September 11, 2009

"Mother goddess" figurines theory demolished

I can't say I ever bought into the whole "Mother goddess" theory. It reeks of a pacifistic/New Age/feminist mindset, is heavy on theory, interpretation, and "symbolism" and light on objective facts.

Ancient figurines were toys not mother goddess statues, say experts as 9,000-year-old artefacts are discovered
Made by Neolithic farmers thousands of years before the creation of the pyramids or Stonehenge, they depict tiny cattle, crude sheep and flabby people.
In the 1960s, some researchers claimed the more rotund figures were of a mysterious large breasted and big bellied "mother goddess", prompting a feminist tourism industry that thrives today.
But modern day experts disagree.
They say the "mother goddess" figures - which were buried among the rubbish of the Stone Age town - are unlikely to be have been religious icons.
Many of the figures thought to have been women in the 1960s, are just as likely to be men.


Archaeologist Prof Lynn Meskell, of Stanford University, said: "The majority are cattle or sheep and goats. They could be representatives of animals they were dealing with - and they could have been teaching aides.
"All were found in the trash - and they were not in niches or platforms or placed in burials."
Out of the 2,000 figurines dug up at the site, less than five per cent are female, she told the British science Festival in Surrey University, Guildford.
"These are things that were made and used on a daily basis," she said. "People carried them around and discarded them."


C'est Moi - Selina said...

I agree with you about not buying the whole mother-goddess thing. I always wondered what if they were toys or just some sort of kitchy item. I'll buy into the they were toys idea, but they may not all have been that either. More research people!!! Keep the energy going.

Jim Bowery said...

You have to wonder how many college girls made life-changes based on this sort of academic theory.

Unknown said...

of course toys first, gods next.
If the particular culture went in that direction.

hjernespiser said...

Haha, I had figured they might be some sort of porn for men. I bet they were dressed like dollies are today.

Bix said...

An interesting article, but by lumping in "feminists" with "goddess/New Age" groups in terms of being wrong about the figures you make a serious error. Lynn Meskell, in fact, is one of the leading feminist theorist in archaeology -- and she's the one suggesting the toy theory.

Thanks for the blog, I enjoy it very much!

Maju said...

Casilda Rodrigañez, also a feminist enthusiast of Gimbutas' "Old Europe" equally dismisses the religious interpretation (she's atheist) based on historical data from unrelated places like Cuba at the time of Columbus' arrival, where he tells that the natives made similar figurines, not for religious reasons (they were apparently rather non-religious) but for aesthetic reasons (not really "toys" but just art).

The Mother Goddess theory anyhow is based on Greek and other old European mythology (Basque, Celtic) but guess it's questionable.

More interesting for me is what about the Paleolithic "Venus"? These have been sometimes found in contexts that do suggest some sort of ritual interpretation.