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93 of 97 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars beautiful collection of ancient European images and symbols.
"The Language of the Goddess" is a must-have for anyone interested in symbolism and imagery, as it presents some of the oldest decorative markings ever scratched into stone, bone, and wood. Most of the images, reproduced in line drawings and black-and-white photos, are taken from Neolithic European village sites dating back as far as 7,000 B.C. Thus they are, for the...
Published on September 26, 2000 by Ruth Henriquez Lyon

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17 of 25 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good but flawed
Professor Gimbutas has provided an excellent, richly detailed and scrupulously referenced overview of prehistoric art. I found it hard to finish however due to her obvious biases. She might have benefited greatly had someone pointed out to her early in her career or perhaps even still in graduate school that Dr. Freud might as easily have quipped that sometimes a triangle...
Published on February 15, 2008 by Grover Partee


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93 of 97 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars beautiful collection of ancient European images and symbols., September 26, 2000
By 
Ruth Henriquez Lyon (Duluth, Minnesota USA) - See all my reviews
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"The Language of the Goddess" is a must-have for anyone interested in symbolism and imagery, as it presents some of the oldest decorative markings ever scratched into stone, bone, and wood. Most of the images, reproduced in line drawings and black-and-white photos, are taken from Neolithic European village sites dating back as far as 7,000 B.C. Thus they are, for the most part, a product of agricultural cultures. However, there is a striking similarity between some of these marks and those found on relics from Paleolithic hunter-gatherer sites, examples of which appear in this book.

The link between the images from Neolithic and Paleolithic sites arises at least in part from those cultures' shared worship of the Goddess. In the text accompanying the images, Gimbutas tries to reconstruct the world-view of the European Goddess-centered people. She works by inference, looking at various found objects and their markings--not just in their historical context but also in relation to each other.

For instance, in her chapter entitled "Net Motif," she writes, "Signs associated with the framed net -- parallel lines, zig-zags, tri-lines, M's, and chevrons -- place it within the aquatic symbol family. . .the framed net also appears with symbols of becoming: egg, vulva, uterus, fish bladder forms, and plant leaves. This implies that the net is linked with aqua-cosmogony, the life source, and the birth of human, animal, and plant life. . .in other words, it must have been a symbol of the "water of life" well known to us from myths. The net design. . .probably emphasizes the life-giving power of the Goddess."

It is interesting that we still speak of "the web of life," and the "interconnectedness of all beings." The web is an ancient image, and just one of many in the book that readers can recognize as still resonating for us now. Some other images which Gimbutas presents are Meander and Water Birds, Streams, Tri-Line and Power of Three, and Deer and Bear as Primeval Mothers.

This book is wonderful for textile artists, potters, painters, or poets - indeed for anyone interested in drawing inspiration from the furthest reaches of human history. These are powerful symbols for study, which come alive when given careful attention.
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64 of 74 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ignorance is bliss only when kept to oneself, April 6, 2001
By 
This review is from: The Language of the Goddess (Paperback)
Marija Gimbutas and Joseph Campbell are internationally recognized authorities on myth, symbol, and - in her case -archeology. It concerns me that an anonymous reviewer chooses to bash this book without indicating some authority for doing so. I suspect the lack of this authority may account for the anonymity.
Regardless of one's political stance or one's bias regarding gender, this is a high-quality, highly educational book.
It is not easy to read, nor are easy things worth much.
It may offend some persons whose perspectives it challenges - so does, has, and will the Bible, which most of the folks who object to this book are fond of.
Gimbutas and Campbell both color outside the lines of what I tend to identify as the Matrix. It is my deepest desire that they continue.
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26 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Inspirational, March 30, 2004
By 
Nicole M. Masika (Minneapolis, MN United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Language of the Goddess (Paperback)
It's been a few years since I read this, but I remember that it sparked a small burst of artistic activity for me. We can argue whether everything in it is factually true, as one reviewer said, we may never really _know_, but Gimbutas' interpretation certainly deserves consideration. It offers a counter-balance to the traditional patriarchal view of prehistory which is just as likely to be biased and wrong. I found Gimbutas' theories on the origin of writing very believable.
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52 of 60 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gimbutas is great, October 22, 2001
By 
Kindle Customer (Miami, FL United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Language of the Goddess (Paperback)
This is a truly wonderful book by a now deceased author. Marija Gimbutas was a fine scholar (chair of European Archeology at UCLA), and if she were alive today, would gladly take part in the storm of response that her ideas on prehistoric religion have inspired. All such scholarly theories require work and refinement, and the ideas presented in this book are no exception. There is, however, no other single text on the subject of early human religion that I think is more important. Read it, love it, and give it to all your friends.
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30 of 34 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars great reference material, July 10, 1998
By 
Although difficult to get through some sections, I found the pictures and graphics wonderful and the undeniable female influence on our earliest history came through without any sexist or biased undertones. Men as well as women would benefit from reading this book, if not from cover to cover at least the high points and the last two chapters. And any mother of a young woman should consider this book for a special gift to her.
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54 of 69 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Frost and thunder upon humanity's fruiting tree-flowers, October 17, 2001
By 
MARKWOOD HULL (Issaquah, WA United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Language of the Goddess (Paperback)
Gimbutas has unsheathed from history's husk, the weed-seed of modern thorns. She lays bare the dark battle obsessed mind-set that bruised and nearly rooted out 'the adoration of life principle' that drove the path of Europe's ancestors, and eventually entangled it with vengeance. The briars were invasive Indo-European peoples, who razed the united civilization of prehistoric Europe to near oblivion. They were a war-hungry, unrefined, pirating people from the Russian steppes. These people stole metallury technologies from Europe and twisted them from plough-share to sword, literally. Gimbutas is not the first, but the most studious, in piecing together the signature significances within uncovered archeological artifacts that assert such evidence. Many earlier archeologists had already captured the story within old stone, and explained it as Gimbutas does, prior to her revelations-'Man in Prehistory', Prof. Chard, Univ. of Wisc. 1969, and a score of others similarly acclaimed. New dendrochronology and improved carbon-dating techniques using centuries old rare pines have now proven her time-lines; disproving the sequential-inventions concept of her opponents. What truly makes this book incredible, although,is not the historical revision(others pay more to this); it is the incredible vision she gleans of their world-view through symbol-relations she has belaboured over. this book is tribute to Europe's 3500-year fruition of peaceful prosperity, derived from seed of another world-view ( and early humanity's earliest religion concept, the 70,000 years of a God who gives Birth and nurtures!
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22 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gimbutas sheds light on symbols and iconographic data, April 8, 1999
By A Customer
Gimbutas gives a scholarly albeit at times contoversial explication of symbols and iconographic images of all times from the Stone Age to the Iron Age, drawing on her archeological background, her experience of the in her childhood in a very conservative ure--pre-war Lithuania--and on her theories developed through a lifetime of interdisciplinary study. At times certain areas are not covered as deeply as others, yet all her comments are scholarly and well-thought-out.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Amazing Book, October 25, 2011
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I'm glad I got the hardback version. The images are just beautiful, but actually the most impressive element is the organization and presentation. There is a lot of material here. Marija organizes it into categories that are easy to wrap one's mind around, even just leafing through it (all I've been able to do right now). For example, it is exciting to learn that the snake coil was possibly used for time reckoning in the 4th millenia B.C. Ireland, when I know that on the walls of the Fajada Butte in Chaco Canyon, USA, there is a snake coil that is most definitely used for time reckoning by the ancient people who lived there. At Chaco, you can watch the slivers of light follow the wandering cycles of the Moom, precisely, as well as the more direct yearly cycle of the Sun. (see [...] ). As another example, Marija shows us a snake design on the side of a vase that coils in but then turns around and uncoils back out. It looks like it symbolizes regeneration. This pattern is also an ancient folk dance from Europe where you hold belts in a line, coil in and then uncoil out so as to be looking at the people on the end still coiling in. We still do that dance today. Interestingly, it always had a feel akin to regeneration or rebirth as you come out of the coil; that without having any idea of this kind of symbology. Discovery is always fun, and I expect I will be enjoying that for years from this book. Thank you, Marija.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing Academic Work, September 21, 2013
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This review is from: The Language of the Goddess (Paperback)
Incredible research and documentation of Goddess worship and matriarchal perspective of ancient cultures. Quite telling is what these ancient societies did not have - weapons of mass destruction, handcuffs, prisons, instruments of torture - you get the idea - nothing that modern society can fathom being without.
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17 of 25 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good but flawed, February 15, 2008
By 
Grover Partee (Seattle, WA United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Language of the Goddess (Paperback)
Professor Gimbutas has provided an excellent, richly detailed and scrupulously referenced overview of prehistoric art. I found it hard to finish however due to her obvious biases. She might have benefited greatly had someone pointed out to her early in her career or perhaps even still in graduate school that Dr. Freud might as easily have quipped that sometimes a triangle is just a triangle.

Dr. Gimbutas somewhat blunts her own arguments by seeing images of the Goddess wherever she looks and seems willing to overlook or even distort obvious variations in the symbols unless she can explain both the original and its variants as more symbols of the Goddess. In this way, she first identifies any triangle as a pubic triangle and then goes on to expand the triangle into nets and checkerboards. The snake is associated with the Goddess and then every wavy line becomes a putative snake and arms without hands are "obviously" snakes. As another example, she describes spirals, wherever they may occur, as symbolic of the developmental, creative aspect of the Goddess. Anyone who has spent even ten minutes with children's art, knows that spirals are a great way to "fill space" and several of the photos provided by Gimbutas appear to be exactly that. She even goes so far as to claim that a bent line or hook is an "incomplete spiral." I kept expecting her to next claim that a straight line is an "incomplete hook!"

She has two whole chapters on what she calls "bi-lines" and "tri-lines" (sets of two or three parallel lines) in which she completely ignores the fact that the few numbers larger than three which cannot be represented by a collection of either "bi-lines" or "tri-lines" can always be represented as a mixture of the two. In another case, she reproduces what she claims is clearly a picture of the Bird Goddess as evidenced by birds' feet in place of both the otherwise anthropomophic figure's feet and hands. Unfortunately, the figure's hands have only three "fingers" (perhaps only two in one case while the feet have four. This figure appears only a couple of chapters after a multi-page argument for three-fingered hands and feet being representative of birds' feet. Children's art again provides a possible clue. When they first begin drawing hands, children may draw them with three, four, five, six or even more fingers, depending largely on the size of the hand desired. Perhaps for this figure, the original artist considered three fingers sufficient to represent the hands and added a fourth digit to the feet only because there seemed to be room for one.

Dr. Giumbutas' book is a good starting point and a valuable reference source for a study of prehistoric art and religion, but the text should be read with the clear understanding that it may be less fact than fantasy (or perhaps "fancy" is a better word.) Things may not always be as she sees and describes them, especially when it comes to the presumed intentions of the original artists. This is, of course, always difficult territory for an archeologist/anthropologist and many have done even worse. I wish there had been more photographs and fewer drawings since the drawings may often emphasize what is barely there.
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The Language of the Goddess
The Language of the Goddess by Marija Gimbutas (Paperback - Feb. 2001)
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