The traditional world view, which tends to assume patriarchal conditions existed throughout Europe since time immemorial, is looking increasingly shaky. Recent studies from various cultural historical areas prove it to be an ideological construct and therefore untenable.
Just as the pioneer Heinrich Schliemann, in his search for ancient Troy, took the mythical tales seriously and was successful with them, Sir Arthur Evans 1931 also believed the stories of Cretan mythology had a historical basis. He used their information and found the palaces of the Minoan culture on Crete. Like Evans, Alexander Marshack 1972 believed that women had a central position in early cultures. Pierre Mohen 1989 presented the abundance of megalithic cultures in Europe, but only Marija Gimbutas 1989/1991 provided a comprehensive interpretation of it, bringing about a breakthrough in terms of a mother-centered era in Old Europe, labeling them “matristic.” This caused a sensation in archaeology, although matriarchal culture patterns had been known for quite some time in religious studies. Gimbutas was heavily criticized by both male and female academics who still assumed that early Europe was patriarchal. The anthology of Joan Marler 1997 supported the conclusions of Gimbutas, and Joan Marler 2003 rejected the criticisms of her work. A cultural history of the emergence of egalitarian (“democratic”) patterns in various types of societies, extending to the present and thus going beyond the archaeological framework, was published by R. M. Glassman 2017. Heide Goettner-Abendroth 2019 described the matriarchal epochs in West Asia and Europe based on a critical review of the patriarchal ideology among archaeologists and recent archaeological finds, providing viable explanations for the emergence of patriarchy in these cultural regions.
Evans, Arthur. The Earlier Religion of Greece in the Light of Cretan Discoveries. London: Macmillan, 1931.
Against the background of his knowledge of the cultural history of the ancient eastern Mediterranean region, Evans, also a pioneer in archaeology, generally concluded that a female deity had occupied the highest place in Cretan religion, as was also the case for goddesses in Anatolia, Palestine, and Syria. Evans was the first to document Minoan culture as women-centered and demonstrated its continuing power around the eastern Mediterranean, albeit still assuming a central royal figure of the “Minos.”
Alexander Marshack: The Roots of Civilization, New York 1972, McGraw-Hill, S. 90.
Marshack pointed out the central position of women in early cultures since the Palaeolithic era and examined different aspects.
Jean-Pierre Mohen: Le Monde des Mégalithes, Paris: Castermann/Tournai, 1989.
In this work (“The World of Megaliths”), Mohen presented the extraordinary abundance of different forms of European megalithic cultures in the Neolithic and Bronze Ages, but without addressing the social or religious significance.
Gimbutas, Marija. The Civilization of the Goddess: The World of Old Europe. San Francisco, 1991).
In this comprehensive work, the archaeologist Gimbutas presented the different Neolithic cultural regions of Old Europe, documenting in particular the rich urban cultures of southeastern Europe, which were little known until then. She described the social order as mother-centered or “matristic” and the religious order as sacral, characterized by goddesses and priestesses. She therefore opened up a new perspective in archaeology for a general mother-centered epoch prior to the emergence of patriarchy, earning her fierce criticism from her peers.
Marler, Joan, ed.: From the Realm of the Ancestors: An Anthology in Honor of Marija Gimbutas. Manchester: Knowledge, Ideas & Trends, 1997.
Marler's collection of scientific papers from various socio-cultural disciplines supported Gimbuta's theory of cultural development in Old Europe.
Marler, Joan. “The Myth of Universal Patriarchy. A Critical Response”, 2005, in: Prehistoric Archaeology and Theoretical Anthropology and Education.
Marler analyzed the criticism of Gimbutas and rejected it in principle, using the example of the pamphlet by Cynthia Eller: Myth of Matriarchal Prehistory.
R. M. Glassman: The Origins of Democracy in Tribes, City-States and Nation-States, Cham/Switzerland: Springer International Publishing AG, 2017.
Glassman explored the origin and evolution of the egalitarian patterns of different types of society, such as tribes, city-states, and nations. But the term “democracy” can only be applied to all of these to a limited extent, since egalitarian patterns do not resemble the later democratic patterns. He partly included the situation of women, but without recognizing cultures shaped by women as particular social systems. Nevertheless, the work contains interesting perspectives that undermine the glorification of the classic victorious powers.
Goettner-Abendroth, Heide. Geschichte der matriarchalen Gesellschaften und Entstehung des Patriarchats. Vol III: Westasien und Europa, Stuttgart: Kohlhammer publisher, 2019.
Goettner-Abendroth rewrote the cultural history of West Asia and Europe from a matriarchal perspective. She provided new interpretations of archaeological sites and depicted egalitarian, matriarchal societies, based on archaeological evidence and by comparison with living societies of this type, with their economic, social, political and cultural patterns. She gave detailed, archaeologically-based explanations for the emergence of patriarchy in West Asia and Europe, occurring in different ways in the various cultural regions.
Greece, Southern Germany, Minoan Crete, Etruscan Italy
Critical archaeologists have increasingly moved away from the concept of “elites” and “hierarchy” in Neolithic Europe. Consequently, Stella Souvatzi 2007 criticized, using an example from Greece, the general confusion in archaeology of greater complexity with hierarchy. Helmut Schlichtherle 2010 and 2014, demonstrated egalitarian mother-centered patterns in southern Germany and beyond, on the basis of a new find from Lake Constance. Regarding the Cretan Minoan civilization, a critical discussion has developed over the last two decades, revising t he conventional image of a central monarch in the form of a “Minos”, as well as his “naval supremacy” in the Bronze Age, coined by Evans. In fact, Peter M. Warren 1972 had already pointed out that Crete's Bronze Age society was egalitarian. By means of new investigations, Thomas F. Strasser 1997showed that there was no centralization of goods in the so-called “royal palaces.” Yannis Hamilakis 2001 confirmed this by pointing out that the goods from this material culture were in circulation and not hoarded by “elites.” Ilse Schoep 2001 also criticized the centralism hypothesis, pointing rather to a regional independence, seeing “parties” as groups at work and in competition with each other 2002. Jan Driessen / H. Fiasse 2011 focused on the evidence of matrilocal clan households in Minoan Crete. Joan Marie Cichon 2013 used modern Matriarchal Studies to map out the egalitarian matriarchal structure of society in Minoan Crete. In relation to Etruscan Italy, L. Bonfante 1990 documented the high social status of women in this society, and Leonie C. Koch 2012 fundamentally questioned the existence of a hierarchical system in the Etruscan social order.
Souvatzi, Stella. “Social complexity is not the same as hierarchy.” In: S. E. Kohring/S. Wynne-Jones, eds.: Socialising Complexity. Structure, Interaction, and Power in Archaeological Discourse, Oxford: Oxbow Books, 2007.
Based on her archaeological work on the Dimini site (eastern Greece), where she did not discover a ruling “elite,” Souvatzi criticized the widespread belief that higher complexity immediately relates to hierarchical organization. She showed that economic differentiation and specialization cannot be equated with social differentiation, inequality, and political centralization.
Schlichtherle, Helmut: “Kultbilder in den Pfahlbauten des Bodensees,” in: Jungsteinzeit im Umbruch. Die “Michelsberger Kultur” und Mitteleuropa vor 6.000 Jahren. Karlsruhe: Badisches Landesmuseum, 2010.
Schlichtherle, Helmut: “Weibliche Symbolik auf Hauswänden und Keramikgefäßen: Spuren frauenzentrierter Kulte in der Jungsteinzeit?,” in: Roeder, Brigitte, ed.: Ich Mann. Du Frau. Feste Rollen seit Urzeiten? Freiburg-Berlin: Rombach Verlag, 2014.
In these articles on female symbolism, archaeologist Schlichtherle published his extremely interesting find of a Neolithic mural painting from a pile dwelling on Lake Constance: the “mothers' wall.” He rightly described the figures depicted as female ancestors, primal mothers from the beginning of the clans organized along the maternal line. The equal size of the figures from this house for worshipping ancestors demonstrates an egalitarian, mother-centered society. Schlichtherle also pointed out other fragments with similar symbolism which are widespread in southern Germany.
Warren, Peter M. Myrtos: An Early Bronze Age Settlement in Crete. London: Thames and Hudson, 1972.
Using the example of the social organization of Myrtos, Warren showed that Crete's Bronze Age society was egalitarian, given that the large buildings were clan houses and the elaborate burial structures represented communal tombs.
Strasser, Thomas F. “Storage and States in Prehistoric Crete: The Function of the Koulouras in the First Minoan Palaces.” In: Journal of Mediterranean Archaeology, No. 10 (1), 1997.
Strasser pointed out that no large storerooms could be found in the so-called “royal palaces” where tributes would have been hoarded; those storerooms were rather small. Even the exquisite, artistic ceramic crafts, assumed to be “export bestsellers” that had enriched the “elite” in Knossos, were by no means centralized, but produced by female artists in southern Crete and could be found all over the island.
Hamilakis, Yannis. “Too Many Chiefs?” In: Jan Driessen/Ilse Schoep/Robert Laffineur, eds.:
Aegaeum 23: Monuments of Minos: Rethinking the Minoan Palaces, Louvain-la-Neuve/Belgium:
Université Catholique de Louvain, 2001.
Hamilakis confirmed that other material goods of Minoan Crete were also in circulation, as goods from sea trade were also found in general distribution. That meant there were no elites keeping and hoarding exotic luxury goods.
Ilse Schoep: “The State of Minoan Palaces or the Minoan Palace State?” In: Jan Driessen/Ilse
Schoep/Robert Laffineur, eds.: Aegaeum 23: Monuments of Minos: Rethinking the Minoan Palaces, Louvain-la-Neuve/Belgium: Université Catholique de Louvain, 2001.
Schoep argued that, in the Minoan culture, there was no “palace state” and no political centers could be discerned. Architecture, settlement patterns and administration in the so-called “hinterland” of the palaces indicate that there was a lot of regional independence and autonomy. Nor were the Cretan “colonies” on the Aegean islands military bases, but rather commercial settlements.
Schoep, Ilse. “Social and Political Organization on Crete in the Proto-Palatial Period: The Case of Middle Minoan II Malia,” in: Journal of Mediterranean Archaeology, No. 15, 2002.
Despite her excellent criticism of the constellation of power assumed by the centralism hypothesis, Schoep brought “parties” into her interpretation as groups that competed with each other, thereby suggesting that “complex power relations” existed.
Driessen, Jan/Fiasse, H. “‘Burning down the House:' Defining the Household of Quartier Nu at Malia Using GIS.” In: Kevin T. Glowacki/Natalia Vogelkoff-Brogan, eds.: Stega: the Archaeology of Houses and Households in Ancient Crete, Hesperia Supplement 44, Princeton NJ: American School of Classical Studies at Athens, 2011.
Using the example of the “Quartier Nu,” a block of buildings in Malia / Crete, which reveals that living units were closely connected, with a single kitchen and a central place for ritual, Driessen und Fiasse proved it was the residence of a matrilocal clan. For it has been repeatedly shown that matrilocal societies have much larger buildings than patrilocal ones, namely clan houses instead of family houses.
Cichon, Joan Marie. Matriarchy in Minoan Crete: A Perspective from Archaeomythology and Modern Matriarchal Studies, San Francisco: California Institute of Integral Studies, 2013, (still unpublished).
In this important study, Cichon, based on recent literature on Crete and using the modern definition of “matriarchy,” examined the Minoan culture for its matriarchal traits, mapping it out in terms of its economy, social order, politics and culture, showing in detail that, until the Bronze Age, Crete was an egalitarian matriarchal society based on consensus rather than power relations.
Bonfante, L. “Etruscan.” In: L. Bonfante: Reading the Past, London: British Museum Press, 1990.
Bonfante analyzed the grave paintings of the Etruscan civilization which show that women were entirely free to appear in public and prove their high position in society. He therefore concluded that there was an egalitarian relationship and partnership between the two sexes.
Koch, Leonie C. “Die Frauen von Veji – gegliederte Gesellschaft oder befreundete Gemeinschaft?” In: T. L. Kienlin/A. Zimmermann, eds.: Beyond Elites. Alternatives to Hierarchical Systems in Modelling Social Formations, Vol. 2, Bonn: Rudolf Habelt Verlag, 2012.
Koch fundamentally doubted that Etruscans had a hierarchical society of “elites” and “dependents.” She showed that the priests and priestesses, officials, architects and engineers were highly respected, as well as the male specialists in blacksmithing and the equally respected female specialists in producing ceramics and textiles.
Early Authors on Mythology
The idea of matriarchal societies that worshipped goddesses emerged very early in research into mythology and religion. As far back as 1890, James Georg Frazer had already described a basic pattern of archaic religions: the pattern of a cosmic goddess and her mortal king. Jane Ellen Harrison 1908 focused on the goddess pattern, which had been neglected by Frazer, and assigned it clearly to matriarchal societies. Influenced by Frazer and Harrison, Robert Graves 1955 examined the sources of Greek mythology in order to reveal older matriarchal layers. Edwin O. James 1959 continued this goddess research, extending it from the West Asian cultural area to India (see West Asia – Mythology and Religion). Marie Koenig 1973 devoted herself to researching Palaeolithic symbol systems and their religious content.
Frazer, James George. The Golden Bough, New York, NY: Saint Martin's Press, 1990, 3 rd edition, 9 vols., (first published 1890).
Using a wealth of material from mythology and ethnology, Frazer determined a basic pattern of archaic religions: the worldwide pattern of the goddess and her sacred king, ritually expressed in seasonal celebrations. However, his highly influential work suffers from being one-sided, as Frazer only dealt with the male side of this pattern.
Harrison, Jane Ellen. Prolegomena to the Study of Greek Religion, and Themis. New York: University Books Inc., 1962 (first published 1908).
Harrison's discussion of Mediterranean religion suggested pre-existing cultures based on goddess worship. She was the first to suggest that Geek culture was not monolithic, but contained a wealth of patterns from pre-existing matriarchal cultures, which could be discovered by analyzing Greek mythology.
Graves, Robert. The Greek Myths, New York: Penguin Books 1955.
Graves examined Greek mythology based on the sources, stripping their later patriarchal layers to reveal older matriarchal layers which he openly referred to as such. His interpretation of mythology from a socio-political perspective succeeded in discovering not only the original matriarchal worldview, but also in showing how these cultures were destroyed by later patriarchal Hellenes. His work strongly influenced research into goddess worship and the feminist movement on culture in the mid-20 th century.
Koenig, Marie E. P. Am Anfang der Kultur. Die Zeichensprache des frühen Menschen. Berlin: Gebr. Mann Verlag, 1973.
In this work (At the Beginning of Culture. The Language of Signs of Early Humans), the prehistorian and cave explorer, Koenig devoted herself to decoding Ice Age symbolic systems found in both the residential and ritual caves of Central Europe, interpreting the worldview of Palaeolithic people in ways that jettisoned the image of the Ice-Age with “Man the Hunter” as the sole creator of prehistoric culture.
Recent Authors on Mythology
Heide Goettner-Abendroth 1980/2011 provided a structural representation of matriarchal mythology, showing that these patterns continued in later times in the context of “fairy tales” and of medieval literature. Marija Gimbutas 1989 decoded Neolithic symbolism and the religious worldview of the Neolithic era on the basis of thousands of figurines. Miriam Robbins Dexter 1990 published the original sources related to goddesses from India throughout West Asia to Europe (see West Asia – Mythology and Religion), and 1999 she explained the connection of Neolithic symbolism to later goddess cults. Moving north, Kailo 2001, 2009 looked at Finnish-Ugric culture, identifying matriarchal patterns, while Kuokkanen 2009 examined the role of women in the gift economy of the Sami (“Laplanders”). Annine van der Meer 2015 created a typology of the postures in Neolithic figurines.
Goettner-Abendroth, Heide. The Goddess and her Heros: Matriarchal Mythology. Stow MA: Anthony Publishing Company, 1995. (First published German: Munich 1980)
Following Ranke-Graves and James, Goettner-Abendroth presented matriarchal mythology from India throughout West Asia and the Mediterranean to Europe and developed a special method by systematizing its matriarchal patterns and analyzing their transformation in early patriarchal periods. She showed that these patterns continued in later times in the context of European fairy tales and of medieval literature.
Gimbutas, Marija. The Language of the Goddess: Unearthing the Hidden Symbols of Western Civilization, San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1989.
Lithuanian-American archaeologist Gimbutas has carried out five important excavations in south-eastern Europe, yielding numerous Neolithic figurines, and she has examined thousands of these which had previously not been understood and had been slumbering unnoticed in museums and storerooms. She decoded their symbolism and described the religious worldview of the Neolithic people. She established a connection to the later goddess worship in Europe and called her method “Archaeomythology.”
Gimbutas, Marija /Dexter, Miriam Robbins. The Living Goddess, Berkeley-Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1999.
Dexter continued Gimbutas' work posthumously, taking up the archaeomythological method to make further connections of Neolithic symbolism to later goddess cults.
Kailo, Kaarina. “Gender and Ethnic Overlap/p in the Finnish Kalevala.” In Himani Bannerji, Shahrzad Mojab, and Judith Whitehead, eds. Of Property and Propriety: The Role of Gender and Class in Imperialism and Nationalism. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2001. 182–222.
The Finno-Ugric scholar Kaarina Kailo examined matriarchal traces in the Finnish medieval epic, “Kalevala.”
Kailo, Kaarina. “The Helka Festival: Traces of a Finno-Ugric Matriarchy and Worldview?” In H. Goettner-Abendroth, ed. Societies of Peace, Toronto: Inanna Publications, 2009. 334-348.
Kailo sought out evidence of matriarchy in the Finnish “Helka Festival.”
Kuokkanen, Rauna. “Indigenous Women in Traditional Economies: The Case of Sami Reindeer Herding.” Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 34.3 (2009): 499–503.
Herself Sami, the anthropologist and social critic Kuokkanen used the example of the reindeer economy of her culture to present ideas of the gift economies, central to all matriarchies.
Annine van der Meer. The Language of MA, the Primal Mother, printed in Holland: self-published, 2015.
Van der Meer continued the research into Neolithic figurines and created a typology of poses and positions, including their changes during patriarchal times.
The rejection of oral traditions as unbelievable stories and of symbolic landscape as unsuitable for serious research, as is common in Western Science, is not accepted in modern Matriarchal Studies. This recognizes both areas as valuable sources, especially when interpreted by people regarding their own culture. Michael Dames 1976 and 1977/1996 opened the research on landscape mythology in southern England, joining oral sources and folklore with archaeology, comparative cultural studies and the linguistics of local geographical names. Influenced by Dames, Derungs 1997 and 2000 used the same method, including explicitly matriarchal mythology in his research on landscape mythology in Switzerland. The archaeologist Stella Souvatzi 2013 described how Neolithic people transformed the landscape into a social one through their permanent burial structures. Heide Goettner-Abendroth 2014 and 2016 explicitly developed the “matriarchal landscape mythology,” using it to explore landscapes in Germany and the Alpine countries for signs of matriarchal cultures.
Dames, Michael. The Silbury Treasure: The Great Goddess Rediscovered. London: Thames&Hudson, 1976.
With this book, Dames started his groundbraking studies on two important megalithic sites in South England. He presented a new interpretation for “Silbury Hill,” suggesting it was deliberately constructed in the shape of a reclining goddess.
Dames, Michael. The Avebury Cycle. London: Thames&Hudson, 1977/ 1996.
Soon afterwards, Dames published a new interpretation of the monumental stone circles of Avebury Henge, which he saw as structures for the worship of the Great Goddess. He demonstrated the spiritual range of not only Neolithic technology, but also Neolithic religiousness. With the help of folk customs and folk narratives in southern England, he also reconstructed some of the content of the Avebury religious system.
Derungs, Kurt. Mythologische Landschaft Schweiz. Bern: Verlag Amalia, 1997.
In this work (“Mythological Landscapes of Switzerland”), Derungs coined the term “landscape
mythology” to describe his methodological combination of archaeology, mythology and folklore. He examined some Swiss landscapes by finding ancient traces on cult stones, old churches, and astronomical lines, and interpreted these within the context of the matriarchal epoch.
Derungs, Kurt. Landschaften der Göttin. Avebury, Silbury, Lenzburg. Bern: Verlag Amalia, 2000.
In this work (“Landscapes of the Goddess”), Derungs, similar to Dames, also interpreted the Swiss landscape of Lenzburg as a reclining goddess. He thus showed that matriarchal cultures had a tradition of re/forming the landscape symbolically in order to worship a divine ancestress or landscape goddess within it.
Souvatzi, Stella. “Land Tenure, Social Relations and Social Landscapes.” In: Relaki, Maria/Catapoti, Despina, eds.: An Archaeology of Land Ownership, New York-London: Routledge, Taylor&Francis, 2013.
Independently of the previous research, the archaeologist Souvatzi described how Neolithic people transformed the landscape into a social one. She showed how, for generations, the burial structures remained in the same place, documenting as “homes of their ancestors” the connectedness of people with the landscape, which for them contained the history of their clans and granted them a permanent identity. However, the symbolic-religious characteristics of the landscape were not mentioned by her.
Goettner-Abendroth, Heide. Matriarchale Landschaftsmythologie. Von der Ostsee bis Süddeutschland. Stuttgart: Kohlhammer publisher, 2014.
Goettner-Abendroth, Heide. Berggöttinnen der Alpen. Matriarchale Landschaftsmythologie in vier Alpenländern. Bozen/South Tirol: Raetia publisher, 2016.
Based on modern Matriarchal Studies and on her guided study trips to archaeological sites, Goettner-Abendroth developed matriarchal landscape mythology, which she used to explain, in specific locations, the social order and religion of Neolithic cultures in Central Europe. In these two books (“Matriarchal Landscape Mythology” and “Mountain Goddesses of the Alps”), she applied the same interdisciplinary method and published her research on landscapes in Germany and the Alpine countries.
Paleo-linguistics is also a field used interdisciplinarily by modern Matriarchal Studies, as it refers to the great importance of women in the earliest epochs of becoming human. Richard Fester 1962 and 1979 showed that all human languages have a primordial vocabulary that expresses the maternal, indicating the leading role of women in the genesis of languages. Doris F. Jonas 1979 noted the important idea that language arose from the voiced intimacy of mother and child, contradicting prior assumptions that it sprang from men shouting during the hunt. Harald Haarmann 2006 examined the linguistic abilities of the earliest humans and described the development of the diversity of languages. Following the linguist J. P. Mallory before him, 1989 and 2006, he also studied the development of Indo-European languages (see Mallory and Haarmann, below, in The Rise of Patriarchy).
Fester, Richard. Sprache der Eiszeit. Berlin-Grunewald: Herbig, 1962;
Feste, Richard. “Das Protokoll der Sprache.” In: Fester, R./Koenig, M./Jonas, D. F./Jonas, A. D., eds.: Weib und Macht, Frankfurt/Main: Fischer Verlag, 1979.
In his paleo-linguistic work of 1962 (“ The Language of the Ice Age”), Fester demonstrated that, in most of the world's languages, the same root syllables and root words refer directly to the feminine and to motherhood. He discovered no comparable examples of root words indicating the masculine. This led him, in 1979, to his conclusion that language originated between mother and child and that the female was of greater importance for the social order during primeval epochs.
Jonas, Doris F.: Das erste Wort. Wie die Menschen sprechen lernten, Hamburg: Hoffmann and Campe publisher, 1979.
In this book (“The First Word. How Humans learned to speak”), and even earier, since 1970, the anthropologist Doris Jonas, together with her husband David A. Jonas, has published several books dedicated to the development of humanity, with Doris Jonas paying special attention to women. Despite good insights, the socio-biological approach is a fragile one.
Various explanations have been offered on the rise of patriarchy in Europe, but few are consistent with the scientific data from various disciplines. Linguistics has long researched into the origins of Indo-Europeans, with J. P. Mallory 1989 publishing a fundamental work that describes the Indo-Europeans as cattle breeders from the Eurasian steppes. In her groundbreaking work– repeated here because of its importance – Marija Gimbutas 1991 presented a theory for the rise of patriarchy based on archaeological data, suggesting a warlike invasion of the Indo-Europeans in Europe. Gimbutas's hypothesis was also violently attacked, claiming that the Indo-Europeans had immigrated to Europe as farmers in the Neolithic period, which should render the idea of a pre-Indo-European, matriarchal epoch of Europe obsolete (Colin Renfrew). However, this claim was criticized right from the beginning by linguists such as J. P. Mallory/D. Q. Adams 2006 and Harald Haarmann 2006, who confirmed Gimbutas' thesis through their research. Confirmation also came from steppe archaeology, as reported by David W. Anthony 2007, and the most recent DNA analyses have definitely helped to clarify the matter within the meaning of Gimbutas's theory; see W. Haak et al. 2015 and A. Goldberg et al. 2017. Unaffected by this discussion, James DeMeo 1998 presented his hypothesis on the rise of patriarchy in Central Asia and the Sahara, which he substantiated with ecological arguments such as desertification. Cristina Biaggi 2005 produced an anthology on the subject which includes both well-founded and unfounded theses on the rise of patriarchy. Heide Goettner-Abendroth 2019 draws her explanation of the rise of patriarchy both from Gimbutas's work and recent research in archaeology, as well as ecology, pointing out the ecological consequences for societies (see Europe – Archeology).
Mallory, J. P. In Search of the Indoeuropeans. Language, Archaeology and Myth, London 1989, Thames&Hudson.
Using early Indo-European words that describe the conditions of the steppe and a livestock economy, the linguist, Mallory, demonstrated that the homeland of the Indo-Europeans lay in the Eurasian steppes. The early Indo-European language was spoken in the period of 4,500-2,500.
Gimbutas, Marija. The Civilization of the Goddess: The World of Old Europe, San Francisco: Harper, 1991.
Based on her archaeological analyses, Gimbutas described three waves of invasion by Indo-European mounted cattle-herding warriors from the Eurasian steppes, extending as far as Europe in wide-ranging raids. According to the author the collision of these patriarchal warrior groups with ancient farming cultures ended in a violent conquest and the destruction of the matriarchal epoch of Europe. Gimbutas named her hypothesis “Kurgan-Theory,” a term that was not generally accepted because of its inaccuracy.
Mallory, J. P. /Adams, D. Q. The Oxford Introduction to Proto-Indo-European and the Proto-Indo-European World, Oxford-New York: Oxford University Press, 2006.
The linguists Mallory and Adams pointed out that the early Indo-European vocabulary referred to a nomadic way of life and livestock breeding, but did not contain any words for agricultural activities. Words for agricultural activities were only added some time later to the Indo-European vocabulary, through acculturation with the earlier, agricultural peoples of Europe.
Haarmann, Harald. Weltgeschichte der Sprachen. Munich: Beck publisher, 2006.
In this work (“ The World History of Languages”), Haarmann examined the linguistic abilities of the earliest humans, describing ways in which linguistic complexity developed. In emphasizing the development and spread of Indo-European languages, he showed they formed a later layer over the pre-Indo-European languages, thus corroborating Gimbutas's theory of Old Europe as being conquered by waves of Indo-European migration from a paleo-linguistic perspective.
Anthony, David W. The Horse, the Wheel, and Language. How Bronze Age Riders from the Eurasian Steppes shaped the Modern World, Princeton & Oxford: Princeton University, 2007.
Anthony's book is an outstanding work on the archaeology of the Eurasian steppes. He demonstrated that horses were first tamed and ridden in the Uralic cultures, and that the increase in status symbols, such as long flint daggers, stone axes and “horse-head scepters” found in the individual graves of men, indicated a male-dominated herding culture, which he identified with the Indo-Europeans. Later, a metal trade monopoly developed which was run by the chiefs, whose power grew enormously with the arrival of a new weapon: the chariot.
Haak, W. et al. “Massive migration from the steppe was a source for Indo-European languages in
Europe.” In: Nature, Vol. 522, June 11, 2015.
Goldberg, A. /Guenther, T. /Rosenberg, N. A. /Jakobsson, M. “Ancient X chromosomes reveal
contrasting sex bias in Neolithic and Bronze Age Eurasian migrations,” W. Haak (Ed.), Max Planck
Institute For the Science of Human History, Jena/Germany, January 12, 2017.
The DNA analyzed by Haak et al. and by Goldberg/Guenther/Rosenberg/ Jakobsson clarified this area considerably as they discovered two major waves of immigration to Europe: first, a massive wave of Neolithic immigration in the 7 th millennium with men and women who were not Indo-Europeans; and second, from 3,500, strong invasion of Indo-Europeans. In this second wave, only men arrived, and with new technologies: weapons and objects made of bronze. The results of the DNA-analyses definitely confirmed Gimbutas's migration theory.
DeMeo, James. Saharasia: The 4000 BCE Origins of Child Abuse, Sex-Repression, Warfare and Social Violence in the Deserts of the Old World, Greensprings/Oregon: Orgone Biophysical Research Lab., 1998.
In his extensive study, DeMeo introduced the factor of ecology, showing that disasters such as desertification and its social consequences can lead to patriarchalization. He proposed the thesis that hunger leads to violence and thus to patriarchy. His hypothesis was criticized as too simple, since patriarchal societies with warrior elites were not starvation societies but well-organized in order to prevail against other cultures. And his thesis would only apply to the Eurasian steppes, but not to the Sahara desert.
Biaggi, Cristina, ed. The Rule of Mars: Readings on the Origins, History and Impact by Patriarchy. Manchester: KIT (Knowledge, Ideas & Trends), 2005.
In her anthology, Biaggi presented a wide range of perspectives with more or less well-founded explanations for the rise of patriarchy, as well as a discussion of the intrinsic governing principles of this type of society.
The Celtic peoples
Due to the position of Celtic woman, the Celts were often associated with “Mother Right,” creating a certain confusion. Heinrich Zimmer 1894 figured out the social order of the Picts, while Josef Weisweiler 1939 studied the islanders Celts. Jean Markale 1972 focused on Celtic Mythology. Harry Mountain, 1998 in his voluminous work, called the Celtic peoples “matriarchal,” while Claire French-Wieser, 2001 in her critical study, analyzed the degradation of goddesses among the Celts.
Zimmer, Heinrich. Das Mutterrecht der Pikten, Zeitschrift der Savigny-Stiftung für Rechtsgeschichte, Romanische Abteilung, Vol. 15, Weimar: Boehlau publisher, 1894.
In his publication (“The Mother Right of the Picts”), Zimmer succeeded in discovering the matriarchal social order of the Picts, although the Picts did not belong to the Celts but to the pre-Celtic indigenous population.
Weisweiler, Josef. Die Stellung der Frau bei den Kelten und das Problem des “Keltischen Mutterrechts”, Zeitschrift für keltische Philologie, Vol. 21, Halle: Niemeyer publisher, 1939.
In his issue (“The Position of Woman among the Celts and the problem of ‘Celtic Mother Right' ”), Weisweiler presented the glorious phenomena, which have been told about the islanders' Celtic women, such as powerful queen mothers, reigning queens who led the army after their husbands' death, as well as influential female judges and priestesses. He showed, however, that these phenomena were confined to the British Isles and even restricted there, as rare exceptions, to the ruling class, while the status of ordinary woman was not ideal.
Jean Markale. La femme celte, Paris: Editions Payot, 1972.
In his book (“ The Celtic Woman”), Markale emphasized Celtic mythology and customs, which contain many references to a pre-Celtic matriarchy. He placed the Celtic culture between matriarchy and patriarchy, although his definition of these terms remains unclear.
Mountain, Harry. The Celtic Encyclopedia. 5 Vols. Aveiro, Portugal: Unpublish. Com, 1998.
Mountain labeled the Celtic peoples as “matriarchal” by generalizing from various cultural elements in his five-volume encyclopedia. As in his work, today's discussion favors a matriarchal interpretation of the Celts, which is a problematic claim due to its unclear definition.
French-Wieser, Claire. Als die Göttin keltisch wurde. Ursprung und Verfall einer alteuropäischen Mythologie, Bern: Edition Amalia, 2001.
In her critical analysis of Four Branches of the Mabinogi (“When the Goddess became Celtic”), French-Wieser has excellently pointed out how the gradual degradation and humiliation of goddesses took place among the Celts and how the feminine divine was dismantled until it became an artificial figure created by a male magician.
As early as 1920, William Albert Aron had already claimed “matriarchy” for the Germanic peoples. More cautious than Aron, Jakob Amstadt 1994 portrayed the position of the woman among the Germanic peoples according to the marriage laws and demonstrated “matriarchal traces” in the mythology.
Aron, William Albert. Traces of Matriarchy in Germanic Hero-Lore. Madison: University of Wisconsin Studies in Language and Literature, no. 9, 1920.
Aron explored traces of matriarchy in Germanic hero-lore, making what was, for his time, the avant-garde claim that the “existence of the matriarchate” in Old Germania could “hardly be denied by anyone.” He speculated that matriarchy was “much more widespread” in Old Germania than Western scholarship had allowed. However, his unclear concepts mixed up matriarchal cultures and Indo-European warrior cultures.
Amstadt, Jakob. Die Frau bei den Germanen, Stuttgart: Kohlhammer Verlag, 1994.
In his work (“Women among the Germanic peoples”), Amstadt showed that upper class Germanic women could become priestesses presiding over religious communities, while ordinary women remained dependent and restricted according to Germanic clan law. In his analysis of Germanic mythology, showing that it contains an older, pre-Germanic, matriarchal layer, he relied on Goettner-Abendroth 1980 (see Mythology, Symbols and Religion).
Karl Felix Wolff 1913 was the first to gather and write down the treasure of legends of the Raetians and Ladins in the Dolomites, including the Fanes-Cycle, whose matriarchal content was not recognized by him but, in 1975, by Claire French-Wieser. Ulrike Kindl 1983 and 1997 mapped out the matriarchal core of the Fanes-Cycle and other Dolomite sagas in a scholarly way. Christian Caminada 1992 gathered customs, legends and songs with matriarchal elements in the Raetian areas of Switzerland.
Wolff, Karl Felix. Dolomitensagen, Innsbruck-Vienna-Munich: Tyrolia-Verlag, 1957, 9 th edition (first published in 1913).
Wolff was the first to write down the legends of the Dolomites, including the Fanes-Cycle, but he distorted this remarkable cycle through his own romanticized view which, moreover, is patriarchally biased by its clichés of gender roles.
French-Wieser, Claire. “Das Reich der Fanes. Eine Tragödie des Mutterrechts,” in: Der Schlern, Bozen: Verlag Athesia, 1975.
French-Wieser fully detected the patriarchal ingredients of Wolff. She was the first to recognize the matriarchal content of the saga-cycle of the Fanes queendom in the Dolomites and its decline.
Kindl, Ulrike. Kritische Lektüre der Dolomitensagen von Karl Felix Wolff, 2 vols., San Martin de Tor: Institut Cultural Ladin, 1983 and 1997.
Kindl identified the matriarchal content of the legends about the Fanes queendom and its prominent heroines by using scholarly methods, and she showed that these legends contain a historical core referring to the early history of the Ladins.
Caminada, Christian. “Das Rätoromanische St. Margaretha-Lied,” in: Christian Caminada: Graubünden. Die verzauberten Täler. Die urgeschichtlichen Kulte und Bräuche im alten Rätien, Disentis: Desertina Verlag, 1992.
In his book (“Grisons. The Magic Valleys. Primal Cults and Customs of Old Reatia”), the Raetoroman, Caminada, wrote down the customs and cults of his Swiss homeland, which contain further elements of the early history of the Raetians, o f particular importance being the Reatoroman Margareta song, in which the goddess of the Raetians still appears in later form.
The authors Buerge/Minoja/Reusser/Salis/Usai 2016 described t he elaborate megalithic culture on the island of Sardinia, but without any reference to the early history and social order of the Sardinians, a pre-Indo-European people. A representation of the Neolithic, matriarchal culture of the Sardinians and their fusion with the also pre-Indo-European Ligurians can be found in Marija Gimbutas (see Europe - Archaeology). The legend of the origin of the Sardinians, collected and repeated by Francesco Enna 1994, confirm this matriarchal connection of both peoples in legendary form.
Buerge/Minoja/Reusser/Salis/Usai, eds.: Sardinien. Land der Türme, Exhibition catalog Universität Zürich, Zurich: Universität Zürich, 2016.
The authors of this catalog (“Sardinia. Land of the Towers”) depicted the Bronze Age culture of the Sardinians through the thousands of round towers that cover the island. They included the earlier forms and the sacral use of these towers, as well as the sanctuary wells and megalithic tombs.
Enna, Francesco. Miti, Leggende e Fiabe della tradizione popolare della Sardegna, Sassari: Carlo Delfino editore, 1994.
This collection of Sardinian myths and legends contains the very interesting legend of the origins of the Sardinians: “La leggenda di Norace” (in Sardinian: “Sa fabula de Noraxi”), which confirms the archaeologically detected link between the matriarchal original people and the megalithic Ligurians and provides evidence of matriarchal customs, for ex. marriage politics.
In his large-scale encyclopedia, Jose Miguel de Barandian 1973 collated and presented the remarkable, oral traditions of the Basques. Michel Lamy 1980 chronicled the ancient history of this people, dating back to at least the Neolithic era. In her outstanding field research, Isaure Gratacos 1987 has gathered evidence regarding the current social order of the Basques.
Barandian, Jose Miguel de. Obras completas, Eusko-Folklore, Vol. I and II, La Gran Enciclopedia Vasca, Bilbao 1972 and 1973.
In his extensive work (“The Great Basque Encyclopedia”), Barandian presented all the oral traditions of the Basques including mythology, legends, and customs. They include, amongst many other things, very old archaic goddess conceptions, a strong belief in fairies and a lunar calendar, which was in place up to the 20 th century. From this he reconstructed the religion of the Old Basque culture.
Lamy, Michel. Histoire Secrète du Pays Basque, Paris: Edition Albin Michel, 1980.
Based on the language and traditions of the Basques, in his work (“Secret History of the Basque Country”), Lamy proved that their history dates back at least to Neolithic times, as their language is pre-Indo-European and unique in Europe and the vocabulary of their tools dates back to the Stone Age. He pointed out that the Mesolithic natives in Spain had already taken their own path in evolution and that it is not coincidental that the Basques live in the mountains on the border between France and Spain, where there are numerous Palaeolithic cave paintings.
Gratacos, Isaure. Femmes Pyrénéennes, Toulouse: Editions Privat, 1987.
The Basque Gratacos dedicated her research book (“Women of the Pyrenees”) to the present social order of the Basques, which has been matriarchal for millennia, as some patterns still suggest. She showed that the Basques have no paternal surname but the name of the house, which probably was the name of the maternal clan. Today, in each generation, the first-born is the sole heir or heiress of house and land, which discriminates against the younger both economically and politically. Consequently, it cannot be claimed that there is an egalitarian, matriarchal social order still today.