Archaeology and The Goddess: Exploring the Contours of Feminist Archaeology (1995)

with Margaret Conkey

This chapter was commissioned by the editors – two leading feminists in the US – from Meg Conkey. I was added as an author at the request of Meg Conkey since we had been working on the “Goddess Project” together since 1990. We regarded this article as a preliminary format for the book on the topic of Archaeology and the Goddess that we planned for several years, but which never happened. Our aim in this chapter was to write a critical analysis of Marija Gimbutas’ work on “the Goddess”, putting it into the context of the feminist practice of archaeology. The history of the Goddess Movement is something that we both worked on through a graduate seminar that we taught together in Spring 1992. However, Meg Conkey actually wrote up most of this section (pp. 199-216). I wrote most of the critique of Marija Gimbutas, the most vocal “authority” of the use of archaeological literature to support the Goddess hypothesis (pp.210-212). Meg Conkey wrote the section about the interpretation of Palaeolithic figurines (pp. 212-216). I wrote the section on Neolithic figurines (p. 216-229).


The first half of the chapter concerns the history of the “Goddess Movement” in the context of the history of the feminist critique of anthropology, and especially of archaeology. The chapter proceeds with a critique of the interpretation of archaeological data in terms of “The Goddess”, especially anthropomorphic figurines. Paleolithic and Neolithic figurines are at the heart of the debate over origins in the Goddess Movement and in Gimbutas’ work. They constitute the main data-base on the religion of Old Europe that Gimbutas has reconstructed. We write about how the figurines have been interpreted and how they may be interpreted by us, as feminist archaeologists. We point out four characteristics of Gimbutas’ treatment of the archaeological data. Finally we consider how a feminist treatment of the prehistoric figurines would proceed.


Margaret Conkey and Ruth Tringham (1995) Archaeology and The Goddess: Exploring the Contours of Feminist Archaeology. In Feminisms in the Academy: Rethinking the Disciplines, edited by A. Stewart and D. Stanton, pp. 199-247. University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor.



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