts. Alice Kehoe and Wayne Eastman read a considerably trimmer manuscript and zeroed in on remaining peculiarities at a time when I had become blind to them.

Susan Worst nurtured this project in its early stages, as did Doug Abrams. Amy Caldwell of Beacon Press later took on this project with much grace and offered many valuable suggestions. I would also like to thank Lynn Meskell, Grey Gundaker, Lauren Talalay, Donna Maeda, Marie Griffith, and Robert Wolfe for providing helpful readings of individual chapters; Susan Meigs, who copyedited the manuscript; and Lori Krafte, who proofread it.

I owe long overdue debts to two mentors: Robert Ellwood, who has had a deep and lasting influence on how I think about religion, myth, society, and the funny business of writing about people's deepest spiritual commitments; and John Collins, who at a crucial point in my life insisted that it was worth every penny it took to have my own space in which to work.

Truly wonderful combinations of support, distraction, and much-needed perspective were offered by family and friends as I worked on this project. I owe my mental health, such as it is, first and foremost to Teresa Shaw, who tolerates endless whiny phone calls with remarkable patience, and never fails to send me back out into the world feeling better able to take it on. Other friends who have lent encouragement and a listening ear to the development of this project include Elizabeth Reis, Sylvia Wolfe, Lori Krafte, Jody Shapiro Davie, Janna Southworth, Carol Hansen, Kathy and Jesse Carliner, Carolyn and Tom McGee, Deborah Campbell, Michael Brzozowski, Lynn and Paul Woodruff, Holly and Tomm Scalera, Jane Hurwitz, Stephen Moore, Magda and Bernard Greene, and of course my darling Sophia.

All the staff at the Blue Moon Diner kept me fed, watered, and in touch with the twentieth century when I threatened to permanently drift off to 6000 BCE. And the teachers and administrators of the South Mountain YMCA -- particularly Marguerite McDougal, Elaine Lyons, Rachel Mondalto, April Pray, Kirbee Stern, Tameka Pullen, Judith Hannah, Julia Dixon, Estelle Fields, Marie Papageorgis, Diane DiGiovanni, Christine La Rosa, Ellie Maziekien, Keyana Rogers, Kathleen Jones, Kathleen Shaw, and Elissa Lombardo -- left my mind free to wander by taking my daughter into their loving and very professional arms.

The Marlin Eller Foundation for the Support of Siblings made the illustrations in this volume possible, and I am most grateful for the Foundation's continued financial underwriting of my work.

This book, and most of my life, would not be possible without the love, laughter, and periodic infusions of cash I have received from Jonathan Greene, the best patron a writer could wish for and a terrific husband besides. It is to him and our daughter Sophia that this book is dedicated.
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Re: The Myth of Matriarchal Prehistory: Why an Invented Past

Postby admin » Mon Jul 06, 2020 6:04 am

INDEX

abortion, 99
Acheulean hand axes, 39
Aeschylus, 170-71, 173
Africa, 29, 41, 109, 159, 192n. 29, 197n.
28
Afrocentrism, 29, 197n. 29
Agamemnon, 170-71
agriculture: associated with goddess worship,
138, 223n. 42; in matriarchal societies,
48; women's invention of, 33, 42,
93, 107, 111-12, 217-18n. 49. See also
horticulture, plow agriculture.
Albania, 96
Alpert, Jane, 42, 57
Alphabet Versus the Goddess, The, 29, 206-
207n. I
Amazons, 172, 178, 200n. 57, 230-3 In.
34, 231-32n. 53
Americas, the, 159, 163; as site of pre historic
matriarchy, 40, 197n. 28, 214n. 29
Anat, 104
Anatolia, 40, 146, 161, 165, 227n. 10
Ancient Society, 32
Anima Mundi Dance Company, 191n. 25
animal husbandry, 46, 47-48, 157, 160
animals, as represented in prehistoric art,
119, 121, 123, 124, 128, 138, 143, 144.
See also bucrania.
Ann, Martha, 15
Anthony, David, 113, 114
anthropology: and study of gender, 85-
87; as champion of matriarchal myth,
3I; cultural, 82-87; evolutionary, 31-
32, 82-83; feminist, 34-35, 86-87,
216-17n. 44; socialist feminist, 198n.
37, 199-200n. 54, 204n.25
anthropomorphic figurines, 126-42,
143-44, 148, 219n.4, 223n.39;
ascertaining sex, 126-28, 138-39,
147, 148, 221nn. 15, 25, 225n. 57;as
dolls, 139; as fertility symbols, 134,
138; as goddess icons, 124-26, 129,
133, 134, 139, 143, 147-48, 153-55,
181; fatness of, 134-36, IJ8; find spots
of, 139, 143, 153; interpretation of
prehistoric, 124-33, 139-40, 156; magical
or ritual uses of, 136, 139; male,
143, 153-54; question of pregnancy,
134, 138, 143, 222n. 34, 223n. 38; variety among,
134, 136-38, 143. See also
art; "bird goddess"; "goddess with
leopards"; Paleolithic "Venus" figurines;
"phallic goddesses"; "pillar deities";
"sleeping goddess" of Malta;
"snake goddess."
anti-Semitism, 50, 201n. 64
Aphrodite, 106
apocalypticism, 27, 33, 54, 202n. 73
Apollo, 171, 173
Appiah, Kwame Anthony, vii, 64, 75,
205n.34, 206n.47
archaeology: as champion of matriarchal
myth, 32, 36, 90, 142, 151, 195n. 6,
220n. 7; as resource for uncovering the
past, 87-89; feminist, 89, 134; methodology,
90-91; study of gender in, 88-
89
architecture. See palaces, of Minoan
Crete; temples, Maltese.
Ariadne, 22, 43, 47, 192n. 27
Aristotle, 95, 168, 211n. 5
arrowheads, 113, 114
265
art: as contemporary medium for matriarchal
myth, 20-21, 191n. 24; decorative,
[33; interpretation of prehistoric,
1I6-42; Neolithic, 120, 121 fig. 7.1,
124, 125 fig. 7-4, 127, 128, 129 fig. 7.7,
IJ2 fig. 7. I I, 136-47, 144 fig. 7.16, 145
figs. 7.17 and 7. I 8 (see also "bird goddess";
"phallic goddesses"); of Catalhoyuk,
142-47 (see also "goddess with
leopards"; plaster reliefs and paintings,
at Catalhoyuk); of Malta, 147-50 (see
also "sleeping goddess" of Malta); of
Minoan Crete, 151-55 (see also frescoes,
from Minoan Crete; "snake goddess");
Paleolithic, 120-24, 125, 126
fig. 7.5, 127, 127 fig. 7.6, 128-29, 130-
3 1, 130 figs. 7.8 and 7.9, 131 fig 7.10;
133-39, 135 figs. 7.12 and 7.13; 137
fig. 7.14 (see also "breast pendants";
"buttocks silhouette"; Paleolithic
"batons"; Paleolithic cave art; Paleolithic
"Venus" figurines). See also
anthropomorphic figurines; symbols,
interpretation of.
Artemis, 106
arthritis, 111
Asia: and Indo-European languages, 159;
as site of patriarchal revolution, 161,
165; as site of prehistoric matriarchy,
40
astrology, as explanation of patriarchal
revolution, 51
Athena, 106, 170, 171, 173, 174, 229n. 30
Athens, myth of naming of. See naming
of Athens, myth of.
Atkinson, Ti-Grace, 16
Augustine, 170
Austen, Hallie Iglehart, 54, 175
Australian aborigines, 94-95, 98, 208n. 8,
211-12n.12, 214n.29, 229n.28
australopithecenes, 39
Babylon, 169, 229n. 29
Bachofen, Johann Jakob, 7, 30, 31, 189n.
3, 195n. 7
Baring, Anne, 120, 155
"batons." See Paleolithic "batons."
Baumler, Alfred, 30
Bebel, August, 30
"bell beaker" people, 158
Berry, Thomas, 29
Biaggi, Cristina, 148, 149
Bible, The, 53
biological determinism, 7, 63, 68-74,
187-88
"bird goddess, " 128, 129 fig. 7.7
black madonnas, 197n. 30
Black Sea, 49, 166
Bleier, Ruth, 70
blood type. See genetics.
Bohemia, 121 fig. 7.1
Bolen, Jean Shinoda, 66
bones. See skeletons.
Bradley, Marion Zimmer, 22
Brailoiu, Constantin, 173
brain lateralization, 29
"breast pendants, " 129-3 I
"breast" reliefs, at Catalhoyuk. See plaster
reliefs and paintings, at Catalhoyuk.
breastfeeding, 45-46, 65, 183
Breuil, Abbe, 122, 222n. 27
Britfault, Robert, J2
Brindel, June Rachuy, 22, 43, 47, 192n. 27
Bronze Age, 164 fig. 8.1, 168, 201-202n.
68
Brosamer, Hans, 140 fig. 7. I 5
Brown, Norman 0., 170
Brown v. Board of Education, 68
Bruniquel, 130 fig. 7.9
bucrania, 144-47, 145 fig. 7.18; as representations
of female reproductive tract,
146-47, 146 fig. 7.19; as symbolic of
maleness, 146
Buddhism, 106, 148
Bulgaria, 124, 125 fig. 7.4
bulls' heads. See bucrania.
burials, 99-100, 114, 115, 148, 162-63,
219n. 59, 220n.6, 22In.23. See also
excarnation; grave goods; skeletons.
Burkert, Walter, 224n. 46, 230n. 42
"buttocks silhouette, " 124, 126 fig. 7.5,
127 fig. 7.6, 221n. 23
Cakes for the Queen if Heaven, 24
Cameron, Dorothy, 146
Campbell, Ena, 106
Canaan, 104
Cantarella, Eva, 12, 168
capitalism, 19
Carpathian mountains, 161
Carson, Anne, 13, 57
Cashford, Jules, 120, 155
Caspian Sea, 49
Catalhoyuk, 34, 40, 96, 99, 113, 151, 157,
211n. 6, 224n. 49; art of, 142-47, 144
fig. 7.16, 145 figs. 7.17 and 7.18, 224n.
51 (see also "goddess with leopards";
plaster reliefs and paintings, at Catalhoyuk);
burials in, 100-101. See also
Mellaart, James; Hodder, Ian.
Catholicism, 54, 96, 106, 215n. 36
Cavalli-Sforza, Luigi Luca, 165-66, 228
n.21
cave art. See Paleolithic cave art.
Ceres, 138
Chalcolithic era, 164 fig. 8. I
Chalice and the Blade, The, 24, 29, 62
Chapman, Anne McKaye, 177
Chernin, Kim, 67, 205n. 29
Chesler, Phyllis, 44, 178
child sacrifice, 113, 218n. 55
childbirth, 28, 79: as mysterious or miraculous,
1, 3, 26, 44, 45-46, 56-58, 97,
192n. 27; male envy of (see womb
envy). See also maternal mortality.
Childe, V Gordon, 227n. 9, 13
childlessness, 57, 203n. 5
children, 108: in matriarchal societies, 42,
44-45; in prehistoric art, 138; in sex
difference research, 69-70; male ownership
of, 1, 167
children's books, 3, 28, 193n. 39
China, 11, 189n. 2, 197nn. 28, 30, 199n.
51, 223n. 39
Choco, I39
Chodorow, Nancy, 63
Christ, Carol P., 22, 201n. 64, 219n. 4
Christianity, 10, 14, 36, 54, 74, 83, 106,
116, 123, 202n.70, 215n.33, 215n.36,
217n.44, 224n.45, 232n.8
City of God, 170
civilization, women's invention of, 33, 39
Civilization of the Goddess, The, 38, 146-
47
class stratification. See hierarchy.
classical Greece: goddess worship in, 103,
215n. 35; myth in, 31, 32, 168, 169-72,
175, 177-78, 194n. I, 229nn. 30, 33,
23 In. 52; sex in, 169; status of women
in, 105-106, 153, 168-69, 215n.35,
229n.28
classics, 32, 177-78, 195n. 6
classism, 68-69
climate, as reason for patriarchal revolution,
50
Clytemnestra, 170-71, 173
Cold War, 200n. 59
Colombia, 139
"complex" societies, 112
conception. See sexual reproduction.
contraception, 43, 99
Copper Age, 165
Corded Ware culture complex, 163, 164
fig. 8. I, 228n. 18
couvade, 98
Craighead, Meinrad, 57
Crawford, O. G. S., 32
Creation cif Patriarchy, The, 27
Crete, 23. See also Minoan Crete.
cultural feminism, 15-17, 190n. 14
cuneiform, II, 167-68
Cybele, 224n. 51
Cyprus, 131, 132 fig. 7.11
Czechoslovakia, I3ofig. 7.8, 131 fig. 7.10,
133
Daly, Mary, 12, 16, 192n. 26
Danube River, 161, 162
Dargun, Lothar, 30
Darwinian evolution, 72, 184
Davis, Elizabeth Gould, 28, 34, 35, 50, 58,
202n.73
Davis, Philip, II7
de Beauvoir, Helene, 21, 21 fig. 2.1
de Beauvoir, Simone, 66
Dea Nutrix. See "pillar deities."
degenerative joint disease. See arthritis.
Delaney, Carol, 95
Delphy, Christine, 77
Demarest, Arthur, 115
Demeter, 106, 170
Didon, L., 122
Differefene, The, 24-26
"difference" feminism, 16, 64-65, 76,
204n.26
dildoes. See penises, artificial.
Dirt cif Luck, The, 22
division of labor. See sexual division of
labor.
Dnieper River, 162
Dolni Vestonice, 129, 130 fig. 7.8, 131 fig.
7.10
domestication of animals. See animal
husbandry.
Don River, 49
Downing, Christine, 78, 204n. 22
Dream of the Earth, The, 29
dualistic thinking, 61-62, 68
Durant, Will, 33
Dworkin, Andrea, 16, 67
Earth in the Balance, 29
ecofeminism, 16-17, 19m. 17
Edelson, Mary Beth, 21, 61, 19m. 191
"egalitarian" societies, 35, 109, 112, 216n.
43
Eisler, Riane, I 1, 24, 29, 49, 50, 51, 61-
62, 124, 189n.2, 201n. 61, 211n.6
Eliade, Mircea, 173, 223n. 42
embodiment, 6, 56, 65-66
embryology, 59, 203-204n. 13
Engels, Friedrich, 30, 32, 35, 194n. 3
England, 10, 21, 23, 40, 117, 118, 199n.
5I, 220n.7, 224n.49
environmentalism, 16, 29. See also
ecofeminism.
erinyes, 171
ethnocentrism, 40, 86
ethnography: as resource for uncovering
the past, 82-84, 88; difficulties in practice
and use of, 83-87, 2 16-17n. 44
Europe, 11, 22, 29, 40, 49, 92, 113-14,
118, 124, 159, 161, 163, 165-66, 181;
as locus of interest in matriarchal
myth, 31-34, 37, 40
Evans, Sir Arthur, 151, 154 fig. 7.25, 226n.
69
evolution, cultural influences on, 72. See
also Darwinian evolution; natural
selection; nature/nurture debate.
excarnation, 100, 143
Exodus story, 14, 36
extraterrestrial invasions, II, 51, 178,
201n.65
fallopian tubes, 147
falsifiability, 91, 210n. 21
Faris, James, 108
fatherhood, as seen ethnographically, 96-
97, 109, 21m. 7
Feder, Kenneth, 99
femaleness: as connected to nature, 56,
65-66, 79; conceptions of, 6-7, 56-
58, 63, 65, 67
femininity, 15, 16, 17, 54, 58, 60-61, 73-
74, 76-77, 79, 81; as timeless, 63-64,
67-68, 183
Feminism and Religion, 27
feminist matriarchalists: demographic features
of, 10
feminist movement, 7, 190n. 14, 19m. 15;
first wave, 16, 32, 64; second wave, 2,
15-18, 34-37. See also cultural feminism;
"difference" feminism; liberal
feminism; radical feminism; "sameness"
feminism.
feminist spirituality movement, 1, 4, 5-6,
34, 35-36, 192-93n. 31, 196nn. 14, 15,
198n.42
Ferguson, Marianne, 27
figurines. See anthropomorphic figurines.
Fires of Spring, The, 22
Firestone, Shulamith, 16
First Sex, The, 34
Fisher, Elizabeth, 34
fishing, 107
Fontales cave, 127 fig. 7.6
foraging societies, 83, 183, 216n. 44; economic
contribution of women and
men, 109; fertility control in, 99; male
domination in, 98, 109, 157, 177, 180;
population densities in, II2. See also
gathering; hunting.
forgeries, 220n. 7, 226n. 69
fortifications, 114-15, 218-19n. 57
Fox, Matthew, 20
France, 119, 121, 122, 127 fig. 7.6, 130 fig.
7.9, 133, 135 fig. 7.13
Francia, Luisa, 203n. 7
Frazer, Sir James George, 32
French, Marilyn, 44
frescoes, from Minoan Crete, 151-53, 152
fig. 7.23, 155; portrayal of women and
men in, 152-53, 155
Freud, Sigmund, 3 [
Fromm, Erich, 30, 33
future: role of men in, 54; role of women
in, 54-55; visions of, 3, 27, 54-55, 182,
188, 202n. 78
Gage, Matilda Joslyn, 16, 30, J2
Gaia, 170
Gailey, Christine Ward, 187
gathering, 108; as female occupation, 42,
107
gender: as effect of sexism, 76-78; as
performance, 75; as presently inescapable,
74-79; cultural determinants of,
63, 70-73, 75; ethnographic universality of,
89; ethnographic variety in, 8,
187; stereotypical views of, 8, 61, 65-
67
"gendered archaeology." 89. 209n. 16
genetics, 165-66, 179. 228n. 21
George. Stefan. 195n. 7
Germany. 10. 124. 126 fig 7.5, 135 fig.
7.12
Getty. Adele. 151
Gilman, Charlotte Perkins, 16, 32
Gimbutas, Marija, 20, 29, 173; and feminism,
38; and Indo-European linguistics.
37-38, 196n. 19, 227nn. 9, 10, 13;
biography of, 37-38, 219n. 5; on matriarchal
societies. 40, 41, 114. 201-202n.
68, 218n. 55; on patriarchal revolution,
48-50, 164 fig. 8.1, 166, 199n. 51; on
prehistoric art, 119-20, 124, 125 fig.
7.4.128. 129 fig. 7.7, 131 fig. 7.10, 134,
146-47. 220n. 13, 221n. 2; on religion.
43, 133, 196n.2I, 220n.6, 222n.29;
relationship to other archaeologists,
89-90, 158, 209-21on. 18
God Giving Birth, 19
goddess pilgrimages, 22-23. 23 fig. 2.2,
142, 192n.29
Goddess Remembered, 23
goddess reproductions, 25 fig. 2.3, 26.
191n.23, 192-93n. 31
Goddess Sites: Europe, 22
"goddess with leopards, " from Catalhoyuk,
143, 144 fig. 7.16, 224n. 51
goddess worship: early historic, 167; ethnographic
and historical examples of.
93. 104. 106, 107, 214-15n.31.215n.
32, 216n. 38; in male dominant societies.
54, 104, 18I; prehistoric, 12, 18,
35, 36, 37, 118, 214n. 27, 220n. 6. See
also thealogy.
Goddesses and Gods of Old Europe, The, 38.
128
Goddessing Regenerated, 22. 24
Goldberg, Steven. 28. 71
golden age myths, 169. 172, 230n. 37
Golden Bough, The, 32
Gore. A1, 29. 1940. 42
Gotrner-Abendroth. Heide. 19.45
Grahn, Judy. 38
grave goods, 88, 99, 108,113, 115,139,
163, 181, 216n. 40, 229-30n. 34. See
also burials; skeletons.
Graves, Robert, 30, 33
Great Mother, The, 33
Gross. Rita. 27, 72
gynaecaeum, 169
Hades, 170
Hain, 175-76, 177
Hamilton, Naomi, 101
Harris, Marvin. 114, 213n. 24
Harrison. Jane Ellen, 32
Hartland, E. S., J2
Hawkes. Jacquetta, 34. 195n. 9
Hayden. Brian, 113
Hebrews, as patriarchal invaders. 50, 53,
157, 201n. 64
Helium, 22, 192n. 26
Henes, Donna, 22
herding, 45. 47. 48, 160. 161, 168. 228n.
21
Heroine's Journey, The, 66
herstory, 193n. 36
Hesiod, 168. 170, 172, 229n. 30, 230n. 35
heterosexism, 19.74
Hiatt, L. R., 98
hierarchy: among proto-Indo-Europeans,
160; in "complex" societies, 112; in
early historic societies, 167-68, 219n.
59; in "the patriarchy, " S 3
Hinduism, 106, 214n. 29, 214-15n. 31,
21sn.32
History of Mankind, 33
history of religions: as champion of matriarchal
myth, 36
Hodder Ian, 90, 101, 142, 144, 228n. 18
Holocaust. See Nazism.
Homer, 168, 171, 172, 173, 229n. 26
Homo erectus, 39
Homo habilis, 39
Homosapiens, 39, 181
Hopi, 86
horses: domestication of (for riding), 163;
in proto-Indo-European or Kurgan
culture, 157, 162; role in patriarchal
revolution, 49, 159
Horses at the Gate, The, 22, 57
horticultural societies, 83; economic contribution
of women and men, 109,
2 16n. 39; fertility control in, 99; land
ownership in, 110; male domination
in, 98, 157, 180; population densities
In, 112
horticulture, 47; women's practice of, 108
Hua, 98
Humes, Cynthia, 104, 2lsn. 32
hunting, 108; as male occupation, 45, 88,
107, 142-43, 147, 154, 15S, 175
hunting and gathering societies. See foraging
societies.
Iglehart, Hallie Austen. See Austen, Hallie
Iglehart.
Iliad, 168
lmel, Dorothy Myers, 15
Inanna, 104, 214n.27
India, 40, 104, 170, 197nn. 28, 29, 199n.
51, 223n. 39, 226n. 7
Indo-European languages, 159-62, 164
fig. 8.1, 196n. 19, 226n. 6; dispersal of,
159, 162, 163, 166, 226n. 3, 227n. 12;
homeland of, 37-38, 159, 161-62,
227n. 9. See also Kurgans; protolexicon,
Indo-European.
Inevitability of Patriarchy, The, 28, 71
infant mortality, 99
infanticide, 99, 101, 169
initiation, use of anthropomorphic figurines
in, 139
intensive agriculture. See plow
agriculture.
invasions. See patriarchal invasions.
inventions, prehistoric: women's role in,
33, 42
Iphigenia, 170
Ireland, 21, 23, 40, 170, 199n. 51
"Is Female to Male as Nature Is to Culture?, "
35
Ishtar, 141
Isis, 197n. 30
Islam, 123, 224n. 45
Israel, 39, I4I, 170, 224n. 48
Italy, II
Japan, 197n. 28
Jericho, 218-19n. 57
Jesus, 14, 36, 224n. 45
jewelry, 108, 114, 229-30n. 34
Johnson, Buffie, 124-25, 127 fig. 7.6
Judaism, 14, 106, 123, 141, 224nn. 45, 48,
232n. 8
Judd, Elizabeth, 62, 199n. 52
Jung, Carl, 117, 219n. 5
Jungianism, 33, 195n. 6
Jupiter, 160
"Kamchatka syndrome, " 84
Kavanagh, Ursula, 21
Kazakhstan, 49
Kehoe, Alice, 129-3 I
Keller, Mara Lynn, 13
Keuls, Eva, 169
Kidd, Sue Monk, vii, 69, 105
Kingsolver, Barbara, 124
kinship, 93-103, 213n. 24
Knossos, 3, 154, 155
Kosse, Roberta, 2 I
Kurgans, 48-51, 157-66, 179, 200n. 55;
genesis of term, 48; homeland of, 48-
so, 161-62, 200nn. 59, 60; religion
among, 53, 104-1°5, 160
Kurten, Bjorn, 136
lactation. See breastfeeding.
Lady of the Beasts, 12 5
LaMonte, Willow, 22
language, written, 29, 197n. 35, 206-
207n. 1; early, 166-69; historical usefulness
and limitations of, 81-82
Language of the Goddess, The, 38
Laqueur, Thomas, 73
Latin America. See Americas, the.
Leach, Edmund, 95, 96, 228n. 16
Leakey, Richard, 186
Lerner, Gerda, 27, 52, 106
Leroi-Gourhan, Andre, 116, 122-23, 123
fig. 7.2
lesbianism, 10, 43, 57, 198n. 40
Levy, Gertrude Rachel, 148
liberal feminism, 15, 17, 190n. 14
life expectancy, prehistoric, 99, 212-13n.
15
Linear A, 167
Linear B, 167-68
linguistics, 158, 159-62, 163, 179, 196n.
19, 227n. 13, 228n. 16
Lippert, Julius, 30
literacy. See language, written.
"living fossils, " 82
Lobell, Mimi, 151
Lost Goddesses rif Early Greece, 193n. 39
Lubbock, Sir John, 31
maces, 113
Mackey, Mary, 22, 45, 57, 212n. 15, 219n.
59
Madagascar, 133
male-identified women. See
"pseudomen."
maleness: as genetic mutation, 51, 59; conceptions
of, 47, 58-60
Malinowski, Bronislaw, 94, 176-77,
191n. 20, 210n. 2
Mallory, J. P., 165, 228n. 16
Malta, 21, 23, 40; art of, 147-50, 148
fig. 7.20, 151, 225nn. 57. 59. See also
"sleeping goddess" of Malta; temples.
Maltese.
Mann. Judy. 24. 26.103
Marduk. 169-70. 174, 229n.29
Marinatos. Nanno. 153, 155
Marler. Joan. 173
marriage, 102-103, 167-69. 177
Marx. Karl. 12. 194n. 3
masculinity. 60-61.68.74
Mason. Jim. 29
maternal mortality. 99. 203 n. 8
maternity. ignorance of. 95-96. 171
Matriarchal Listings, 21
matriarchal myth: as antifeminist. 31.34.
195n. 10, 232n. 56; as myth. 182-83,
190n. 9; criticism of. 28-29. 189-90n.
6; feminist functions of, 4. 7. 15-20,
34, 63, 180. 182, 185-86; geographic
locations of, 10; historical accuracy of.
5.7-8, 13-14, 81-82, 180-82,187; history
of. 7, 30-39, 189n. 2, 189n. 3; in
colleges and universities. 27. 193nn.
36. 37; in secondary schools. 26-27
matriarchal societies: absence of warfare
in. 4, 41, 52, 113, 201-202n.68;as
golden age, 41, 46; as relatively static.
205n. 27; children in. 42, 44-45;
descriptions of. 3, 4, 12, 39-46, 62;
duration of, 2, 3, 4, 19-20, 39-40; geographical
scope of. 19, 40-41, 49-50;
harmony with nature in. 4. 17.41, 115,
183; role of men in. I. 39. 44-45, 47;
sex roles in. 4, 12, 41; status of women
in, 35. 36, 44
matriarchy: as nonexistent in ethnographies,
35; definitions of. 12-13
Matriarchy Research and Reclaim Network
Newsletter, 24
matriliny. 3, 44, 93, 99, 101-102, 170,
171-72, 226n. 6
matrilocality, 12, 44.93.99.101-102,
213n.23
Mayas. 114-15
Mbuti. 102. 109
McLennan. John Ferguson, 31
Mediterranean, 40, 48, 50, 147, 151
Megatrends for Women, 24
Meigs. Anna. 98
Melanesia. 94
Mellaart, James, 100, 142, 143, 146
Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus,
74
menopause, 199n. 49
menstruation, 45-46, 47, 57-58, 94, 107,
203n. 7; male imitations of, 47, 98
Mesolithic era, 113, 166
Mesopotamia, 141
metallurgy, 40, 161, 227 n. 12
Metis, 24
Mexico, 106, 197n.28, 199n. 51, 223n.39
Middle East. See Near East.
migrations, prehistoric, 158-66. See also
patriarchal invasions.
Miles, Rosalind, 26, 59
Milisauskas, Sarunas, 108
Mill, John Stuart, 186
Millett, Kate, 16, 186
Minoan Crete, 3-4, 22, 40, 47, 113, 114,
118; art of, 151-55, 152 fig. 7.23, 153,
fig 7.24, 154 fig 7.25, 167, 226n. 69
(see also frescoes, from Minoan Crete;
"snake goddess"). See also Evans, Sir
Arthur; Knossos.
misandry, 59
misogyny, 16, 104, 107, 109, 168-69, 172
Mists of Avalon, The, 22
Mithen, Steven)., 113
Mob of Angels, the, 22
monotheism: goddess, 37, 103, 198n. 42,
214n. 29; patriarchal, 53, 59, 141
Moon Over Crete, The, 28
Mor, Barbara, 20, 55
Morgan, Lewis Henry, 3I, 32, 194n. 3
Moses, 6, 14
mother goddess, 36, 43, 106, 192n. 27,
214n. 29, 220n. 7, 225n. 59.Seea~0
thealogy: goddess as mother.
motherhood, 10, 26, 33, 42, 44, 57, 63, 67,
79, 97, 99, I83, 187;assourceofsexism,
97
Motherpeace tarot deck, 59-60
Mu, 20
Mundurucu, 102, 111, 217n. 48
Murdock, Maureen, 58, 66-67
music, as contemporary medium for
matriarchal myth, 21-.Z2
mutations. See maleness: as genetic
mutation.
Mutterrecht, Das, 31
Mycenean Greece, 3-4, 34, 141, 167-68,
170-71; religion of, 141
myth: definitions of, 5, 12-14; interpretation
of, 172-79, 190n. 10, 191n. 20,
230n. 42, 231n. 52
myth as charter, 175-78
myth as history, 172-75, 230n. 42
myth of matriarchal prehistory. See matriarchal
myth.
Myth of the Eternal Return, The, 173
myths of a golden age. See golden age
myths.
myths of former female dominance, 169-
72, 175-78, 230-3 In. 45, 23 Inn. 50,
51
myths of goddess murder or rape, 169-70
Myths of Motherhood, The, 26
myths of serpent or dragon murder, 170
Nairs, 101
naming of Athens, myth of, 171-72, 173,
174, 178
National Organization for Women
(NOW), 24
Native Americans: figurine use among,
139; gendered effects of adoption of
agriculture on, 111
natural selection, 72, 184
nature: as intellectual construct, 183-84
nature/culture split, 65-66
nature/nurture debate, 73, 183-84
Nazism, 33, 205n. 36, 227n. 13
Near East, 40, 48, 49, 92, 113, 118, 124,
136, 142, 146, 157-58, 159, 161, 165-
66, 181, 182
Nelson, Sarah Milledge, 124
Neolithic era, 92, 98-99, 108, 113-14,
120, 124, 136, 138-47, 158-66, 179;
as height of matriarchy, 34, 40, 42
neopaganism, 3, 36, 196n. 14, 198n. 42
Neslen, Kristie, sr, 52
Neumann, Erich, 33, 219n. 5
New Age movement, 11, 196n. 14
New Guinea, 98, 102, 177-78, 211-12n.
12, 230-3 In. 45
New Left movement, 15
Noble, Vicki, 22, 28, 38, 59-60, 73, 201n.
65, 201-202n.68, 206n.45
nomadism, 1-2, 48, 157, 160, 161, 200n.
56, 228n.21
North America. See Americas, the.
nostalgia, 183, 191n. 20
objectivity. 13, 14, 90
Odyssey, 168
Old Europe. 40. 48, 108. 113-14, 118, 119.
136, 146. 157-58, 165, 166, 182, 201-
202n.68, 215n.35
Olympian pantheon, 170
On the Issues, 1
Ophelia syndrome. 26
oral history. 167, 173
Oresteia, 170-71. 173
Orestes, 171, 173
orgasm. 43. 45-46
Origin, The, 51
Origin cif the Family, Private Property, and the
State, The, 32, 35
origins stories. 8, 30, 182-85, 188, 194n.
I; and political interests. 184-85, 188
Ortner, Sherry. 35. 65, 86, 97. 208n. 9
ovaries. 147
palaces. of Minoan Crete. 151- 52
Paleolithic "batons, " 128-29, 130 figs. 7.8
and 7.9. 222n. 27. See also penises.
artificial.
Paleolithic cave art. 96. 120-24; dating of.
220n. 14; representations of women
and men in, 120-21; "vulva symbols"
in, 122-24, 125 fig. 7-3
Paleolithic era. 3. See also Upper Paleolithic
era.
Paleolithic "Venus" figurines, 117, 133-
36, 137 fig. 7.14, 138, 196n. 27, 221n.
15, 222nn. 31, 34, 223n. 38; dating of.
134. See also anthropomorphic figurines;
Venus of Lespugue; Venus of
Willendorf.
Pandora. 24. 168
Pangloss. Dr ., 184
Paradise Papers, The, 36
Park, MichaeI Alan.99
parthenogenesis, 11
Partnership Way, The, 24, 62
pastlives. 11, 210n. 21
pastoralism. See herding.
paternity: discovery of. 1.46-47.157.
185. 199n. 52. 211n. 6; evidence for
ignorance of in ethnographies. 93-96.
210n. 2; ignorance of, 1.45. 198-99n.
48, 211n. 5
"patriarchal accretions, " in interpretation
of myth, 174
patriarchal invasions, 1, 22, 40, 46, 48-50.
157-66, 179. See also Hebrews. as patriarchal
invaders; Kurgans.
patriarchal religion. See religion: patriarchal.
patriarchal revolution. 2, 46-53.157-79,
182, 185-86, 190n.9. 206-207n. 1; as
accident, 51, 184; as revealed in classical
myths, 169-72; dating of. 1.2 fig.
1.1. 46. 50. 199n. 51, 202n. 70; external
explanations of (see patriarchal invasions);
internal explanations of. 46-48;
role of men in, 48.50-51. 21In. 8; role
of religion in, 36, 52, 53, 104-105
patriarchy: among the proto-Indo-
Europeans. 160; descriptions of. 18-
19. 53-54, 6I-62; duration of. 18-20;
explanations for, 51-52; goddess worship
in. 54. 2I5n. 35; in early historic
societies. I67-68; inertial power of.
5I. I86-87, 20In. 66; status of women
in. 53-54
patriliny. 102, 160, 167, 171, 179
patrilocality, 160, 213n. 23
peace. See matriarchal societies. absence
of war in.
penis-bleeding. 98, 211-12n. 12. See also
subincision.
penises. artificial. 129, 131, 133, 222n.28
Pepper. Hubert. 137
Persephone. 170
Pestalozza. Uberto. 30
Petersfels, 126 fig. 7.5
"phallic goddesses;' 128-29, 130 fig. 7.8.
131. 132 fig. 7.11. 221-22n. 26
pilgrimages. See goddess pilgrimages.
"pillar deities, " 141
Pindar, 170
Pirate Prude, 22
Pit Grave culture. See Kurgans.
plaster reliefs and paintings. at Catalhoyuk.
142-47, 145 figs. 7.17 and
7.18
plow agriculture. 47, 112, 157. 186
Poland. 16I, 166
Pollack, Rachel, 119, 120
population densities, 112
pornography, 123-24, 136, 137 fig. 7.14,
22In.20
Poseidon, 171, 174, 229n. 33
pottery, 108, 121 fig. 7.1, 136, 151, 158,
163, 229n. 6
Powell, H. A., 94
precedent, 191n. 20; lack of need for,
186-87; matriarchal prehistory as,
19
pregnancy, 56-57, 59, 94, 99, 203n. 3,
223n.38
priestesses, 3, 11, 22, 36, 44, 107, 167, 168,
181
primates, 35, 39
property, 107; communal ownership of,
82; men's ownership of, 47, 211n. 8;
private, 42, 47; women's ownership of,
44, 107, 110-11
Proserpina, 138
prostitution, 53, 169; "sacred prostitution, "
26, 43
proto-Indo-Europeans, 159-62, 164,
226n. 6; dating dispersal of, 162, 228n.
2 r. See also Indo-European languages;
Kurgans.
protolexicon, Indo-European, 159-62,
226n.4
"pseudomen, " 66-67, 78-79, 205n. 29
psychoanalysis: as champion of matriarchal
myth, 32-33, 195n. 6; object relations
theory, 190n.9
public/private split, 42
race, 10, 75-76
racism, 19, 68, 75-77, 205n. 34, 206n. 47
radical feminism, 15-19, 190n. 14
rape, 17, 43, 53, 109, 111, 164, 169, 170,
217n. 48. See also sexual violence.
rationality, 19, 58
Reading the Past, 90
Reay, Marie, 177
Redmond, Layne, 22
Reich, Wilhelm, 30, 33
Reis, Patricia, 117
religion: among the proto-Indo-Europeans,
160; centrality of in matriarchal
societies, 43, 222n. 29; in early historic
societies, 167-68; marxist analysis of,
106; nature of, 18, 84, 191n. 19; patriarchal,
18, 27, 50, 52, 123, 141, 157,
215n.33, 215n.36, 224nn.45, 48
Renfrew, Colin, 163-64, 227n. 10
reproduction. See sexual reproduction.
"Return of the Great Mother, The, " 21-
22
Riley, Denise, 77
ritual: male domination of, 98, 109, 111;
use of figurines in, 136, 139
Roberts, Catherine, 89
Roberts, Nickie, 26
Roman Empire, 138, 166, 202n. 70, 228n.
16
romance novels, prehistoric, 192n. 28
Romania, 173
romanticism, 33, 65, 195n. 7
Rose, H. J., 173
Roszak, Theodore, 183
Roth, W. E., 94-95
Russia, 197n. 28, 199n. 5I
Russian steppes, 48, 49, 161, 163-64, 166,
179, 200n.59, 219n.59, 227n.9, 229-
30n.34
"Sameness" feminism, 17, 64
San, 109
Schlegel, Alice, 86, 97
Schliemann, 172
sealstones, from Minoan Crete, 153 fig.
7.24, 155
Second Encounter with the Great Goddess,
21, 21 fig 2.1
secondary products revolution, 161, 227n.
12
sedentism, 1-2, 48, 158
Selk'nam, 175-76, 177
Semites. See Hebrews.
Semitic languages, 161
Seneca, 139
"separate but equal, " 68
sex, 6, 22, 187; men's control of women's
sexual activity, 103, 109, 168; sexual
freedom, 41, 42-43, 1°3, 123
sex difference research, 8, 69-70
sex differences: as occasion for sexism, 68,
74, 76-77; biological and cultural
determinants of, 73, 75; in matriarchal
myth, 29, 56-64, 185; ways of working
with, 71-80
sexual division of labor, 107-111, 181,
186, 216nn. 39, 40, 41: differential valuation
of women's and men's labor in,
109-10, 217nn. 45, 48; in early historic
societies, 168-69
sexual reproduction: understandings of,
94-96, 210n. 2
sexual selection, 72
sexual violence, 16, 17, 43, 109, 179. See
also rape; slavery: sexual
Shakyamuni, 6
Shannon, Jacqueline, 28
Sheaffer, Robert, 28
Shitala, 104
Shlain, Leonard, 29, 206-207n. 1
Siberia, 118, 133
Sjoo, Monica, 20, 55, 60, 148
skeletons, 88-89, 99, 101, 111-12, 113,
115, 116, 179, 218n. 55, 229-30n. 34.
See also burials; grave goods.
slavery, 42, 52-53, 167-68, 186; among
the proto-Indo-Europeans, 160; in the
United States, 86-87, 102, 110, 188;
sexual, 52- 53, 113
"sleeping goddess" of Malta, 148
Smith, William Robertson, 31
"snake goddess, " 21, 154-55, 154 fig. 7.25,
226n.69
"social charter, " myth as. See myth as
charter.
social stratification. See hierarchy.
sociobiology, 72
Sotira Arkolies, 112 fig. 7.11
South America, 178, 223n. 39, 230-3 In.
45
southeastern Europe. See Old Europe.
Soviet anthropology, 32
Spain, 121
Spencer, Herbert, 3I
"spiritual activism, " 18
Spretnak, Charlene, 15, 42, 58, 190, 193n.
39, 203n.3
Sredny Stog culture, 162
Sreenivasan, Jyotsna, 28
Stanton, Elizabeth Cady, 16, 30
Stareevo, 124, 125 fig. 7.4
Starhawk, 61, 134, 1910.19
state-level societies, 112, 115
status of women, 85-87, 107, I12-J!,
180, 207-208n.7, 217n.45, 2180.54;
in early historic societies, 167-69,
229n.28
Status if l#men in Preindustrial Societies,
The, 107
Stein, Diane, 20
Steinem, Gloria, 1
Stephenson, June, 27, 42
Stesichorus, 170
Stone, Merlin, 36-37, 38, 42, 43, 50, 58
Story of Civilization, The, 33
subincision, 211-12n. 12
Sumer, 11, 104, 167, 219n. 59; status of
women in, 167, 214n. 27, 228-290. 24
"survival of the fittest." See natural
selection.
"survivals, " 82-83, 207no. 3, 5
symbols, interpretation of, 118-20, 146,
149, 155, 219n.5, 220nn.6, 13
Taylor, Sarah, I85
Taylor, Timothy, 129
Teish, Luisah, 1920. 29
temples, Maltese, 148-50, 150 figs. 7.21
abd 7.22, 225n. 59
thealogy, 4: goddess as mother, 43, 59;
goddess as sexual, 43, 123; goddess
linked to nature, 43, 183; goddess of
fertility, birth and death, 43, 134, 138,
147, 196n. 21; the goddess within, 15
Theogony, 170
third genders, 88-89, 208-209n. 14,
209n. 15
third sexes. See third genders.
Thomson, George, J2
Through the Goddess, 117
Thurer, Shari, 26
Tiamat, 169-70, 174, 229n. 29
Tibet, 1970. 28
Tierra del Fuego, 175-76
Timony, Mary, 192n. 26
trade, 45, 101
Trobriand Islanders, 94-96, 102, 210n. 2
Troy, 172
Trump, D. H., 151
Tully River Blacks, 94-95
Turkey 23, 40, 95, 144, 161, 224n.49
Tylor, E. B., 30, 31
Ukraine, 162, 166
United States, 10, 224n. 49; as locus of
interest in matriarchal myth, 31-32,
40; cemeteries in, 99-100; status of
women in, 85, 99, 208n. 10
United States Supreme Court, 68
Unnatural Order, An, 29
Upper Paleolithic era, 40, 92, 113, 133-36
Uralic languages, 166
Varro, 170
Venus di Milo, 133
"Venus" figurines. See Paleolithic
"Venus" figurines.
Venus of Lespugue, 134, 135 fig. 7.13
Venus of Willendorf, 134, 135, 135 fig.
7.12, 155
Victorianism, 67, 72
Vinca, 128, 129 fig. 7.7
Virgin of Guadalupe, 106, 138
Virgin Mary, 54, 215n. 33, 215n. 36, 224n.
45
Virgin Mother Crone, 21
Vogel, Karen, 59
Volga River, 49, 162
vultures, 143, 147
"vulva symbols." See Paleolithic cave art.
Wailes, Bernard, 90
Walker, Barbara, 58
warfare, 19, 42, 47, 51, 52, 93, 113-15,
154, 155, 157, 160, 163, 166, 179, 181,
201-202n.68
weapons, 88, ro8, 1I3-14, 160, 179, 181,
229-30n.34
wheeled transportation, 163
When God Was a Woman, 37
Whore Venerated by a Fool, A, 140 fig. 7.15,
141
Whores in History, 26
Why It's Great to Be a Girl, 28
Whyte, Martin King, 107, 187, 207-
208n.7, 2I7n.48
Wilshire, Donna, 13, 21, 191n. 25, 201-
202n.68
womb envy, 1, 46-47, 58, 97; ethnographic
evidence for, 97-98, 157
Woman and Religion, 27
Women's History of the World, 26
Women's Mysteries, 78
Women's Roots, 27
Woolger, Jennifer and Roger, 105
work and social status, 110
Worthman, Carol, 203-2o4n. 13
written language. See language, written.
Yamnaya culture. See Kurgans.
Year the Horses Came, The, 22, 45
Your Five Thousand Years Are Up, 21
Yugoslavia, 128, 129 fig. 7.7
Zafunaniry, 133
Zeus, 160, 170, 171, 174
zoomorphic figurines. See animals, as represented
in prehistoric art.
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Re: The Myth of Matriarchal Prehistory: Why an Invented Past

Postby admin » Tue Jul 07, 2020 8:36 am

Part 2 of 4 (HIGHLIGHTS)

[Cultural Anthropology and Gender]

Most cultural anthropologists today forswear the tendency to draw easy equivalences between the practices of living peoples and our prehistoric ancestors. Even attempts to compare a wide swath of living cultures in search of their common features are increasingly out of fashion among anthropologists.

Still, anthropologists continue to speculate about prehistory through the use of ethnographic material … Without going to the extreme of suggesting that all human societies are blindly marching through a predetermined historical trajectory (with some … getting stuck in the early stages), it is still reasonable to hypothesize that there may be certain regularities in human social relations, ones we can uncover by looking at as many different societies as we can. Granted that tribal groups are not fossils from the Stone Age, they nevertheless have more in common with how we believe our prehistoric ancestors lived (namely, in small groups, subsisting by hunting and gathering or horticulture) than we do...

Existing ethnographies have been composed with a huge variety of agendas in mind, including everything from converting the primitive heathens to Western values to learning from the wise natives how to reform corrupt Western culture… many groups are now gone, and therefore we must rely on whatever existing records we have, no matter how poor, if we wish to learn anything at all from them. But even investigations undertaken now, presumably with a heightened methodological sophistication, must be carried out by many people. No one person could do the fieldwork necessary to have a firsthand appreciation of a large number of peoples…

[C]ollecting data on some predetermined item like cross-cultural religious practices assumes that there is something like "religion," as the researcher defines it, among the people under observation. Looking for religion is a near guarantee that one will find it, even if it's not there. The opposite holds true as well: walking into another society with the expectation that the people there may think about everything from ontology on up in a way completely foreign to you is likely to produce an ethnography full of fascinating exotica accompanied by reflections on the irreducible uniqueness of human cultures and thought systems…

For quite some time, it was thought that a full and accurate picture of a group's gender roles could be attained as soon as there were enough female ethnographers in the field, dutifully quizzing female informants. Early male ethnographers rarely asked about women's roles, and when they observed women in other lands, what they saw was influenced by their biases and expectations…

But the introduction of female fieldworkers into the discipline did not, as expected, suddenly throw a great light upon women's lives. If anything, the opposite occurred. The more cultural anthropologists looked at gender, the less, it seems, they were able to see ... or at least to agree upon. It turned out to be surprisingly difficult to determine just what women's status was in any one group, not to mention across many cultures. [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).] …

Two ethnographers reporting on the same group can -- and sometimes have -- come back saying opposite things. Often it seems to come down to the attitude of the observer: does she want the glass to be half full, or half empty?...

Whether out of loyalty to their informants or fear of ethnocentrism, many feminist anthropologists have been loath to see and name sexism in other cultures in places where they would find it in their own. Or conversely, they emphasize women's status and autonomy in other cultures in forms they would not recognize as such on their own turf. Anthropologist Alice Schlegel assures us, for example, that corn-grinding by Hopi women is not "the onerous and time-consuming task it would appear to be" since "women sing corn-grinding songs as they work to lighten the task and express its life-giving contribution." Perhaps we should not automatically assume that this is an instance of sexism, but it should at least raise a red flag in our minds. American slaves sang songs too (much to the satisfaction of their masters, who interpreted this as a sign of contentment), but this cannot justify the conclusion that slavery was not really an oppressive institution. Even if we had reports from slaves themselves in which they swore that they considered themselves fortunate in their lot, we would have to regard those reports with suspicion. Similarly, we should regard with suspicion women's statements from ethnographic contexts that appearances of sexism notwithstanding, they find their lives to their liking…

Au courant goals in the anthropology of gender are to "favor specific histories, debunk essentializing categories" and turn attention to "the subtleties, complexities, contradictions, and ambiguities of gender relations in different contexts."

[T]his is not the level at which the myth of matriarchal prehistory operates. It is a very general story, based on generalizing premises. One could, of course, reject the story on that basis alone, and many anthropologists (feminist and otherwise) do. But it seems more fruitful to give feminist matriarchalists the benefit of the doubt, and ask if the ethnographic record, mixed and contradictory as it is, lends support to their claims.

[Archaeology and Gender]

Archaeologists look first and foremost at the actual remains of prehistoric cultures: those things that can be dug up out of the ground, held in one's hands, and seen with one's eyes. Material evidence like this could provide an impressive amount of information about prehistory if our ancestors planted their remains to send us a message about their cultures: a sort of time capsule. But what we actually find -- "the accidentally surviving durable remnants of material culture" -- is more of a scattershot affair and, unfortunately, most remains are not detectably gendered…

Though almost everyone seems game to find gender in the archaeological record, no one is quite sure how it should be done, or even if it can be done. Skeletons can be sexed as male or female (within a margin of error), and then examined in order to draw tentative conclusions about women's and men's diet, life expectancy, and patterns of work based on bone degeneration, tooth wear, and mineral content in the bones themselves. Grave goods, if they differ between female and male skeletons, may also offer clues to prehistoric gender, and some paintings and sculptures give clear evidence of sex. But beyond this, it is impossible (at least without historical or ethnohistorical support) to know which artifacts go with which sexes. Even the most basic questions -- who makes those weapons? who uses those grinding stones? -- cannot be answered definitively through the preliterate material record alone. And so archaeologists typically rely on ethnographic analogies to other cultures to help them interpret the gendered significance of their material finds. For example, spear points are generally attributed to men, since in most human societies we know of, men are responsible for hunting…

Gimbutas was a grand theorist. She was not interested in reconstructing one possible account of one particular archaeological site; rather she was intent on telling the historical truth about a huge swath of human prehistory.

Gimbutas's defenders have suggested that her work has been dismissed by archaeologists because she portrayed prehistory as goddess-worshipping and matricentric. And yet earlier archaeologists made extensive claims for prehistoric goddess worship -- and even for a female priesthood -- while retaining a high standing in their field. More likely, Gimbutas's status in archaeology was peripheral because she represented a way of approaching prehistory that her colleagues had repudiated: she was considered passe, embarrassingly so. Like someone's eccentric uncle Henry, Gimbutas was infrequently criticized, and more often stolidly ignored by her archaeological colleagues, who did not wish to disown her but, on the other hand, didn't want to be publicly associated with her. As archaeologist Bernard Wailes reports, "Most of us tend to say, oh my God, here goes Marija again."…

Some feminist matriarchalists have explicitly defended the investigation of prehistory as a political exercise. Eschewing "objectivity" as neither possible nor desirable, they wish to work their "life experiences, histories, values, judgments, and interests" into their research as legitimate interpretive tools … Hodder claims that "the ultimate aim" of archaeology "can only be self-knowledge. In projecting ourselves into the past, critically, we come to know ourselves better."…

But it is an entirely different thing to suggest that because the past can be known only imperfectly, through the agency of biased individuals, that therefore one account of the past is as good or bad as another… Feminist matriarchalists do not wish to claim that all accounts of prehistory are relative, that there is no basis for choosing among competing accounts apart from individual preference and political usefulness, because then they would have to admit that androcratic interpretations of prehistory that stress the inevitability and universality of patriarchy are as valid as their own…

What is required then is some way of adjudicating competing truth claims about prehistory, a way of building rigor into accounts of prehistory. In judging the adequacy of feminist matriarchalist accounts of prehistory I will be working from a few simple standards ... First, an adequate account of the past must offer data in its support. Second, it must seek to interpret all the data, and not merely that which is convenient to or supportive of the theory. Third, it must strive to have conclusions follow evidence, rather than the other way around. And finally, it must be possible to show that an account is wrong or implausible: in other words, it must be falsifiable. This last standard of adequacy for an account of human prehistory is the most important one, and to a large extent subsumes the others. A theory may be interesting and provocative, even true; but if there is no way to tell whether or not it is true -- that is, no way to disprove it -- it can only be a conversation piece. It is no more likely to be accurate than any of dozens of imaginative and even compelling stories told about prehistory, stories that draw their persuasive power not from what we see in the prehistoric record but from our own culturally limited notions of what we wish or believe prehistory to have been like. [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… 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.]...

[Other Societies, Early Societies]

There are many claims that feminist matriarchalists make for prehistoric societies that can be tested against the ethnographic and archaeological records… they can be collected into four broad categories: reproduction and kinship, goddess worship, women's economic roles, and interpersonal violence… Here, confining ourselves to ethnographies from contemporary and historical societies and nonrepresentational material evidence from prehistoric societies, we will judge the plausibility of such central feminist matriarchalist claims as men's ignorance of their role in conception, the correlation between goddess worship and women's social status, women's invention of agriculture, and the peacefulness of prehistoric societies…

[Reproduction and Kinship]

According to feminist matriarchalists, the miracle of childbirth -- especially miraculous when no male role in conception was recognized -- caused all women to be viewed with respect and honor…

The idea that prehistoric peoples might not have recognized paternity was first proposed in the nineteenth century
… W. E. Roth in 1903, who said the Tully River Blacks of North Central Queensland believed pregnancy resulted from a woman roasting black bream over a fire, catching a bullfrog, responding to a man's verbal instruction to become pregnant, or dreaming of having a child placed in her womb. Bronislaw Malinowski's reports from the Trobriand Islands engendered even more excitement back home in Europe. As Malinowski stated categorically in 1927, "The views about the process of procreation entertained by these natives ... affirm, without doubt or limitation for the native mind, that the child is of the same substance as its mother, and that between the father and the child there is no bond of union whatever."

Most contemporary anthropologists agree that these "proofs" of the ignorance of paternity were actually errors in ethnography. In the Trobriands, even Malinowski's own findings left room for suspicion: he reported that Trobrianders believed sexual intercourse was necessary for pregnancy (a woman's womb had to be "opened" so that a spirit child could enter); that children were thought to resemble their fathers as a result of the father's continued sexual intercourse with the mother; that the children of unmarried women were deemed illegitimate; and that pigs were thought to be conceived through their sexual intercourse with one another. Later ethnographers of the Trobriand Islanders came back with reports that differed from Malinowski's. For example, H. A. Powell was told that conception was a result of semen "coagulating" menstrual blood, clearly indicating the necessity of sexual intercourse. When Powell told his informants that this was different from what Malinowski had been told, they maintained that Trobriand beliefs had not changed, but rather that Malinowski had been listening to "men's talk," reserved for formal situations, whereas "women's and children's talk" -- intended to convey helpful information to youngsters -- had always maintained a connection between sexual intercourse and pregnancy. [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.]

Indeed, what seems to be more often in doubt across the ethnographic record -- even in the interesting cases of Australia and the Trobriands -- is how or whether mothers are related to their own children… women were not thought to reproduce parthenogenetically, magically creating children out of their own substance (the scenario most often envisioned by feminist matriarchalists for prehistoric peoples). Instead it was thought that women were impregnated by "spirit children" and that thereafter the mother "was merely the incubator of a spirit-child."

This should be a familiar theory to Westerners, since it was articulated by no less a light than Aristotle. Aristotle claimed that the form and essence of a child are given by the father and remain uncontaminated by the woman, who merely supplies the material substance for the child and contains it during pregnancy. We tend to think of the equal contribution of mother and father to their children's biological makeup as the truth of the ages, but it is a very recent discovery…Anthropologist Carol Delaney has shown that in present-day Turkey, Aristotelian beliefs about reproduction continue to flourish. As one villager explained, "If you plant wheat, you get wheat. If you plant barley, you get barley. It is the seed which determines the kind of plant which will grow, while the field nourishes the plant but does not determine the kind. The man gives the seed, and the woman is like the field." Or as one Albanian informant explained the facts of reproduction to ethnographer Rene Gremaux, "The woman is a sack for carrying."…


[A] notable commonality among all this variety is the insistence that there is a necessary relationship between sexual intercourse and conception… it is simply not believed that women bear children without any male participation whatsoever. It is also doubtful on commonsense grounds that human beings would be wholly ignorant of paternity. As Edmund Leach points out, "human beings, wherever we meet them, display an almost obsessional interest in matters of sex and kinship," and "presumably this has always been the case." Even evidence from the material record suggests that prehistoric peoples were aware of the relationship between sexual intercourse and conception. Paleolithic cave paintings depict animals mating, pregnant, and giving birth in such a way that these events seem connected. And a plaque from Catalhoyuk carved in gray schist shows "two figures in an embrace on the left and a mother and child on the right"…

It seems quite likely then that prehistoric peoples were aware of the male role in reproduction. Some feminist matriarchalists could agree to this quite readily, saying that prehistoric peoples were aware of biological paternity but simply chose not to grant it much significance. This is a hypothesis that cannot be disproven, but there is no ethnographic evidence for it whatsoever. Wherever we have encountered human groups, we have found individual men forming paternal relationships with the children of their wives or other female partners. Additional relationships between particular men and children definitely occur, but that between fathers and their children seems primary. [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.] …

If it is possible for us and for many generations of our ancestors to systematically disadvantage women in spite of (or perhaps because of) their unique and essential mothering capabilities, why should it not have been equally possible for our prehistoric ancestors to do the same? In fact, ethnographic evidence suggests that childbirth does not regularly work to women's advantage. Anthropologist Sherry Ortner has noted that women tend to lose rather than gain status when placed in reproductive roles, and to be permitted greater liberties and occupy more powerful public positions when virginal or menopausal… [As Timothy Taylor notes, "child-rearing is hardly ever recognized as a job in market economic terms".] …

Anyway, given what we know of human nature, it would seem doubtful that childbirth would cause men to revere or even respect women in any pure or uncomplicated manner. When one group of people has a monopoly on a much-valued resource, the reaction of the have-not group is not typically one of worshipful awe. More often, the reaction is one of jealousy and resentment, and a wish to gain their own access to the coveted resource…


There is in fact some ethnographic evidence of men trying to gain some share of women's childbearing and other reproductive functions through ritual efforts, a practice that might be understood as womb envy… [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.] …

Significantly, however, none of these ethnographic examples of male imitation of female reproductive powers is accompanied by any rise in women's status. Hiatt reports that the Australian aboriginal men who imitate childbirth regard themselves as superior to women and children; Meigs says that Hua women have no political voice and cannot own land or control the products of their own labor… And going on these particular ethnographic examples, it would seem that if prehistoric men did envy women's reproductive abilities, it would have worked to women's detriment.

One also has to ask how much prehistoric peoples valued reproduction. If it were extremely difficult to propagate, if tribes were in constant danger of dying out, it might be the case that fertility and childbirth would be highly valued. But it is doubtful that children were such a scarce commodity in prehistoric times. Prior to the Neolithic revolution, we have every reason to believe that prehistoric peoples, like contemporary hunting and gathering peoples, were more interested in restricting their fertility than enhancing it. Contraception, abortion, and infanticide are all practiced in hunting and gathering groups, and in horticultural societies as well, with infanticide rates ranging from 15 to 50 percent. Skeletal evidence suggests that childbirth was dangerous for mothers and children alike. Infant mortality rates were high at Catalhoyuk, for example, and women there and elsewhere died very young by our standards (on average in their late twenties, earlier than men) in part because of high maternal mortality. [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… 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.] It seems unlikely under these conditions that pregnancy and childbirth were invariably regarded as miraculous and welcomed as the gift of a munificent goddess…

The matricentrism of prehistoric societies is said by feminist matriarchalists to be apparent in their "sensitive and careful burial of the dead, irrespective of sex, with a relatively uniform grave wealth." This evidence, if accurate, does not support assertions of matriarchy or even of sex egalitarianism…
But what insight would this future archaeologist get about, say, gender relations in the contemporary United States? I am told by several cemetery directors that it is rare to see any distinctions between male and female burials apart from the type of clothing placed on the corpses… On the basis of contemporary U.S. cemeteries, we might conclude that twenty-first-century Americans lived in a sexually egalitarian society where there were only minor distinctions of wealth.

Some feminist matriarchalists have ventured to find evidence of matrilineal and matrilocal social structure in the overall layout of prehistoric graveyards. This has been especially true of Catalhoyuk… According to James Mellaart, the site's first excavator, men were buried under a small platform whose location was variable, while women were buried under a large platform that was always in a fixed spot in the room. Children were sometimes buried with women under the large platform or under additional platforms, but never with men.

Feminist matriarchalists have suggested that the woman under the large platform was the head of the household, while the man under the small platform was her brother or son. But there are other equally valid ways of interpreting the burial pattern at Catalhoyuk. If these were sleeping platforms, perhaps women's platforms were larger because women were expected to share their beds with more people (say, their children). Or maybe the dead were not placed under the spot where they customarily slept. Perhaps the large, fixed platforms belonged to the men, and they buried their wives and children under them to feel close to their deceased family members, or even to underscore the fact that in death -- as in life -- these people were considered their property. In actuality, very few skeletons recovered from Catalhoyuk were found complete, and it is possible that individual skeletons were not buried in a single location, but split up and "shared out among various buildings or platforms within a building"…

Further complicating the matter is the fact that the evidence from Catalhoyuk is apparently not as Mellaart presented it. Though adult men and women do seem to be buried in separate areas, it is now clear that children were sometimes buried with men and that women were buried in other locations besides under the large platform Mellaart identified as theirs. The current excavators of Catalhoyuk are speculating that burials in any one room were those of extended family members, and that buildings were abandoned upon the death of the senior member of that family. Based on the one room that has been fully excavated as part of the new work at Catalhoyuk, principal investigator Ian Hodder concludes that this senior member was probably a man.

Another matter of interest pertaining to the graves at Catalhoyuk is the disproportionately high percentage of female skeletons. Some feminist matriarchalists have explained this by saying that men, who were less important to the life of the community, did not always merit burial within the inner sanctum of the home. Archaeologist Naomi Hamilton has made the veiled matriarchalist suggestion that there were fewer men among the skeletons because women were killing male babies to oppose "an ideology of women as mothers and carers [sic] of males" and to create "their own majority" during a time when women's "social power was being eroded." This is a highly implausible scenario without any known ethnographic parallel, and one which presupposes that something detrimental was happening to women's status at Catalhoyuk -- something that hadn't already happened under earlier conditions. A rather obvious explanation for the disproportionate number of female skeletons is that men were not dying at home, but elsewhere, and that no one thought to (or was available to) bring their bodies back to the village. We know that the people of Catalhoyuk engaged in long-distance trade, and if men dominated this activity -- as men have tended to do in the ethnographic contexts of which we are aware -- they had plenty of opportunities to die away from their small sleeping platforms. The evidence of grave patterning does not, by itself, allow us to determine what gender relations the people of Catalhoyuk had in mind when they buried their dead as they did.


Matriliny and matrilocality certainly could have occurred prehistorically, if not at Catalhoyuk, then elsewhere. These kinship and residence patterns are attested ethnographically (though considerably less often than patriliny and patrilocality). However, they are associated with only "modest benefits for women," if any at all. [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.] Indeed, in most societies we know of, matricentric and patricentric customs are mixed together. For example, the matrilineal Nairs "worship only male ancestors"; the patrilineal Mundurucu settle matrilocally, while the matrilineal Trobrianders settle patrilocally; in Wogeo, New Guinea, potential marriage partners are selected matrilineally, but succession of political office and inheritance of property are patrilineal. We also have reports of adjoining groups who practice different means of reckoning kinship and yet are virtually identical in all other relevant respects (such as religion, means of subsistence, form of habitation, and -- significantly -- relative gender status). Impressively, kinship can even be matrilineal in groups that insist that women are only passive carriers of men's seed, and patrilineal in groups that swear that men have no procreative role…

Some feminist matriarchalists like to imagine that marriage did not exist prehistorically, but some form of marriage is so consistently found cross-culturally that it is extremely likely that prehistoric peoples practiced it. And if the ethnographic record is any guide, marriage was probably not especially beneficial for women. One of the few things we can say with confidence about marriage cross-culturally is that it is overwhelmingly a heterosexual institution… It is within the institution of marriage, then, that women are most clearly defined as women, in opposition to men…

What is key to the feminist matriarchalist vision of prehistoric marriage is not its heterosexuality or lack thereof, but that marriage (if the institution existed) did not restrain women's autonomy, sexually or otherwise. However, one of the things marriage seems to do most efficiently -- cross-culturally speaking -- is to restrict women's choice in sexual partners (and men's too, though generally to a lesser extent). Within marriage, the demand for female sexual fidelity is quite common, as is the belief that a wife is the sexual property of her husband, who can use or transfer his rights in her as he sees fit… If one agrees that the ethnographic record provides clues to prehistoric life, we have to assume that marriage in prehistoric societies did not routinely enhance women's sexual freedom…

[b][Goddess Worship as Evidence of Matriarchy]


[F]eminist matriarchalists feel that the prevalence of goddess worship in prehistory confirms the gynocentric nature of these societies. As Judy Mann puts it, "if the goddess is female, then females are goddesses." [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.] …[/b]

[F]eminist matriarchalists almost always posit a form of goddess monotheism for prehistory…Goddess monotheism has not been documented any place on the globe. Historical religions, from classical antiquity to the present day, are home to many different goddesses if they include female deities at all… [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" … 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.] …

Another troubling fact about goddesses as we know them ethnographically and historically is that they do not always resemble the image that feminist matriarchalists stipulate for prehistoric cultures: the loving mother, the giver and taker of life, the embodiment of the natural world. Some goddesses are incredibly violent -- and not in a way that suggests the benevolent function of watching over the natural cycles of death and rebirth…

[G]oddesses are often known to support patriarchal social customs. Goddesses may have nothing whatsoever to do with women's religious needs, representing instead men's fantasies of "the Eternal Mother, the devoted mate, the loving mistress," or even the fearful nature of women's power (should it be allowed to wriggle out from under strict male control). [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).] Goddesses may be strongly, if ambivalently, distinguished from human women, and the differences between the two repeatedly emphasized: that is, goddesses "accentuate what womanhood is not"… devotees also report that there is "an unbridgeable chasm between goddesses and human women, since female bodies are irremediably permeated by evil and pollution." As one male pilgrim told Humes, "the difference between the Goddess and women is like the difference between the stone you worship and the rock on which you defecate." Goddess worship has been reported for societies rife with misogyny, and at times goddesses even seem to provide justification for beliefs and practices that are antiwoman…

[W]hat [matriarchalists] are proposing for prehistory is… goddess worship that is culturewide, exclusive, and consistently supportive of women's power and independence. They thereby put themselves in the very difficult position of arguing for a type of goddess worship that has never been seen, either historically or ethnographically…

Feminist matriarchalists are basically going on instinct in believing goddesses to be positively related to the status of women -- and instinct, in this case, does not prove to be a very good guide… They imaginatively place themselves in cultures that worship goddesses and cannot believe that "with such a powerful role-model," girls and women would not "naturally consider it their right and duty to fully participate in society and to take the lead in government and religion."…

[T]hough Jennifer and Roger Woolger admit that for women in Athens "there was little choice between being a homebound matron, a hetaera or high-class prostitute, or a slave," they nevertheless argue that "the mere existence of the various cults to goddesses as individual as Aphrodite, Artemis, Demeter, and Athena provided many rich possibilities for women's psychic and spiritual life… Gerda Lerner argues that "no matter how degraded and commodified the reproductive and sexual power of women was in real life, her essential equality could not be banished from thought and feeling as long as the goddesses lived and were believed to rule human life." This is a peculiar way of assessing women's status… "Free" women in classical Greece were lifelong legal minors who were mostly forbidden to leave their homes and who were not even their husbands' preferred sexual partners. What exactly is the point of celebrating this ancient culture's goddess worship and contrasting it to our own culture's lack of the feminine divine? [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).] …

Feminist matriarchalists sometimes retreat to the argument that such societies were "less male-centered than those which worshipped ... an omnipotent male deity, exclusively," even if they were not absolutely female-centered. [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).] But some scholars of religion argue precisely the opposite of this thesis. Indeed, this is what a Marxist analysis of religion would predict: goddess worship would compensate women for what they lack in real economic and social power and would serve to keep women from rebelling against their actual low status. In examining the veneration of the Virgin of Guadalupe in Mexico, Ena Campbell notes that although Guadalupe "has eclipsed all other male and female religious figures in Mexico," she is worshipped more by men than women and is used in recompense for women's "actual position in the social scheme." Comparing data from Roman Catholicism, Hinduism, and Buddhism, Campbell concludes that "mother goddess worship seems to stand in inverse relationship with high secular female status." Thus, far from being a sign of special respect accorded to women, goddess worship would, in the absence of other evidence, be expected to correlate with a poor state of affairs for women…

In The Status of Women in Preindustrial Societies, anthropologist Martin King Whyte attempted to uncover the determinants of women's status. Of the items he investigates having to do with religion, only one of them -- equally elaborate funerals for women and men, as opposed to women having none or less elaborate ones than men -- is shown to correlate with women's status at all, and that only weakly… It seems that people can worship gods or goddesses, have priests or priestesses, remember ancestresses or ancestors, without it having any particular effect on how ordinary women are treated. There is no warrant for the feminist matriarchalist assumption that prehistoric goddess worship, insofar as it existed, conferred greater respect upon women or insulated them from misogyny or subordination to men…

[Work and the Status of Women]

[O]nce agriculture was invented -- by women -- their added labor is said to have enhanced women's status further, giving them control over the group's produce and property…

Virtually all societies of which we are aware do stipulate different work for individuals based on their sex or gender, usually along the lines that feminist matriarchalists note: in foraging societies, men hunt and women gather; in horticultural societies, men continue to hunt or fish, but also clear and prepare land for farming, while women tend fields, carry wood and water, and care for children; in more intensive agricultural economies, the same pattern continues, with men doing proportionately more farm work and less hunting and fishing… Grave goods provide some support for the notion that these same divisions existed prehistorically. Generalizing for the Middle Neolithic in Europe (Gimbutas's "Old Europe"), Sarunas Milisauskas describes the contents of men's graves as "flint tools, weapons, animal bones, and copper tools" while women's included mostly pottery and jewelry. [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.] …

[T]hese patterns recur frequently, and anthropologists typically explain them in terms of what they say is a nearly universal desire to have women's work be compatible with caring for small children: women should perform only "tasks that are not dangerous, do not require distant travel, and are interruptible."...
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Re: The Myth of Matriarchal Prehistory: Why an Invented Past

Postby admin » Tue Jul 07, 2020 8:37 am

Part 3 of 4 (HIGHLIGHTS)

[T]he ethnographic record shows that the vital labor women provide in foraging and horticultural economies does not usually give them social power comparable to men's…

[D]iscrimination can be relatively minor, as it is among the Mbuti and San of Africa, where men are slightly more likely to participate in collective decision-making, but there are also many glaring examples of male authority, dominance, and disproportionate prestige in foraging societies. Even in societies that lack class systems or political leadership, one can find fathers giving away their daughters, husbands beating their wives or having legitimate control over them sexually, men raping women without penalty, and men claiming a monopoly on the most significant forms of ritual power. [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. 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… Second, it is quite clear that male domination and/or violence against women predated Western contact in some cultures… 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"… 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.] …

[W]hatever women's work is, however valuable -- even crucial -- it may be to the local economy, there is simply no correlation between the type, value, or quantity of women's work and women's social status…

Who provided the labor that made the economic engine of the antebellum South run? Enslaved Africans. Did social power, authority, and respect accrue to them as a result? Hardly… those who hold power make others work for them. Economically speaking, the quickest index to social power would seem to be who is working least, not who is working most. The fact that women work harder in horticultural societies should, if anything, arouse our suspicion that these cultures are dominated by men…

[M]en's work -- whatever it is -- tends to be more valued than that of women in foraging and horticultural societies… Men also tend to win greater prestige even when they engage in work identical to women's. For example, among the Trobriand Islanders, both men and women cultivate yams, but only men's yams are used as an object of exchange. In other words, while the content of men's work can vary, it seems to carry with it a characteristically male level of prestige… the vision feminist matriarchalists paint of hard-working women standing as the economic pillars of their communities, respected as tribal mothers by all, is not very plausible in light of what we know of contemporary foraging and horticultural societies…


Women, especially in horticultural societies, often own land. In these societies, however, this is rarely a significant category of wealth. Land is quickly exhausted, and new land must be cleared. Thus the sense in which we tend to think of land -- as valuable, transferrable property -- has little to do with how most horticulturalists think of it: as a temporarily useful commodity, "owned" -- for whatever it's worth, which isn't much -- by those who cultivate it…

Among the Mundurucu of the Amazonian jungle, the principal horticultural product, farinha, is entirely under women's control; moreover, men give all the game they kill to women, who then decide to whom it will be distributed. And yet this is a group with gender relations that no feminist in her right mind could either envy or endure: women are expected to keep their eyes lowered and their mouths covered when in the company of men; they cannot venture outside the village alone without consenting -- in effect -- to being raped; decisions affecting the community are made in the men's house with no women present; men hold the monopoly on religious ritual, and any invasion of their domain is punished by gang rape (as are other infractions); and the dominant ideology is that women must be subordinate. [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).]

In feminist matriarchal myth it is said that women enhanced their already high status in prehistoric times even further by inventing agriculture in the first place, extending their knowledge of plants to the deliberate cultivation of them. [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.] There is no way to prove that women invented agriculture, and as speculative arguments go, this one is relatively weak. Men in foraging societies gather too -- in order to feed themselves when on long hunting expeditions, if not on a more regular basis -- so it seems likely that men had as much opportunity to familiarize themselves with plant life cycles as women did… More likely, the sexes worked together to introduce and perfect this technology. Indeed, agriculture has never been the preserve of women to the extent that hunting has been the preserve of men…

In terms of raw measures of skeletal health, the change to agriculture was sometimes beneficial for women and sometimes not…

With the increased population density made possible by intensive agriculture came greater levels of social stratification. Unlike "egalitarian" societies, divided on lines of age and sex, these "complex" societies could be divided along class lines too: aristocrats and slaves, royalty and commoners, natives and foreigners, and so on… Women of the upper classes may have access to economic and political power that would have been unimaginable to men in simpler societies; on the other hand, women of the lower classes may be subordinated more completely than they ever could have been in "egalitarian" societies…

[T}here is no reliable connection between forms of subsistence and women's status. If there is one broad pattern regarding women's status, it is that it is lower than men's, whatever the prevailing economy or women's specific place in it. Within this generalization, however, there is a staggering amount of variation, from vague nuances of differential personal autonomy or authority to unmistakable sexual slavery. If ethnographic reports are any indication, then women's status prehistorically was variable, not uniform; in some places it was probably very good, while in other places it was probably horrific.

[War and Peace]

Feminist matriarchalists also claim that prehistoric human societies were peaceful, a claim that is doubtful on both ethnographic and archaeological grounds. Warfare is common in ethnographic contexts at all levels of technological sophistication. And violent death -- probably not the result of accident -- is archaeologically attested for many prehistoric populations dating to the purported matriarchal era… Brian Hayden reports on mass graves from the European Neolithic containing as many as seven hundred skeletons, some with arrowheads embedded in their bones. Some archaeologists have even theorized that certain skeletal features from Minoan Crete indicate human sacrifice…

Gimbutas repeatedly insists that "no weapons except implements for hunting are found among [the] grave goods" in Old European burials; at times she goes further to say that "there were no weapons produced at all" by Old Europeans, or at least no "lethal weapons."… maces are present among Neolithic grave goods from Catalhoyuk to the Balkans, which, according to archaeologist David Anthony, are specialized "anti-personnel" weapons, of little use in hunting or splitting wood, but very effective at bashing in the skulls of other human beings… metallurgic technologies did not exist in most of the times and places feminist matriarchalists deem matriarchal. This raises the possibility that Old Europeans and other putatively matriarchal peoples had forms of weaponry and other technologies of warfare that have not survived in the material record. The Nantucket Whaling Museum in Massachusetts has an exhibition of weapons of war from the South Pacific, clearly identified as such by the people who brought them back to the United States. They are mostly enormous wooden clubs which would rot away in the earth long before we could dig them up. Some are inlaid with rows of sharks' teeth to better inflict injury. Such a weapon could well end up hundreds of years later as nothing more than a handful of sharks' teeth, which the unwitting archaeologist might interpret as jewelry or as a means of exchange…

Feminist matriarchalists often claim that Neolithic villages in Europe had no defensive fortifications. For example, Gimbutas argues that the "occasional V-shaped ditches and retaining walls" surrounding Old European villages were "structurally necessary." But other archaeologists, looking at the same or additional evidence, are quite certain that many of these settlements were designed to fend off attack from outside. David Anthony reports the use of deep ditches in Neolithic Europe, "backed by multiple lines of palisade walls with elaborate gate-like constructions," and dismisses the argument that they were "peaceful flood-control devices." Indeed, some of these ditches are filled with mass graves…

Defensive fortifications would not have been necessary for groups that conducted their warfare on other people's territory… The Mayas, whose cities were completely unfortified, were long thought to be "an unusually gentle, peaceful people living in a relatively benign theocracy." But as the Mayan writing system began to be deciphered and as new excavations were undertaken, a different picture emerged. Archaeologists found depictions of severed heads and bound captives and unearthed dismembered skeletons of sacrificial victims under public buildings. As archaeologist Arthur Demarest concludes on the basis of this new evidence, "the Maya were one of the most violent state-level societies in the New World."…

[Prehistoric Art and Architecture]

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…

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." 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)

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]

[F]eminist 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 -- the prime suspects for "goddesses" in prehistoric art -- but also everything from wavy lines to crosses as "a kind of universal female symbolism." [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.]

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. This is a very long time and a very large area for a single religion to dominate… the cultures from which feminist matriarchalists draw their symbolic examples of goddess religion do not overlap either chronologically or geographically… 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. [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.]

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. 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" is alarmingly long:

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; 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"…

Rachel Pollack notes that there are goddess images "that are almost universal, such as the cross or the spiral," 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…

[Paleolithic Cave Art]

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…."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")…

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" …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…

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…

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… [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.] 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."… 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." How do we know that the caves of Paleolithic Europe were not more like Barbara Kingsolver's front steps?...


Sarah Milledge Nelson says that many of them look more like molar teeth than anything else…

[Decoding Anthropomorphic Art]

[i]t 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" ... 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 ... 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…

Even more questionable than the assignment of humanity to abstract line drawings or sculptures is the classification of virtually all anthropomorphic images as female…


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."… 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." 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…

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"…

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"…

[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…

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….Gimbutas… seems to view every cup as a ritual vessel for pouring libations to the goddess…

[F]rom 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."…

[Paleolithic Venus Figurines]

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…

The most conspicuous problem with regarding the Paleolithic Venuses as symbols of fertility is that they rarely show signs of pregnancy, childbirth, or lactation …Gimbutas refers routinely to the goddess's "regenerative buttocks," as though buttocks were somehow actively involved in pregnancy and childbirth.

The fatness of the Paleolithic Venuses has been long commented upon… 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."…

Just what the Paleolithic Venuses signified to those who created them is an irresolvable question…

[Neolithic and Cross-Cultural 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…

[A]mong 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…

[H]ow 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. 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 … 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…

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…

[T]he 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."…

[Catalhoyuk]

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… 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…

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…

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…

Bucrania, or bulls' heads, are frequently found in the plaster reliefs at Catalhoyuk, usually consisting of cattle horns incorporated into plaster heads… 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." 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…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."… Feminist matriarchalists now routinely argue that bucrania are meant to emphasize not "the bull itself but the female reproductive system it invokes."… 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.

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…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…


[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]

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… The Maltese megalithic "goddesses" betray exceptionally little information about their sex. They could easily be female, or they could be male…

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." 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."…

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 … But other temples require a tremendous excess of interpretation to be regarded as anything remotely like a human body… 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," 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…


[Minoan Crete]

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." The resemblance is something less than striking: breasts typically come in pairs and horned mountains sound more phallic than vaginal, the caves notwithstanding…

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 play a conspicuous role, and fifth century Athens was definitely not a matriarchal society."…

[N]o female figurines have been recovered from "a definitely ritual context" or from graves; most have been found, as earlier, in garbage heaps…

[M]ales 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" … In other pictures, males "hunt wild beasts" or engage in combat, unlike comparable females, who are typically shown "feeding or tending animals."…

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 … 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…


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… [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.]

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…

[W]e 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 » Tue Jul 07, 2020 8:38 am

Part 4 of 4 (HIGHLIGHTS)

[Was There a Patriarchal Revolution?]

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-god-worshipping cultures on formerly peaceful goddess-worshippers… 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]

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…

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. 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 reach of the patriarchal revolution can be charted very simply, they suggest, by noting when and where Indo-European languages appear…

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 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.

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." 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. Most linguists believe proto-Indo-Europeans owned slaves and practiced warfare, though terms for slavery are unknown and terms for weapons are extremely limited… 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."…

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. 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…

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…

Since there are terms for things like "milk" and "wool" in the protolexicon… 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. 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…


[The Evidence from Archaeology]

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. And the existing evidence for the Indo-European case can be explained in other ways…

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. 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…

[The Evidence from Genetics]

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… 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."…

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... 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…


[Reading Back From the Literate Past]

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…

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. 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.

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."

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." …


[Finding Matriarchy in Ancient Myth]

[M]yths 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…

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…


[T}he 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."

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."…

[I]n Aeschylus's version, the drama is just 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."…

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…


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. [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.] 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…

The adjective "golden" was first applied to the past by Hesiod, who wrote of a golden race of men who "lived like gods, carefree in their hearts, shielded from pain and misery." 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. Interpreting golden age myths quite literally, feminist matriarchalists find in them "folk memories of a more peaceful partnership-oriented epoch."


[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."

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…
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…

[I]f 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….

[M]yths may not be as old or static as we typically take them to be. In The Myth of 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…

[W]ithout 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…

In feminist matriarchalist interpretation, Tiamat and Marduk are metaphors for the shift from female power to male power…

There is an enormous project of sorting and judging going on here…

Feminist matriarchalists encourage one another to adopt this methodology of taking their conclusions as their premises… 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]

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."

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…

The primary competing explanation for these cross-cultural myths of women's former dominance is that they are a "social charter" for male dominance…

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."…

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."


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."

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. 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." 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.

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," 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. [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.] …

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…

[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….

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… 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…


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' arguments explaining how, why, or even when patriarchy became a worldwide phenomenon simply do not square with the available evidence…

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…

[T]hough 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… nostalgia is rarely this functional; or rather, its function is usually escapist…

[O]rigins thinking usually rests on a rather curious (though also quite common) notion of "the natural."… 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… 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…

[T]o 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… the only thing feminist matriarchalists can count on is the reappearance of the assumptions with which they began…

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." [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.]

I am a partisan of the second option… 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…

The fact that "anatomy once was destiny," then, does not mean that it need be so any longer…


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…at base, these seem to be cross-cultural universals. So what do we do in the face of these facts of human nature?... 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…

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…

[W]e 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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