Here is a rare chance to see a programme about women in prehistory and their place in religious development, fronted by Betany Hughes (again). Hold on tight, because it really rattles along, having been given the task of condensing a huge subject into only a few hours TV. So, lets not knock it too much. I will have a look at the rest of the series and hope that all the gaps are filled, to a greater or lesser degree. Also, it is becoming easier to ignore the usual 'filler' shots of Hughes against a setting sun, or walking across a landscape, or.... etc etc.
|Golbekli Tepe carving|
So here we have a very early site (Mesolithic), possibly a temple, with a female carving, which is possibly the first evidence of 'organised' religion. Hughes had mentioned in passing that female figures have been carved from the Palaeolithic, then passed on immediately to the Mesolithic without any more reference to it.
|Venus of Willendorf 24k-22k BCE|
That may be in the next programmes. But that did not put the following information into context. That context is one of many thousands of years of female carvings created during the Palaeolithic and as such leaves the rest of the information in the programme 'hanging'. Also, just because the people of the Palaeolithic did not possibly leave structures (temples?) does not mean that they did not have an 'organised' religion. That would mean that Druids did not have an organised religion.
At Catal Hoyuk, again in Turkey (directed in the field by my old colleague from Passmore Edwards Museum days, Shahina Farid), this early Neolithic site had many female figures and bulls carved and painted in the dwellings. No other mention was made of the bull connection to the female figures (important for this site and its interpretation). Shahina makes a very interesting statement about how the female burials show that they were 'skinny', whereas the female figurines are, what would now be termed, clinically obese. Shahina is, as usual in the profession, loathe to mention the G word in relation to the figurines, but the fact that they are fat and the real women thin may indicate that they are representations, not of 'ideal' real fertile women, but the goddess of all life, as at Gobekli Tepe and the figurines from the Palaeolithic. I cannot believe that Shahina has not heard of the earlier figurines, so can only surmise that she has dismissed any connection to them and her site, which she states is the 'beginning of the goddess form'. I would disagree (by a few thousand years!).
One figure that I had never seen before, from this site, was this one:
It shows a woman plump in front and as a skeleton behind. Striking and a bit unsettling. I was immediately struck by the similarity of the figurine I have shown before - this one, the so called 'birth goddess':
|From Tarxian, Malta|
I think that sometimes being a professional, with responsibilities and a fear of reputation being trashed, can suppress thinking and interpretation too much. One must always be looking over ones shoulder in case of ridicule and loss of face (and job). Luckily no one returns from the past to make fools of us all. But wouldn't it be wonderful?