Who Was Marija Gimbutas?; Bush Barrow, Wiltshire; Jerf-el-Ahmar, Syria.

Who was Marija Gimbutas?

Marija was a Lithuanian-American archaeologist who lived between 1921 and 1994, and is best known for her work on the Neolithic and Bronze Age cultures of Europe.

Prof. Dr. Marija Gimbutas at the Frauenmuseum Wiesbaden, Germany 1993 © Monica Boirar
Prof. Dr. Marija Gimbutas at the Frauenmuseum Wiesbaden, Germany 1993
© Monica Boirar

Marija was born in Lithuania and in 1946 received her Doctorate in Archaeology from Tubingen University from her paper entitled Prehistoric Burial Rites in Lithuania. In 1949 due to unrest within her country, Marija and her young family emigrated to the United States of America.

Marija found work translating Eastern European Archaeology texts at Harvard University, where she went on to become a lecturer. In 1955 the Peabody Museum made her a Fellow of Harvard.

During the 1950’s and 1960’s Marija gained a reputation as being the top specialist in the Indo-European Bronze Age and the prehistory of the Slavs and Balts.

Marija Gimbutas by Kerbstone 52, at the back of Newgrange, Co. Meath, Ireland, in September 1989. ©Wiki Commons
Marija Gimbutas by Kerbstone 52, at the back of Newgrange, Co. Meath, Ireland, in September 1989.
©Wiki Commons

Between 1963 and 1989 Marija worked at UCLA as Professor of European Archaeology and Indo-European Studies, she was also site director at digs in Europe, including Anzabegovo in the Former Republic of Macedonia, and Sitagroi and Achilleion in Greece. In 1993 she received an Honourary Doctorate from the Vytautas Magnus University in Lithuania.

Marija was passionate about her work, including her studies on the Goddess cults of Europe. Even though this drew some criticism to her work, she wrote many books on the subject that she was passionate about. Here are the books she wrote throughout her time as an amazing archaeologist

  • Bronze Age Cultures in Central and Eastern Europe (1965)
  • The Gods and Goddesses of Old Europe: 7000 to 3500 BC: Myths, Legends and Cult Images (1974)
  • Achilleion (1989)
  • The Language of the Goddess (1989)
  • The Civilization of the Goddess (1991)
  • The Kurgan Culture and the Indo-Europeanization of Europe (1997)
  • The Living Goddess (2001 – print of her works)

Marija Gimbutas truly was an exceptional woman archaeologist in her field and even though she was criticized for some of her work and beliefs, she kept working on what she beleived in  – a great lesson for us all to keep going in what we believe in!

References

  • Diaz-Andreu. M., & Stig Sorenson. M. L. 2007. Excavating Women: A History of Women in European Archaeology. Oxon: Routledge.
  • Hamilton. S., Whitehouse. R. D., & Wright. K. I. 2007. Archaeology and Women: Ancient and Modern Issues. California: Left Coast Press.
  • Marohn. S. 2010. Goddess Shift: Women Leading for a Change. Fulton, CA: Elite Books.
  • Prof. Dr. Marija Gimbutas at the Frauenmuseum Wiesbaden, Germany 1993 – “Prof-Dr-Marija-Gimbutas-Copyright-Foto-Monica-Boirar-aka-Monica-Beurer” by Monica Boirar – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Prof-Dr-Marija-Gimbutas-Copyright-Foto-Monica-Boirar-aka-Monica-Beurer.jpg#/media/File:Prof-Dr-Marija-Gimbutas-Copyright-Foto-Monica-Boirar-aka-Monica-Beurer.jpg
  • Marija Gimbutas by Kerbstone 52, at the back of Newgrange, Co. Meath, Ireland, in September 1989 – “Marija-Gimbutas-newgrange”. Licensed under CC BY 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Marija-Gimbutas-newgrange.jpg#/media/File:Marija-Gimbutas-newgrange.jpg.

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Archaeology Wow!! –  Bush Barrow, Wiltshire

Bush Barrow is a Bronze Age burial mound situated in the county of Wiltshire in England. It forms part of the Stonehenge environment and is therefore protected and registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, having been a Scheduled Monument since 1925.

Boundary and key sites on the Avebury section of the Stonehenge, Avebury and Associated Sites World Heritage Site ©RobinLeicester building on OS OpenData VextorMap District Raster files
Boundary and key sites on the Avebury section of the Stonehenge, Avebury and Associated Sites World Heritage Site
©RobinLeicester building on OS OpenData VextorMap District Raster files

Lying within the Stonehenge landscape, on the edge of the Normanton Down Barrows, the Bush Barrow mound measures 3 m high and 36 m in diameter and was excavated in 1808 by William Cunnington.

During the excavations  the burial of a man was uncovered and is the richest Bronze Age burial to have been discovered in Britain.

Reconstruction of the burial at Bush Barrow ©www.tripadvisor.co.uk
Reconstruction of the burial at Bush Barrow
©www.tripadvisor.co.uk

The grave included finds of gold artefacts, including a lozenge-shaped piece of gold plate with designs on it, a gold belt hook, gold wire pins, a belt, the remains of three bronze daggers, a flanged bronze axe, bronze rivets, a polished stone mace head, and serrated bone mounts beleived to have been for a staff.

The quality of the grave goods and weapons is amazing and they date the site to between 1900-1700 BC. The artefacts can be viewed in Devizies Museum in Wiltshire. Definitely worth a visit to see these!!

References

  • Clarke. B. 2013. Prehistoric Wiltshire: An Illustrated Guide. Stroud, Gloucestershire; Amberley Publishing Limited.
  • Grinsell. L. V. 2014. The Ancient Burial-mounds of England. Oxon: Routledge.
  • Shaw. I., & Jameson. R. 2008. A Dictionary of Archaeology. Indianna: Wiley & Son.

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Archaeological Site Guide – Jerf-el-Ahmar, Syria

Jerf-el-Ahmar is the name given to a number of Neolithic sites that are now, unfortunately, under water at the Tishrin Dam Reservoir. The sites are one of the first in the world that show evidence of the beginnings of agriculture and the domestication of some plants.

They were discovered in 1989 and excavated between 1995 and 1999 by a French team of archaeologists, who categorized the people from the sites, and the date, to the Pre-Pottery Neolithic A period.

Jerf el Ahmer Plan view ©CNRF IN
Jerf el Ahmer Plan view
©CNRF IN

Jerf-el-Ahmar had buildings that were tightly packed together – some round and others rectangular. It is beleived that the round buildings were the first and they were gradually replaced by rectangular ones. Within some of the buildings, which were divided internally, they discovered benches, engraved stones and the remains of animals placed in certain spaces. This has led archaeologists to the conclusion that they were communal places where people would meet.

Finds from the sites include flint and bone tools, including obsidian which has been dated to c.9500-8700 Cal, human skulls and the rather strange burial of a young woman, in a splayed position, who was headless.

The burial of the woman was found in one of the communal buildings, and it is thought that she was killed as the building was deliberately destroyed and her skull removed. Whether this was an act of conflict or ritual is unknown.

Jerf-el-Ahmar ©The Human Journey
Jerf-el-Ahmar
©The Human Journey

Other finds include arrow heads and sickle blades that had been deliberately placed in a plaster wall, and a collection of 15 sickle blades deposited in another building. The meaning of the artefacts and where they were found is still being questioned.

Analysis of the environment and grains found at the sites indicate that the people ate wild barley, rye, einkorn and lentils. The barley has been dated to c.8000 BC, making it the earliest site for its discovery in relation to crops and domestication. Analysis of the grains, and where they were found, shows that over time the grain size increased, demonstrating domestication of the plant and deliberate harvesting.

What is really amazing though was the discovery of stones with markings on them. Believed to be the first forms of writing.

Jerf-el-Ahmar Pictograms ©mathildasanthropologyblog.wordpress.com
Jerf-el-Ahmar Pictograms
©mathildasanthropologyblog.wordpress.com

Evidence and analysis shows that they were handled a lot and may have been used to convey messages. The obsidian found at the site is not local, demonstrating exchange and trade networks. It is understood that the inscribed stones may have been some sort of message or communication between groups of people at the time.

This is an amazing group of sites but it is such a shame that they are now underwater as further investigations could help us understand the early settlement patterns and more about the lives of everyday people as they moved from a hunter gatherer lifestyle to a sedentary one.

References

  • Colledge. S. & Conolly. J. 2007. The Origins and Spread of Domestic Plants in Southwest Asia and Europe. California: Left Coast Press.
  • Croucher. K. 2012. Death and Dying in the Neolithic Near East. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Cummings. V., Jordan. P., & Zvelebil. M. 2014. The Oxford Handbook of the Archaeology and Anthropology of Hunter-Gatherers. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Glassner. J-J., Bahrani. Z., & Van de Mieroop. M. 2003. The Invention of Cuneiform: Writing in Sumer. Baltimore, Matyland: JHU Press.

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Great Books to Read…….
                        

                        

 

Great Web Pages to Look At…….

Activity – word-search-8 may-2015-docx

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