Queen of the Mountain

Distributed by Women Make Movies, 462 Broadway, New York, NY 10013; 212-925-0606
Produced by Martha Goell Lubell
Directed by Martha Goell Lubell
DVD, color, 56 min.
Anthropology, Architecture, Art History, History

Reviewed by Lisa Flanzraich, Queens College, Flushing, New York

Date Entered: 6/2/2006

The tenacity, dedication, and drive of renowned archaeologist, Theresa Goell, come to light in Queen of the Mountain. Theresa Goell was responsible for the mid-twentieth century excavation of the ancient kingdom, Nemrud Dagh, in Southeast Turkey. Built by King Antiochus I of Commagene BCE in the mid 1st Century, it is one of the most important sites of the Late Hellenistic period, known as the eighth wonder of the world. It clearly documents the marriage of ancient Greek and Persian religions and the extent to which the Mithraic religion had spread from the Middle East toward Europe. Worshippers gathered at this sanctuary on a regular basis to pay tribute to Anthiochus and the Greco-Persian gods.

Born in 1901, Goell came from a Jewish-Russian immigrant family and grew up in Brooklyn. Although she was pressured into getting married by her father, she eschewed the traditional role of housewife and mother. She insisted on pursuing her career as an archaeologist, even at the expense of being emotionally and physically absent from her only son, Jay Levinthal. She was the first female archaeologist to organize a dig in Turkey and spent more than thirty years restoring the ruins of Nemrud Dagh back to stature. Despite the fact that she was a woman in a male dominated profession and hearing impaired, she persevered and accomplished her life’s ambition. Although she did not find King Antiochus I's grave, which would have been parallel to the discovery of King Tutanhamen's burial site, Theresa Goell can only be admired and respected for her unique and invaluable contributions to the study of ancient civilizations.

Letters read by actress Tova Feldshuh compliment the detailed research and creativity of this production.Abundant archival footage shot by Goell’s brother, Kermit, and the National Geographic Society allow us to experience the dig as it actually happened and learn about the indigenous people hired to help with the excavation. In addition, the fine cinematography gives us close-up views of these astounding monuments and makes us want to book a tour to Nemrud Dagh ASAP. Theresa Goell can only be admired and respected for her unique and invaluable contributions to the study of ancient civilizations. 

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