Pan-Gaean Flood myths: Gondwana myths -- and beyond
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CitationWitzel, Michael E. J. 2010. Pan-Gaean Flood myths: Gondwana myths -- and beyond. In New Perspectives on Myth: Proceedings of the Second Annual Conference of the International Association for Comparative Mythology, Ravenstein (the Netherlands), 19-21 August, 2008, ed. Wim M.J. van Binsbergen & Eric Venbrux, 225-242. Papers in Intercultural Philosophy and Transcontinental Comparative Studies (PIP-TraCS), no. 5. Haarlem, The Netherlands: Shikanda.
AbstractMythological compendia and indexes such as that by Stith Thompson create the impression that flood myths are rare in Africa and Australia. Erroneously, I too thought so in my short summary of Laurasian mythology (2001). A closer look at the worldwide distribution of flood myths tells differently. While they are fairly widespread in the Laurasian Area (Eurasia, Polynesia, the Americas), they are by no means absent from what I like to call the Gondwana belt (sub-Saharan Africa, New Guinea / Melanesia, Australia). The hundreds of recorded flood myths from both areas can be classified into a few major types, region per region. A comparison of the Australian and African versions indicates a strong overlap that goes back to the time of the exodus from Africa, some 60,000 years ago. The Eurasian-American versions are more narrowly confined to a few basic types that can be traced back to the emergence of Laurasian mythology. However, the Laurasian types clearly emerge from the earlier Gondwana prototype. In sum, the flood myth is an ancient inheritance of human mythology. It is part of a very old core of myths connected with the emergence of humans and their early, evil ways – surprisingly echoing the Mesopotamian and Biblical accounts in many respects. Whether this myth has taken shape among the bottleneck population along the shores of E.Africa or even before, in the mind of the African Eve must remain moot, just as the psychological reason for its invention and formulation, which is a topic to be investigated by the study of the human brain and its productions.
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