23 January 2021

Prehistory in Italy, in the sign of the Goddess

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The 23 January falls the centenary of the birth of Marija Gimbutas.

The well-known mythologist-archaeologist needs no introduction, it was she who coined the expression of 'Ancient Europe' as the result of a more than ten-year excavation campaign where he demonstrated, data in hand, the existence of a flourishing civilisation and a rich culture inspired by the cult of the Goddesswhich flourished in the Palaeolithic period and were progressively annihilated with the arrival of migratory waves from the East that created the cultural, social, political and religious system we call patriarchy.

We are indebted to Marija for an enormous amount of essays that made tangible what until the 1860s were only hypotheses of linguists, anthropologists, ethnologists and scholars of religions but had not yet given rise to excavations and the collection of field findings.

A part of feminism has not yet sufficiently assessed the scope of these studies, especially those more oriented towards investigating the spirituality connected with the Goddess, the Lady, the Potnia. Talking about the Sacred is still taboo for many of us, it represents a world and a language foreign to us, with which we do not know how to come to terms and from which we prudently keep our distance. Studying myth, religious symbols, cultural expressions, and art, on the other hand, means understanding that really 'another world is possible'because it has already existed: the Patriarchate is not a 'natural' structure but a parenthesis of History which is only five thousand years old, a far cry from the 'Golden Age' that began (according to the sources) with the Palaeolithic and ended with the Bronze Age (but survived in various parts of the world, now overtly, now covertly, to the present day).

It is a joy to pay tribute to the work of the friends of the Association 'Prehistory in Italy' which has a webpage (now also on Facebook) set up a few weeks ago to honour the 100th birthday of the great Lithuanian scholar. The project was born within the Women Civilisation Study Group to continue the work of Gimbutas, applying his vision and methods to the findings on Italian territory (investigated only fleetingly in his study of Ancient Europe). Our position in the centre of the Mediterranean has exposed us to the continuous passage of human groups, cultures, civilisations, in constant movement between continents. Italy is full of archaeological, linguistic, anthropological and religious artefacts related to the Goddess Culture, often unknown to the uninitiated.

'Prehistory in Italy', therefore, aims to collection, census and storage in a virtual space easily accessible and shareable photographic and documentary material in our country: artefacts (menhirs, dolmens, stelae, cave paintings, statuettes), myths, cults, legends, recorded in cards and geographically identifiable on the Italian territory. For this immense work, the 'Prehistory in Italy calls for help from female scholars, archaeologists and anyone with study material to catalogue and share with those interested in this still new field for many of us.

Also new on this page is a tribute to a great Italian scholar, Momolina Marconi, almost unknown even to those who have recently approached Goddess Culture. This shy and highly cultured woman, who passed away in 2006, held the chair of History of Religions at the University of Milan and dedicated her entire life to the rediscovery of the Great Mediterranean Female Deity.

Studies on the Goddess arrived in Italy only a few decades ago and from the Anglo-Saxon world (Gimbutas herself taught in the USA, at UCLA), but studies on the Mediterranean world are much older and date back not only to "The White Lady' by Robert Gravesbut also to a small circle of scholars including Italians Uberto Pestalozza and his pupil Momolina Marconi, who published her first work as early as 1939.

There is therefore an original and very valid Italian tradition of studies on the Sacred Feminine, on the Goddess, on this Great Mother, always the same and always different, from Spain to the Indus. Tradition of studies which deserves renewed attention precisely from younger people, who are approaching political feminism and would like to understand how and why human history has gone in this direction.

Italian radical feminism is influenced by a Mediterranean feminism which has some specificities compared to the Anglo-Saxon one (towards which many manifest some sense of inferiority). The project of Autrici di Civiltà/Preistoria in Italia moves in this tradition-direction that we feel is common in the vital, creative and sexualised body of women is at the centre, true ladies of creation. A strand of thought unravelled in Carla Lonzi, Mary Daly, Luce Irigaray, Luisa Muraro, against an idea of an 'emancipation' flattened on the male model and oriented towards the rediscovery of the "archaic future' (Daly) that Marija Gimbutas and Momolina Marconi helped us (re)get to know with their studies.

Thanks and good work to those who conceived the Prehistory in Italy project (Luciana Percovich first and foremost).

Anna Perenna

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