Home > Ancient history > Prehistoric goddess figurine found at the bosnian pyramids,Visoko!

Prehistoric goddess figurine found at the bosnian pyramids,Visoko!

Sep 30, 2011

Neolithic artifacts have been discovered, this month, in several areas of the Visoko valley by locals tilling their fields. In addition to artifacts such as pottery fragments and lithic tools, a prehistoric goddess figurine has been unearthed from Visoko’s fertile soils.

According to Lithuanian archaeologist Marija Gimbutas, in Old Europe the pregnant Vegetation Goddess represented the annual cycle of germination, growth, and harvest. She wrote that ancient agriculturalists understood the parallel between grain seeds growing in the fields and new life growing in the womb. Representation of this parallel is found in many Old European cultures, including the Butmir culture, which existed in Europe between the 6th and 3rd millenium BC.

The pregnant vegetation goddess, popularly known as the earth goddess, or “Mother Earth”, was one of the most-represented female figures in Old European art. Hundreds of pregnant goddess figurines, commonly known as Venus figurines, have been unearthed in European excavations sites dating back to the Neolithic age. 

Old European cultures generally connected the pregnant goddess with food, especially grain and bread. Archaeologists often find pregnant goddess figurines near bread ovens. Farmers throughout prehsitory and history understood cyclical (seasonal) time, and they took advantage of annual cycles with planting and harvest activities, which became rituals.

During her lifetime, Marija Gimbutas identified a diverse and complex range of Neolithic female divinities, including Bird Goddess, Mistress of Animals, Snake Goddess, Deer Mother, Bear Mother, Birth-giver, Nurse, Pregnant Earth Goddess or Earth Mother, and many other female deities. Gimbutas thereby challenged the hypothesis of one “Great Mother” deity for the European Neolithic period.

Gimbutas also identified a rich array of Neolithic male deities, such as the ithyphallic Snake God (a proto-Hermes), a bull- or goat-masked proto-Dionysos, Sorrowful God, a dying and rising Vegetation God, proto-Asklepios, Master of Animals or Forest God, and others.

Gimbutas also deciphered the sacred Old European writing system and the meaning of each of these ideograms is most fully (and beautifully) presented in her book, The Language of the Goddess (1989). Gimbutas postulated that these ideograms were created to symbolise the life energy of nature and of humanity, and that combinations of them could be used to express “sonatas of becoming.”

Pregnant goddess figurines were created from many different raw materials, each possessing unique physical qualities that were likely selected for their different attributes of availability, workability, and/or surface appearance. These figurines have been made from ivory, serpentine, schist, limestone, hematite, lignite, calcite, steatite, fired clay, bone and antler. While they have been the subject of scholarly attention for more than a century, a detailed understanding of the techniques used to create them is still lacking.

Although today those female statuettes are called by most archaeologists “Venus figurines,” based on the assumption that they represent a standard of female beauty, Gimbutas explains that their function was more important than that of a Venus. These functions were the giving of life, the bringing of death, and the bringing of regeneration. According to Gimbutas, the large breasts and buttocks can be associated with the idea of regeneration and abundance.

Tilling the Earth, and Visoko’s Archaeological Heritage

The central part of the access ramp of the Bosnian Pyramid of the Sun, ploughed up by the land owner.

Unfortunately, modern farming is destroying dozens of precious archaeological sites in Bosnia every year, most of these sites dating back to Neolithic or Medieval times. Paradoxically, however, farming, which releases artifacts to the modern world, has been a vital force in developing archaeological knowledge. Modern non-intrusive farming practices should be applied in order to preserve Visoko’s historic landscapes. Modern farmers are the direct successors to the generations who worked and lived on the land before them. This valuable legacy is something local people should try to understand, cherish, and protect, for themselves and for future generations.

But managing archaeological sites on cultivated land presents a particular challenge, since regular cultivation – or even a single instance of unusually deep ploughing – can damage hidden artifacts or remains. Hopefully farmers will begin to play a positive role in ensuring that the access ramp of the Bosnian Pyramid of the Sun, as well as other archaeological sites in and around Visoko, are passed down unscathed to future generations.

Photo: Pottery fragment decorated in a green glazePhoto: Pottery fragment.

 Photo: Human bone unearthed during soil tillage.

 Neolithic pottery unearthed by farmers at hill Gradac, Visoko, Bosnia & Herzegovina

Photo: Neolithic vessel handle; Butmir culture.Photo: Neolithic vessel handle with decorations.Photo: Neolithic vessel handle shows typical decoration.


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