No one knows precisely what Europe looked like 6000 years ago, but the following photographs taken during a research trip to Romania and Bulgaria, inspired my descriptions of Prehistoric Europe in four of my novels: The Village of Bones, The Year the Horses Came, The Horses at the Gate, and The Fires of Spring
The Neolithic Snake Goddess Statue Who Inspired My Description of Batal
Professor Marija Gimbutas, author of The Civilization of the Goddess
Painted Jar, Cucuteni Culture, 44-43d Centuries B.C.E.
A Weighted Loom Like One Sabalah Might Have Used
Garden Plots Like Those Which Surrounded the City of Shara
The City of Shara Might Have Been Built on These Cliffs
In Sabalah and Marrah’s time, most of these fields would have been densely forested
A House on the Danube River Reminiscent of Neolithic Homes
Note that it is unfortified
Goddess, Hamangia Culture, Black Sea Coast (4200 B.C.E.)
Note Full Breasts and Pregnant Belly
The Sacred Marriage
Male and Female Statues
Hamagia Culture, Black Sea Coast (c. 5000 B.C.E.)
Snake Goddesses Sitting in Council
These statues appear in Nasula’s house in Chapter 2 of The Village of Bones)
Close-up of a Snake Goddesses On Her Throne
Goddess, Gumelnita Culture
Snake Designs on Domed Stone Jar
(Gumelnita Culture, Mid-Fifth Millennium B.C.E.)
Snake Designs on Gumelnita Bowl
(Mid-Fifth Millennium B.C.E)
Snake Designs on a Cucuteni Jar
(Cucuteni Culture, 44-43d Centuries B.C.E.)
This is one of my favorite photos.
In Old Europe, the snake was a symbol of immortality because it shed its skin in the spring. It was also sacred because it lived in holes in the ground and took messages to Mother Earth. In addition, snakes laid eggs, another symbol of immortality. On a more practical level, snakes ate rats, thus protecting stored grain.
Assorted Goddess, Serene, Serious, and Playful
Jar with Zig Zag Water Lines
(Another of my favorites. Marrah and Sabalah carry water in these.)
Swirls of Energy
Almost every object seems to have been designed to be beautiful as well as useful.
Ceramic dovecot/temple model
These small models of temples, which functioned as bird houses and were sacred to the Bird Goddess,
were the inspiration for my descriptions of the large ceramic temples built along the River of Smoke (aka the Danube) which appear in The Year the Horses Came.
Temple Model and Birdhouse
(Bucharest, Romania, Fifth Millennium B.C.E.)
Model of a Temple of the Bird Goddess
A masterpiece of Neolithic Art
(Vinca Culture, 5200-5000 B.C.E.)
The back of the Vinca Bird Goddess Temple Model (above) has a round hole which indicates that it also served as a birdhouse. It’s interesting to note that the Christian symbol for the Holy Spirit–a dove which often appears over the altar–has roots dating back to at least the Fifth Millennium.
Four-Foot Tall Ceremonial Screen
(Romania, Fifth Millennium B.C.E.)
Note the egg/birth canal-shaped opening at the center, incense cups at the top, and the suggestion of a bird head. One of the great pleasures of writing the four novels in the Earthsong Series was imagining how the people of Old Europe used such ritual objects. Since I am a novelist, not an archaeologist, I had free rein, although I always tried to stick as close to the physical evidence as possible.
THE NOMAD INVADERS
Between 5000 and 4500 B.C. E., wave after wave of patriarchal, sky-worshiping nomads invaded Old Europe, reintroducing horses, which had been extinct in Europe since the end of the last Ice Age. These are some of the things the nomads brought with them:
Weapon of War
A Hunger for Gold, A Metal Which They Associated With Their Sun God
Skeleton and Grave Goods of a Nomad Chieftain
(Varna, Bulgaria, Fifth Millennium B.C. E.)
When nomad chieftains died, they were buried in large mounds called “Kurgans.” Horses and dogs were sacrificed and placed in these burial mounds. Women and children were murdered so they could accompany their chief on his journey to the afterlife. Sexual potency was probably an important part of a chief’s power. Notice in the photograph above the decorative golden phallic cap. For a fictional account of one of these Kurgan burial ceremonies, see the last chapter of The Year the Horses Came.
The Goddess-worshiping cultures of Old Europe persisted for another 2,000 years after the beginning of the nomad invasions. By 2500 B.C.E., the conquest of the matristic, earth-centered societies was complete, but the God of the Shining Sky never triumphed entirely. Even today, both currents run through European culture.
Photos: Copyright Mary Mackey, 1993. Permission granted for the free use of these photos for noncommercial purposes only.