Marija Gimbutas

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Marija Gimbutas (in the Women's Museum Wiesbaden 1993)
Marija Gimbutas next to Stone 52 in Newgrange (Ireland 1989)

Marija Gimbutas ( Lithuanian : Marija Gimbutienė ; born January 23, 1921 in Vilnius as Marija Birutė Alseikaitė ; † February 2, 1994 in Los Angeles ) was an archaeologist , prehistorian and anthropologist . She studied in Kaunas , Vilnius and Tübingen and received her doctorate there in 1946 on " Burials in Lithuania in prehistoric times". Her scientific background was interdisciplinary and included basic knowledge inLinguistics , ethnology and the history of religion , which was unusual for an archaeologist. In 1941 she married the architect Jurgis Gimbutas (1918–2001), with whom she had three daughters, and fled the Red Army with the family in 1944, initially to Austria and Germany, and in 1949 emigrated to the USA .

Scientific vita

In 1950 Gimbutas was appointed to Harvard University because of her extensive knowledge of European languages. She could read texts in 13 languages. Gimbutas worked 13 years as an archeology lecturer at Harvard and also became a member of the Department of Anthropology . In 1955 she was awarded the title "Fellow of Harvard's Peabody Museum".

Gimbutas was the director of five major excavation projects in the former Yugoslavia , Greece and Italy . This work contributed significantly to the understanding of the New Stone Age (Neolithic) in some parts of Europe and the cultural development before the Indo-European immigration. In publications between 1946 and 1971 she introduced the term "Old Europe" . In addition, she coined the collective term " Kurgankultur " for several cultures of the beginning Bronze Age in the southern Russian steppe area. In 1956, the archaeologist presented her hypothesis of a permanent, expanding spa culture at an international conference in Philadelphia . With this theory, she was the first scholar to link linguistic and archaeological knowledge to the origins of the Proto-Indo-European speaking peoples. This had an impact on Indo-European research. Your kurgan hypothesis is considered outdated in its original form, but is constantly being developed.

Marija Gimbutas received many awards during her lifetime in the United States, including The Outstanding New American Award , (1960), the Humanities Endowment Award (1967), the Los Angeles Woman of the Year Award (1968), Fulbright, and the American Academy of Sciences fellowships , as well as awards from the Smithsonian Institute , the National Science Foundation, and other top institutions that supported her work. In 1963 Gimbutas was appointed professor of archeology at the University of California, Los Angeles , where she taught until her retirement in 1989. In June 1993 Marija Gimbutas received an honorary doctorate from the Vytautas Magnus University in Kaunas (Lithuania). The extraordinary appreciation that the Lithuanian President, students and academics showed her was shown again at her funeral, which was attended by thousands. Gimbutas has published 20 books and over 300 scientific articles.

Theories of spa culture and the matrilineal "old Europe"

Marija Gimbutas developed the Kurgan hypothesis . It is based on the early domestication of horses in the Eeolithic area between the Caucasus, Volga and Urals. The resulting high mobility led to fighting hordes of horsemen, which produced patriarchal forms of society. In the east of " Old Europe ", however, a gender-balanced ( gynandric ) matrilineal form of society prevailed in the Neolithic . Their religion included the worship of a multifaceted " great goddess " (compare Magna Mater ). Between 4300 and 2800 BC The Indo-Europeans invaded the Dnieper-Donets region, western Ukraine and the Moldavian steppe in the lower Danube region in various invasions from the east, and then into eastern Hungary. They would have layered the old agricultural culture, established themselves as an aristocratic upper class and thus initiated an Indo-Germanization process. In the period that followed, they subjugated eastern Central Europe and the Balkans as far as Macedonia, infiltrated the Funnel Beaker culture in the north, conquered the Caucasus in the east and advanced to Azerbaijan , Anatolia and northern Iran. This conquest of Europe by the Kurgan culture is archaeologically reflected in the bell beaker and cord ceramic culture .

Gimbutas assumes an invasion of the patriarchal and patrilineal Kurgan culture into the matrilinearly organized, peaceful "old Europe". The roots of this spa culture are in the 7th – 6th centuries. Millennium BC Originated in the middle and lower Volga region and could be regarded as "Proto-Indo-European". The foundations of a worldview, in which the Central European Neolithic was guided by a religion of the "Great Goddess" and then culturally foreigned by patrilineal hordes, were called into question in their archaeological database and their epistemological basis. The British archaeologist Colin Renfrew , on the other hand, argues in his so-called Anatolia hypothesis that the Indo-Europeans had spread out of Anatolia with the Neolithic. The New Zealanders Gray and Atkinson, on the other hand, claim to be able to support this hypothesis with their glottochronological work, but this is not immediately apparent from the calculation.

A more recent work on the spread of the Indo-European languages ​​supports parts of the Kurgan hypothesis, albeit in a modified form, through findings on the domestication of horses in Eastern Europe and the emergence of the wheel-and-cart technique, but rejects the invasion theory. Instead, sometimes long-term cooperation relationships, sometimes a takeover of Indo-European institutions without conquest or ethnic “foreign infiltration” can be proven. Only in one case was there any evidence of armed repression.


Mainstream archeology rejected Gimbutas' late work. The anthropologist Bernard Wailes (1934–2012) of the University of Pennsylvania said in the New York Times that the professional world judged Gimbutas to be “immensely knowledgeable, but not very good at critical analysis (...) It collects a lot of data and draw conclusions from them without ever discussing them. ”Wailes noted that most archaeologists thought she was an eccentric.

David Anthony praised Gimbutas' understanding of the Indo-European primeval homeland, but rejected her claim that there was a widespread, peaceful, and matriarchal society prior to the invasion of the spa culture . He noticed that there were hill fortresses in Europe and probably also war before the invasion of the Kurgan culture. The standard literature on European prehistory supports the thesis of war in Neolithic Europe and proves that adult men already held a prominent position in the burial practice at this time.

Peter Ucko and Andrew Fleming were early critics of Gimbutas' goddess thesis. In his monograph Anthropomorphic figurines of predynastic Egypt , published in 1968 , Ucko warns against untenable conclusions about the meaning of statues in Egypt . Ucko states that early Egyptian female figures holding their breasts should not be viewed as an obvious worship of motherhood or fertility, since, based on traditional texts, this gesture can be assigned to Egypt at this time as a sign of female mourning. In his 1969 work The Myth of the Mother Goddess, Fleming questioned Gimbutas' practice of identifying Neolithic figurines as female when they could not be clearly identified as male, and critically examined other aspects of the goddess interpretation of Neolithic art and burial sites.

Cathy Gere's book Knossos and the Prophets of Modernism , published in 2009, examines political influence on archeology in general. The example of Knossos  - which was misinterpreted by Gimbutas as a pacifist, matriarchal and sexually free society existing on the island of Crete - shows that archeology easily runs the risk of seeing what it wants to see rather than facts about the past to represent neutrally.



  • Burial in Lithuania in prehistoric times. PhD thesis . H. Laupp, Tübingen 1946, OCLC 11381724 .
  • The Prehistory of Eastern Europe. Part I: Mesolithic, Neolithic and Copper Age Cultures in Russia and the Baltic Area. Peabody Museum, Cambridge, Massachusetts 1956. (First appearance of their Kurgan hypothesis)
  • with RW Ehrich: COWA Survey and Bibliography, Area - Central Europe. Harvard University, Cambridge (Mass) 1957.
  • Rytprusiu ir Vakaru Lietuvos Priesistorines Kulturos Apzvalga. Studia Lituaica I, New York 1958. (Lithuanian)
  • Ancient Symbolism in Lithuanian Folk Art. American Folklore Society, Philadelphia 1958.
  • with RW Ehrich: COWA Survey and Bibliography, Area 2 - Scandinavia. Harvard University, Cambridge (Mass) 1959.
  • The Balts. ( Ancient Peoples and Places ) Thames and Hudson, London 1963.
    • German: The Balts: history of a people in the Baltic Sea region. Herbig, Munich 1983, ISBN 3-7766-1266-5 .
  • Bronze Age Cultures in Central and Eastern Europe. Mouton, The Hague / London 1965.
  • The Slavs. Thames and Hudson, London 1971.
  • Obre and Its Place in Old Europe. Zemalski Museum, Sarajevo 1974. Scientific reports from the Bosnian-Duchy-Ducovinian State Museum, Volume 4, Issue A.
  • The Gods and Goddesses of Old Europe, 7000 to 3500 BC: Myths, Legends and Cult Images. Thames and Hudson, London 1974.
    • German: Goddesses and gods of ancient Europe. Myths and cult images 6500 to 3500 BC Chr. Translated by Baal Müller. Arun-Verlag, 2010.
  • Grotta Scaloria. Resoconto sulle ricerche del 1980 relative agli scavi del 1979. Amministrazione comunale, Manfredonia 1981. (Italian)
  • Baltai priešistoriniais laikais: etnogenezė, materialinė kultūra ir mitologija. Mokslas, Vilnius 1985. (Lithuanian)
  • The Language of the Goddess: Unearthing the Hidden Symbols of Western Civilization. Harper & Row, San Francisco 1989.
    • German: The language of the goddess. The buried symbol system of western civilization. Zweiausendeins, Frankfurt am Main 1995, ISBN 3-86150-120-1 .
  • The Civilization of the Goddess. Harper, San Francisco 1991.
    • German: The civilization of the goddess. The world of old Europe. Two thousand and one, Frankfurt am Main 1996, ISBN 3-86150-121-X .
  • The ethnogenesis of the European Indo-Europeans. Institute for Linguistics, Innsbruck 1992, ISBN 3-85124-625-X .
  • The end of old Europe: the invasion of steppe nomads from southern Russia and the Indo-Germanization of Central Europe. Institute for Linguistics, Innsbruck 1994, ISBN 3-85124-171-1 .
  • with Miriam Robbins Dexter: The Living Goddesses. University of California Press, Berkeley / Los Angeles 1999. (published posthumously)

Editorial activity

  • Obre, Neolithic Sites in Bosnia. A. Archaeological, Sarajevo 1974.
  • Neolithic Macedonia as Reflected by Excavation at Anza, Southeast Yugoslavia. Institute of Archeology, University of California, Los Angeles 1976.
  • with Colin Renfrew and Ernestine S. Elster (Eds.): Excavations at Sitagroi: A Prehistoric Village in Northeast Greece. Volume 1. Institute of Archeology, University of California, Los Angeles 1986, ISBN 0-917956-51-6 .
  • with Shan Winn and Daniel Shimabuku (eds.): Achilleion: a Neolithic settlement in Thessaly, Greece, 6400-5600 BC Institute of Archeology, University of California, Los Angeles 1989.


  • Culture Change in Europe at the Start of the Second Millennium BC A Contribution to the Indo-European Problem. In: AFC Wallace (Ed.): Selected Papers of the Fifth International Congress of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences. Philadelphia, September 1-9, 1956. Act of Congress. University of Philadelphia Press, Philadelphia 1960, pp. 540-552.
  • Notes on the chronology and expansion of the Pit-grave culture. In: J. Bohm, SJ De Laet (ed.): L'Europe à la fin de l'Age de la pierre. Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences , Prague 1961, pp. 193-200.
  • The Indo-Europeans: archaeological problems . In: American Anthropologist. 65: 815-836 (1963).
  • Proto-Indo-European Culture: The Kurgan Culture during the Fifth, Fourth, and Third Millennia BC In: George Cardona, Henry M. Hoenigswald, Alfred Senn (Eds.): Indo-European and Indo-Europeans. Papers Presented at the Third Indo-European Conference at the University of Pennsylvania. Conference tape. University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia 1970, pp. 155-197.
  • Old Europe c. 7000-3500 BC: The earliest European civilization before the infiltration of the Indo-European peoples. In: JIES . 1 (1973), pp. 1-21.
  • The First Wave of Eurasian Steppe Pastoralists into Copper Age Europe. In: JIES. 5, pp. 277-338 (1977).
  • Gold Treasure at Varna. In: Archeology. 30, 1 (1977), pp. 44-51.
  • The Three Waves of Kurgan People into Old Europe, 4500-2500 BC. In: Archives suisses d'anthropologie générale. 43, 2, pp. 113-137 (1979).
  • The Kurgan wave # 2 (c.3400-3200 BC) into Europe and the following transformation of culture. In: JIES. 8, pp. 273-315 (1980).
  • The Temples of Old Europe. In: Archeology. 33, 6 (1980), pp. 41-50.
  • Old Europe in the Fifth Millennium BC The European Situation on the Arrival of Indo-Europeans. In: Edgar C. Polomé (Ed.): The Indo-Europeans in the Fourth and Third Millennia BC. Karoma Publishers, Ann Arbor (Mich) 1982, pp. 1-60.
  • Women and Culture in Goddess-oriented Old Europe. In: Charlene Spretnak (Ed.): The Politics of Women's Spirituality. Doubleday, New York 1982, pp. 22-31.
  • Vulvas, Breasts, and Buttocks of the Goddess Creatress: Commentary on the Origins of Art. In: Giorgio Buccellati, Charles Speroni (eds.): The Shape of the Past: Studies in Honor of Franklin D. Murphy. UCLA Institute of Archeology, Los Angeles 1982.
  • Primary and Secondary Homeland of the Indo-Europeans: Comments on Gamkrelidze-Ivanov Articles. In: JIES. 13, 1-2 (1985), pp. 185-202.
  • Kurgan Culture and the Horse. (Review of: The "Kurgan Culture", Indo-European origins and the domestication of the horse: a reconsideration. ) In: Current Anthropology . 27, 4 (1986), pp. 305-307.
  • Remarks on the Ethnogenesis of the Indo-Europeans in Europe. In: W. Bernhard, A. Kandler-Pálsson (Eds.): Ethnogenesis of European peoples. Gustav Fisch, Stuttgart / New York 1986, pp. 5–20.
  • The Pre-Christian Religion of Lithuania. In: La Cristianizzazione della Lituania. Rome 1987.
  • A Review of Archeology and Language by Colin Renfrew. In: Current Anthropology. 29, 3 (June 1988), pp. 453-456.
  • Accounting For a Great Change. (Review of: C. Renfrew: Archeology and Language. ) In: London Times Literary Supplement. (June 24-30), 1988, p. 714.
  • The Social Structure of the Old Europe. Part II. In: JIES. 18: 225-284 (1990).
  • The Collision of Two Ideologies. In: TL Markey / AC Greppin (eds.): When Worlds Collide: Indo-Europeans and Pre-Indo-Europeans. Kasoma, Ann Arbor (MI) 1990, pp. 171-8.
  • The Chronologies of Eastern Europe: Neolithic through Early Bronze Age. In: RW Ehrich (Ed.): Chronologies in Old World Archeology. Volume 1. University of Chicago Press, Chicago / London 1992, pp. 395-406.
  • The Indo-Europeanization of Europe: the intrusion of steppe pastoralists from south Russia and the transformation of Old Europe . In: Word 44, 1993, pp. 205-222.

Collections of articles

  • Miriam Robbins Dexter, Karlene Jones-Bley (Eds.): The Kurgan culture and the Indo-Europeanization of Europe. Selected articles from 1952 to 1993 by M. Gimbutas. Institute for the Study of Man, Washington DC 1997.

See also



  • Cristina Biaggi / Donna Wilshire: Marija Gimbutas , in Dialogues d'histoire ancienne Vol. 20 Issue 1, 1994, pp. 7-10.
  • Margarita Diaz-Andreu, Marie Louise Stig Sorensen (Eds.): Excavating Women. A History of Women in European Archeology. Routledge, London 1998, ISBN 0-415-15760-9 . in this:
  • J. Chapman: The impact of modern invasions and migrations on archaeological explanation. A biographical sketch of Marija Gimbutas. Pp. 295-314.
  • Sibylle Kästner, Viola Maier, Almut Schülke: From Pictures to Stories - Traces of female. Doctoral women, Institute for Prehistory and Early History and Archeology of the Middle Ages at the University of Tübingen , pp. 266–294.

Studies in honor:

  • Susan Nacev Skomal, Edgar C. Polomé (Ed.): Proto-Indo-European: The Archeology of a Linguistic Problem. Studies in Honor of Marija Gimbutas. Institute for the Study of Man, Washington, DC 1987.
  • Joan Marler (Ed.): From the Realm of the Ancestors. An Anthology in Honor of Marija Gimbutas. Knowledge, Ideas & Trends, Manchester 1997, ISBN 1-879198-25-8 .
  • Miriam Robbins Dexter, Edgar C. Polomé (Ed.): Varia on the Indo-European Past: Papers in Memory of Gimbutas, Marija. The Institute for the Study of Man, Washington, DC 1997.
  • Luciana Percovich (Ed.): Marija Gimbutas: Vent'anni di studi sulla Dea. Atti del Convegno. Progetto Editoriale Laima, 2015.


  • Marija Alseikaitė Gimbutas and others: Marija Gimbutas: World Of The Goddess. Documentation. Mystic Fire Video, New York 1993, ISBN 1-56176-282-2 . (VHS)
  • Marija Alseikaitė Gimbutas et al .: Signs out of Time: The Story of Archaeologist Marija Gimbutas. Documentation. Belli, San Francisco 2003, OCLC 55126657 . (DVD)

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Gimbutas (1970)
  2. ^ Marija Gimbutas: The Language of the Goddess. Thames and Hudson, London 1989, pp. Xx-xxi.
  3. See:
    • Ruth Tringham, Review of: The Civilization of the Goddess: The World of Old Europe by Marija Gimbutas (1991). In: American Anthropologist. Volume 95, 1993, pp. 196-197.
    • Lynn Meskell: Goddesses, Gimbutas and New Age archeology. In: Antiquity. Volume 69, No. 262, 1995, pp. 74-86.
    • David W. Anthony: Nazi and ecofeminist prehistories: ideology and empiricism in Indo-European archeology. In: Philip R. Kohl, Clare Fawcett: Nationalism, politics, and the practice of archeology. Cambridge University Press, 1995, pp. 82–96 (especially from p. 90)
    • Brigitte Röder, Juliane Hummel, Brigitte Kunz: goddess twilight. The matriarchy from an archaeological point of view. Droemer Knaur, 1996, ISBN 3-426-26887-6 .
    • Reinhard Bernbeck : Theories in Archeology. Tübingen / Basel 1997, pp. 321–323.
  4. ^ This contradicts JE Walkowitz: The language of the first farmers and archeology. In: Varia Neolithica. III, Beier & Beran, Langenweissbach 2004, pp. 17-29.
  5. Russell D. Gray, Quentin D. Atkinson: Language-tree divergence times support the Anatolian theory of Indo-European origin. In: Nature. 426, pp. 435-439. (on-line)
  6. David W. Anthony: The horse, the wheel, and language; how Bronze-age Riders from the Eurasian steppes shaped the modern world. Princeton University Press, Princeton, Oxford 2007, ISBN 978-0-691-05887-0 . (partly available on Google books)
  7. ^ Paul Kiparsky, "New perspectives in historical linguistics", published in: Claire Bowern (ed.) Handbook of Historical Linguistics.
  8. ^ The New York Times book of science literacy: what everyone needs to know from Newton to the knuckleball, p. 85, Richard Flaste, 1992
  9. ^ A b Peter Steinfels (1990) Idyllic Theory Of Goddesses Creates Storm. NY Times, February 13, 1990
  10. S. Milisauskas, European prehistory (Springer, 2002), pp. 82, 386 ff. Also: Colin Renfrew, ed., The Megalithic Monuments of Western Europe: the latest evidence (London: Thames and Hudson, 1983).
  11. Peter Ucko: Anthropomorphic figurines of predynastic Egypt and neolithic Crete, with comparative material from the prehistoric Near East and mainland Greece. Andrew Szmidla, London 1968.
  12. Andrew Fleming: The Myth of the Mother-Goddess. In: World Archeology. Volume 1, No. 2: Techniques of Chronology and Excavation , October 1969, pp. 247-261 (English; PDF: 977 kB, 16 pages on
  13. Cathy Gere: Knossos and the Prophets of Modernism. University of Chicago Press, 2009, pp. 4-16 ff. (English).
  14. Charlotte Allen: The Scholars and the Goddess: Historically speaking, the “ancient” rituals of the Goddess movement are almost certainly bunk. In: The Atlantic Monthly. January 2001, accessed March 25, 2020.