our history before the written word. Those who pursue its knowledge
are often self-taught,
since it has not been recognized as a course of study in most
Academics are generally comfortable with beginning humankind's history around 3000 BC, when the Sumerian civilization along the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers in today's Iraq invented an alphabet and made great strides as a civilization. Yet humankind left its mark for future generations many millennium before this in the form of assorted symbols. Despite this, academics (including most archeologists) persist in doubting or dismissing conclusions that might be drawn from the prolific symbols common in prehistory. This also solves the potential conflict with traditional religious history, which can be damaging to career advancement.
Occasionally, an academic takes exception to the norm, and they usually find their audience elsewhere than the ivory tower. This is the case with the temples of Malta. These monuments communicate in the universal languages of mathematical measurements of stars and seasons, and their words are expressed in the universal picture language of dreams. It does not require extensive education to see the Malta artifacts as representations of Mother Earth, symbolizing rebirth in the cycle of life and death.
Documenting that these patterns could be found repeatedly elsewhere in old Europe and that they informed the existence of the first agricultural or Neolithic cultures was the life work of archeologist Marija Gimbutas (1921 - 1994).
Gimbutas' radical interpretations came under attack, but she did not believe it possible to understand Neolithic cultures without recognizing the significance of their spirituality. Gimbutas' believed that one the great events in prehistory was the creation of villages made possible by efficiency of growing crops, thereby relieving humans from the uncertainty and immediacy of being hunter-gatherers.
Marija Gimbutas' work in explaining the symbols the symbols of Old Europe fell on deaf ears at the infamous 1985 Malta Archaeological Conference, but resonated with thousands of people around the world.
An Florida organization (otsf.org) devoted to the preservation Malta's neolithic temples tells of a forthcoming IMAX movie which sees the archeological evidence as the door to "a new chapter in the story of human development using the ancient monuments still standing on Malta as a threshold to prehistory. "
The Ggantija Temples are thought to be the oldest free-standing structures in the world. They are among the best-preserved temples on the Maltese Islands, and are certainly the most visited historical site on the Maltese Islands.
The complex comprises two Neolithic temples dating from the third millennium BCE (3600 to 3000 BCE), and are situated on the northern side of the hilly plateau known as ix-Xaghra in Gozo. The temples are made up of two separate units enclosed by a wall and sharing a common facade. Some Goddess tours refer to them as the the Mother & Daughter Temple.
The ruins had been noted since 1772 and the remains were 'cleared' (not excavated) in 1827 under Colonel Otto Bayer. A small amount of pottery, vases and statuettes are now displayed in the archaeology museums in Victoria and Valletta.
Two years later, in 1829, a German artist by the name of Von Brockdorff painted a series of watercolors of the temple area. These pictures are very important as they show stones and reliefs that have since been destroyed.
All the Maltese temples were built without the benefit of metal tools, or the wheel. They are comprised of a mixture of coralline and globigerina limestone. The temples have a concave facade, with a platform outside for the worshippers. They laid large stones and then covered it with crushed earth (torba).
The south temple contains five apses and a middle passageway leading to the innermost trefoil section. It is the older of the two (dating as far back as 3600 BCE), as well as being the larger and better preserved. It contained elaborate furniture, and a variety of important features such as altars, relief carvings and libation holes. Some suggest the left apse in the second pair capstones might refer to a triple divinity or simply the intuitively understood fundamental known as the cycle of life; that is, life, death rebirth.
The outer wall of limestone encircles both temples, rising to a height of 6 meters. Some blocks weight 50 tons and are among the largest used anywhere on Malta for temple building. The plan of the southern temple incorporates five large apsidal chambers, with the inner one to the left being the most striking for its area and height - 85 square meters within 6 meter high walls. These walls are slightly inclined inwards as if intended to form a vaulted roof. The rough walling of the temple interior was originally smoothed by an application of clay and coated with a thin layer of lime plaster.
The north temple is
considerably smaller, but with a more evolved plan in which the rear
apse is replaced by a shallow niche.
After the disappearance of the temple people, the islands were repopulated by an entirely different race.
GETTING THERE: Termples Street, Xaghra,Gozo
Marija Gimutas: 1921 - 1994 Grandmother of a Movement
Gimbutas began the long, tedious
process of deciphering the symbols engraved and painted on pre-lndo-European
figurines, temples, stamps and other items. With her extensive
knowledge of comparative religion, mythology, linguistics and
folklore, she saw connections that most archeologists would not have
been able to discern -- and made interpretations that no traditional
academic would dare. The picture of Neolithic Europe Gimbutas
developed was one of a civilization with organized cities, highly
sophisticated art, a peaceful, egalitarian society, and religion
that cantered around a female deity. These ideas were detailed in
her last three books: Goddesses and Gods of Old Europe:
6.500-3.500 B.C. Myths and Cult Images (1974), The Language
of the Goddess (1989), and The Civilization of the Goddess
Gimbutas's radical interpretations came under attack from the orthodox academic community. While Gimbutas was a thorough scholar with encyclopedic knowledge, she also, Marler notes, "had the perception and sensitivity of an artist and poet." These qualities enabled her to see the complex symbolism of Neolithic Europe as an expression of belief in the sacredness of the natural world.
In the '80s, Gimbutas's work began to capture the imagination of many feminists. "Their response was a revelation to me, a big surprise," Gimbutas later told Marler, "because to the last moment I was so involved in my work that I didn't realize how strong the feminist movement (was)."
An Excerpt from the Interview:
Marler: Your work appeals to a very broad audience and even people who don't have an academic background often feel they have an intuitive sense of what you're saying.
Marija: The intuitive people are always the first to say that. Then eventually academia catches up, because these are the least intuitive. (laughter)
Malta Conference: It was through this connection to feminism late in life that Gimbutas came to understand her work on a
personal, spiritual level. In 1985, a group of feminist scholars
accompanied her to an academic conference in Malta, joining her for
tours of the ancient Goddess temples in off-hours.
Artist and writer Cristina Biaggi recalls a dramatic moment in the Hypogeum, a giant underground chamber where, it is believed, priestesses served as oracles and sought wisdom though dreams.
"We brought Marija into the center of our circle and she suddenly started speaking in this oracular voice, as though she were in a trance," Biaggi says. "No one can remember her exact words, but her message was one of unconditional love and timeless wisdom. When she came out of it, she seemed a little startled. Some of us were crying. The next day," Biaggi recalls, "I menstruated - and I had been menopausal for a year!"
The joy Gimbutas's female colleagues experienced in the Hypogeum was mitigated, however, by the lack of respect for Gimbutas's work on the part of the male archeologists at the conference. Artist and author Patricia Reis, who drew many of the images in The Language of the Goddess, recalls, "They kept referring to the Goddess figurines as 'fat ladies,' and they treated Marija like an eccentric aunt who was wonderful and mystical but not to be taken too seriously. It was so painful to watch."
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