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Marija Gimbutas - Ancient peoples of Russia

Today for our women series I will be writing about Marija Gimbutas. Marija Gimbutas was born in Lithuania on January 23, 1921. This is the first time for this examiner to write and celebrate the life of a woman from this part of Europe. Marija Gimbutas was an archeologist.

Life Work

Marija Gimbutas studied the Neolithic and Bronze Age cultures of "Old Europe". “She is known for her widely accepted Kurgan hypothesis, which located the Proto-Indo-European homeland in the Pontic Steppe.” The Pontic-Caspian Steppe is a large area stretching from the Black Sea into Eastern Russia.

The Kurgan hypothesis

The Kurgan hypothesis which she formulated in the 1950’s suggests that ancient people as far back as the Copper Age ((early 4th millennium BC) were residing in this area. These people were nomads and often considered invaders of other lands in the Middle East, China and Europe.

The Kurgan tribes were experts in horses and developed the bridle, horse artillery, the chariot and the cavalry. They were called “The Horse People.” Gimbutas suggests they were first known people to domesticate horses. However, others scientists do not agree.

Marija Gimbutas was primarily concerned with the language of the Kurgan tribes. Marija Gimbutas hypothesized that these early people were just some bands of nomads who overtook the natives of the regions they invaded. Now some archeologists feel they were actually large masses of nomadic peoples.

Scientists have been able to trace the ancient DNA from mummies and skeletons in south Siberia back to these Kurgan tribes of Indo-Iran. However, one study done in 2012 did not show the genetic marker from the remains of skeletons in Afghanistan. However, the markers, though rare, are still present for the people living between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea in the period of time in question.

It is to be noted that,” the R1a1a7-M458 marker first started in Poland 10,000 years ago (KYA), and arrived in the western fringes of the Pontic steppe 5,000 years ago and the eastern fringes only 2,500 years ago, while the first Indo-European wave (4500–4000 BC Early PIE) began up to 4,000 years before this.”

Since the DNA suggested these people had fair skin, blond hair and blue or green eyes, the ties between Kurgan tribes and the Indo-European were significant.

Though she maintains the culture was violent and military, other scientists believe the migration of these eastern peoples to be slower, consisting primarily of disconnected tribes who wandered gradually into Eastern Europe.

Criticism of her work

There has been much criticism of Gimbutas ‘s work. Many scientists have found her dates all wrong others feel there is no connection really established between the ancient Eastern Europeans and the Middle East, the east, and china. It is not understood if there were migration among these people going East from Russia or the other way around.

Nevertheless, Marija Gimbutas was instrumental in understanding these ancient peoples and when and where they were located in history.

The Goddess Movement

Marija Gimbutas gives a feminist archeology point of view proposing the cult of the Mother Goddess. This ideology is representative of the second wave of feminism, where women began to embrace the fact that the creator was a woman. Feminists maintained that existing religion favored the male status and point of view, while women were marginalized and devalued. The feminist set out to research and find valuable contributions from women in religion. They questioned if women could be the creator since men never gave them credit.

The idea of a female deity in the USA actually went back as far as the 19th century. People such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton published their ideas about a female deity. These women came from the era named as the first wave of feminism which I have covered in detail in previous articles. These early feminists pointed to ancient female religions and the female goddess and goddess throughout time.

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