The Museum of Anatolian Civilizations is a wonderful, beautifully laid out, accessible, charming museum. The pottery geese waddle in from centuries past, Hittite hunters grab marauding lions by the foot, turbaned gods fling boomerangs with one hand and menace sinners with lightning with the other. A serene goddess clutches a pomegranate to her chest much the way Mary, nine centuries later, fondles the fruit while her son sits on her lap reaching for this emblem of eternal life. A seventh century BCE hero grips a bull by the horn and an evasive lion by the hind leg. Man is mastering his natural landscape and all that occupy it.
The smallest items in the museum are, perhaps, also the most dominant. They hail from the long millennium between 7500 and 6000 BCE. Some are identified as Cybele, the Phrygian mother goddess, earth mother, fertility figure, the only goddess of Anatolia and thus the most powerful and revered. One small–not 8 inches high–crude, staggeringly powerful, seated Earth Mother sits on a throne flanked by two wild animals. She appears to be delivering a child. Her arms and legs are monstrously heavy; her face is stolid and unrevealing; her breasts sag as if from heavy, ageless use. She’s an amazing figure.
She sets the tone for dozens more carvings over the next few thousand years. Cybele also travels to Greece and Rome, plays the exotic and wild in Greek myth. Some say that, in the long haul and much civilized, she is Mary’s mother figure, too, but this goddess required no angelic visitation to announce her maternal role.
Here are several versions of female figures. Not all must be seen as Cybele, but she is clearly the hovering genie of the museum.