Statements and Articles

Speech at the UN Celebration of “The Lost World of Old Europe” Exhibition

Speaker: H.E. Ambassador Simona Miculescu, Permanent Representative of Romania to the United Nations

Distinguished audience,

Some say in our region that the longer the history of our countries, the more complicated the present. But tonight we defy such assumptions, and we proudly celebrate an astonishing historic and cultural heritage – the Old Europe, whose heart was in the lower Danube Valley. With this exhibition our dilemma of being told that our countries are part of the old or of the new Europe becomes even more debatable…But that debate is for other arenas…

I must confess I always thought that one of the most famous art objects from prehistoric Europe - widely known as “The Thinker from Hamangia”, that you can admire among the 165 exhibits from Romania – would be the perfect logo for my country. Not only because it is a proof of its ancient history and civilization, but also because it expresses wisdom. I also admire it because of its affinities to modern art, that calls to mind the works of Picasso, Modigliani, or Brancusi.

One more confession: I think I am attracted by this exhibition also because it shows us remnants of an enigmatic female-centered cult of Old Europe. One of the most famous aspects of it is the abundance of female “goddess” figurines, found in almost every settlement,  that have triggered intense debates about the ritual and political power of women, and generated sharp disagreements among archaeologists, historians and feminists. The prevalence of female images among the anthropomorphic figurines of Old Europe have suggested to some that they mirrored a matrilineal and matrifocal Old European social structure, in which women were the dominant figures in social and political life. I am sure that my colleagues from the UN - that I thank for being here - know how to appreciate such a perspective, especially the 23 female ambassadors!

Romania is very grateful to all those who helped in introducing to the international publics the wonderful artifacts from the Old Europe: so thank you ISAW, thank you curators, thank you museums and ministries of culture in our countries. Thank you all those involved in this unique endeavor for organizing this journey through ancient history that represents the first time these rare objects have appeared in the United States, and for showing to the world that, long before Egypt or Mesopotamia rose to an equivalent level of achievement, Old Europe was among the most aesthetically sophisticated and technologically advanced places that humans inhabited.

A special word of thanks goes to the RCINY who, besides mediating the relationship between ISAW and the Romanian institutions involved, has been collaborating with the Institute on placing this unique event into a wider artistic context, by organizing a series of public programs related to the exhibition, that include roundtables, film screenings, and concerts, where you’ll be all welcome.

And, since I mentioned Mother-Goddesses, there is a special one that I want to commend: the “mother” of the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, Mrs. Shelby White. Madam, without your courage and passion none of this would have been possible.

Let me express in the end my hope and trust that Romania’s future will preserve this spirit of remarkable cultural dynamism, sophistication and creativity of the Old Europe, in order to at least honor such a fabulous past that we can all admire these days in this memorable exhibition.

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