Signs Out of Time - Neolithic EuropeThe Story of Archaeologist Marija GimbutasOld Europe is a term coined by archaeologist Marija Gimbutas to describe what she perceives as a relatively homogeneous European Neolithic culture in southeastern Europe located in the Danube River valley.A documentary on archeologist Marija Gimbutas, who found that Europe's origins lay in a cooperative, peaceful, neolithic Goddess culture.Portraying the life and works of one of the most prolific archaeologists of the twentieth century is a daunting undertaking. Compressing it into a one-hour documentary seems well-nigh impossible.A long-running prejudice of historical studies holds that civilization and written language were born together in the ancient Middle East amid an orgy of empire-building. Some of the oldest extant writings record the exploits of conquering kings.First, that Neolithic urban settlements greatly pre-dated the "first cities" of the patriarchal tradition;Second, that at least some of these settlements had no defensive walls, no military burials, and no artwork recording warfare;Third, that the decorative designs of the artwork of these cultures may actually be a sophisicated system of symbols through which ideas and values could be recorded and transmitted.Signs Out of Times surveys Gimbutas's life and early academic career, in which she combined an interest in folklore with a deep knowledge of European languages. This combination helped open insights that remained closed to scholars whose cultural focus was classically formed, and whose standard of "language" was Latin or Greek.Against the backdrop of her life, the film turns to Gimbutas's theories about language and symbolism in Old Europe. Her conjectures sometimes seem far-fetched, as when she states that two spirals are in fact snakes coiling into two divine eyes . But once we see some of the dozens or hundreds of similar pieces that Gimbutas studied - some naturalistic, others more abstract - the common symbolism becomes clear.Just as controversial have been Gimbutas's theories about a "prehistoric" age of the Goddess, in which matrifocal societies built cultures, developed symbolic language as well as decorative arts, and lived for centuries in undefended, unmilitarized cities.Gimbutas's views challenge the Hobbesian thesis that "primitive man" was brutish, violent, grasping, and incapable of living in society except under the thumb of a tyrant - and along with it the modern political structures which still assume that humans are naturally vicious and destructive and must be repressed by a strong government and social structure.Maybe the highest compliment I can pay the film is to say that after watching it, I went out and bought Marjia Gimbuta's Language of the Goddess, illustrated with hundreds of sketches and photos from her excavations. In the wealth of images that fill this book, Gimbutas's theories come alive, and the language of Old Europe takes shape before our eyes.In the Introduction to Language and the Goddess, Marija Gimbutas writes:"Some twenty years ago when I first started to question the meaning of the signs and design patterns that appeared repeatedly on the cult objects and painted pottery of Neolithic Europe, they struck me as being pieces of a giant jigsaw puzzle - two-thirds of which was missing. As I worked at its completion, the main themes of the Old European ideology emerged, primarily through analysis of the symbols and images and the discovery of their intrinsic order. They represent the grammar and syntax of a kind of meta-language by which an entire constellation of meanings is transmitted. They reveal the basic world-view of Old European culture.Gimbutas's theories of contextual meaning - that the meaning of any given symbol can be understood only in relation to other symbols and finally to the context in which the symbols were used - has been echoed in modern linguistics and hermeneutics by writers such as Jacques Derrida and Hans-Georg Gadamer, both of whom saw the roots of linguistic meaning in the contrast among a set of symbols. Derrida, a contemporary of Gimbutas, wrote extensively on his theory of differance, which contends that words only have meaning in relation to other words - there is no "absolute meaning" of any word. Context and relation are determinant, and meaning is always in flux as new relations emerge.She goes on to tie this research to the study of ancient Goddess religion. "These systematic associations in the Near East, southeastern Europe, the Mediterranean area, and in central, western, and northern Europe indicate the extension of the same Goddess religion to all of these regions as a cohesive and persistent ideological system."