Thursday, December 03, 2009

An ancient civilization of powerful women?

With these in troop
Came Astoreth, whom the Phoenicians call'd
Astarte, Queen of Heav'n, with crescent Horns;
To whose bright Image nightly by the Moon [ 440 ]
Sidonian Virgins paid thir Vows and Songs,
In Sion also not unsung, 

Apropos of the female goddesses cited in Milton's catalog of pagan gods in Book I which we talked about yesterday, Mussy sends a couple of links and a fascinating story in the Times about a little-known early European civilization.

Some background on The Venus of Willendorf

According to Wikipedia:
The Venus of Willendorf, also known as the Woman of Willendorf, is 11.5 cm high statuette of a female figure estimated to have been made between 24,000 B.C.– 22,000 B.C.. It was discovered in 1908 by archaeologist Josef Szombathy at apaleolithic site near Willendorf, a village in Lower Austria near the city of Krems.[1] It is carved from an oolitic limestone that is not local to the area, and tinted with red ochre.

Meanwhile, the startling findings of archaeologists in the Varna area of the Danube valley, stemming from before 5000 B.C., are reported in the Times:

The striking designs of their pottery speak of the refinement of the culture’s visual language. Until recent discoveries, the most intriguing artifacts were the ubiquitous terracotta “goddess” figurines, originally interpreted as evidence of the spiritual and political power of women in society. ...
An arresting set of 21 small female figurines, seated in a circle, was found at a pre-Cucuteni village site in northeastern Romania. “It is not difficult to imagine,” said Douglass W. Bailey of San Francisco State University, the Old Europe people “arranging sets of seated figurines into one or several groups of miniature activities, perhaps with the smaller figurines at the feet or even on the laps of the larger, seated ones.”

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