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The Living Goddesses 1st Edition, Kindle Edition
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About the Author
- ASIN : B0025VKJLC
- Publisher : University of California Press; 1st edition (11 May 1999)
- Language : English
- File size : 5249 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Enhanced typesetting : Not Enabled
- X-Ray : Not Enabled
- Word Wise : Not Enabled
- Print length : 310 pages
- Page numbers source ISBN : 0520229150
- Best Sellers Rank: 240,817 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
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The book falls into two distinct parts, of which the first looks in detail at the religious symbolism of 'Old (pre-patriarchal) Europe', as revealed in the artefacts which have survived the last 5,000 to 7,000 years, mainly in the form of ceramic figures, and speculates about the beliefs which can be attributed to the peoples of that time. Clearly we need to see the objects in question both to know what she is talking about and to see whether the arguments make sense to us, and indeed this wide-ranging section does appear at first glance to be well illustrated. On reading closely the fascinating blend of archaeology, deduction and intuition which characterises Gimbutas' writing, however, I found I wished for many more illustrations, and also for more references; there is a massive bibliography and numerous editorial notes, which involves a lot of tedious flicking backwards and forwards, but it's often not clear which ideas are based on her own fieldwork, on that of other archaeologists, or on pure speculation. Gimbutas pioneered with Joseph Campbell the exciting discipline of archaeomythology, but I fear this will never be accepted by the mainstream unless its proponents are open about the distinctions between mythology and conventional archaeology. In short, this section is quite dense and hard to read for the lay person, but not rigorous enough for the sceptical scholar either. The 'conclusions' at the end of each chapter by the editor Miriam Dexter are more in the nature of summaries and do not add much to the experience.
The second part of the book is the more original and its strength is in the way Gimbutas traces the survival of the goddess myths over the ages and despite the ever encroaching patriarchal control. As she guides us from the Minoan and Etruscan civiliations via the Basque and Celtic, into the historical era and gradually northwards to the Germanic and even Baltic mythologies, we simultaneously come tantalisingly close to the present day and to Gimbutas' own personal history, thus neatly completing the circle of an extraordinary life and life's work. It is little short of thrilling to learn that these ancient myths have only so recently been laid to rest in some parts of Europe and no wonder that the neopagan movement is inspired by Gimbutas to breathe new life into the abandoned and rejected goddesses. This is potentially a most inspiring and rewarding thread to follow and it is deeply to be regretted that her editor failed to provide one single illustration for these pages! I know nothing of Miriam Dexter or of how much work she had to do to prepare Gimbutas' manuscript for publication; from the long and wordy preface, acknowledgements, introduction, afterword and notes she provides it does not appear that she worked closely with Gimbutas or was familiar in her lifetime with her ongoing work on this her final book, but it seems at the least a disservice to leave what was in many ways her crowning achievement in this incomplete state, all for the lack of some fairly straightforward research in picture libraries which might have brought the historical account to life.
Some or perhaps most responsiblity for this must no doubt be laid at the doors of the publishers University of California Press, who have also chosen for some bizarre reason to print both left and right pages with a massive left hand margin and none on the right, so that it is actually impossible to read the left hand pages, never mind hold this awkwardly sized book comfortably, without totally breaking the spine. The revolutionary ideas in this last testament to a lifetime of pioneering research deserve a new editor and publisher to bring them into more general public recognition.