The Malta Independent 19 October 2019, Saturday

‘The Goddess of Malta – the Lady of the Waters and the Earth’

Tuesday, 21 May 2019, 14:50 Last update: about 6 months ago

After 27 years, well-known art historian and cultural anthropologist Dr Veronica Veen presents an updated and extended edition of her successful book The Goddess of Malta; the Lady of the Waters and the Earth, about the feminine aspects of the Neolithic cultures on both islands.

Back in 1992, the first edition was enthusiastically reviewed in almost all Maltese media. Many copies of the characteristic purple booklet were sold to Maltese and foreign readers alike. Its content, founded on new research and with many a game-changing theory, has obviously been very influential, given the wide-spread echoes in later books, articles and in situ performances by tourist guides. However, unfortunately almost none of these media or individuals bothered to mention the source.

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The book was revolutionary in several respects: the Neolithic cultures of Malta and Gozo, covering the impressive span of 5800-2500 BC, were treated in the context of the international "goddess cultures", for that matter a term coined by the author. Chapters as Pot, House, Temple, Tomb: Interwoven Manifestations of the Goddess, or Earthenware as a Key, or The Weeping Goddess, probably constituted the first serious symbolic anthropological exercises in the field of prehistory and succeeded to trace substantial parts of the "symbolic system" of these cultures, that is, the way these Gozitan and Maltese people experienced their world and their existence and materialised this by symbolic means.

One of the most fundamental insights was that the early Neolithic Ghar Dalam culture appeared to be foremost water-oriented, while the later, famous Temple people felt deeply connected with the earth, hence the title of the book.

For several reasons the author decided to publish an updated version of the book, that doubled its size by this operation. The most obvious one is that the first edition is practically sold out.

The second is that the goddess concept, that pervades all the chapters, has meanwhile come under some pressure. Next to a convincing and professional use of the term, based on sound archaeological research and cultural anthropological knowledge, a true flood of amateurish, semi-spiritual and commercial noises found their way, making the good exceptions look questionable as well. Reason enough for an in-depth evaluation of the harassed concept.

A third reason was the need to highlight and elaborate an important theoretical innovation, that dra. Veronica Veen had first introduced in her book: the concept of Neolithic clustering. Although she had added a definition in the German edition (1997), this basic symbolic method of Neolithic cultures, enabling us to un-riddle their symbolism, deserved more attention, supported by many an illustrative example.

The fourth, final reason was inspired by the art historian and archaeologist Dr Adrian van der Blom, who has cooperated with the author in Malta since 1986.This reminds us of the full 33 years she has been active in the Maltese, especially Gozitan field. Partly due to her progressive and feminist insights and public activism over endangered Neolithic sites, such as tac-Cawla, Gozo, her place in the scientific field has purposely been denigrated and played down by hostile forces. To restore this distorted picture as much as possible, Dr Van der Blom contributed something like an "intellectual biography" under the title Surviving a clash of paradigms: Cinderella in a snake's pit.

With all these new, enlightening extras The Goddess of Malta will be fit and durable for at least another quarter of a century.

 

The EANNA Foundation

Haarlem, The Netherlands

INANNA publishers


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