Lately I’ve been thinking about myths and legends, which have generally been regarded as fables designed to teach – or worse, instill fear in children to keep them safe – as more than moralistic messages. I’m not talking so much about Cuchulainn, who may or may not have existed, or Baba Yaga and Werewolves or even Zeus. The myths or cultural stories I speak of are the ones that attempt to explain the natural landscape, the universe and humanity itself. I am an archaeologist and biological anthropologist – a scientist – so I tend to look for comparisons and patterns in the data, but more than that I look for evidence. I want to know where these myths and legends came from and if they have any historical reality. I want to know if we can use these stories as evidence for past events. I believe, in some cases, we can. Myths and legends have been largely overlooked as sources of evidence for historical or prehistoric events, but as the X and Y geners take their places in the field of science, the foundation of perception is changing. No longer are scientists relying solely on empirical evidence from experiments conducted in labs, but they are looking to philosophy and religion, to myths and legends and campfire tales in the pursuit of understanding. I am part of a movement of seekers that is willing to look beyond the lab rat and atom splitters for evidence. It is a slow movement, but it is a movement nonetheless. I have always believed that those “campfire tales” can teach us much about our origins. I believe this because I believe that the fabric of the universe is woven into our own atoms and that the knowledge is already there within us. This is not a novel concept, just one that few scientists have been brave enough to put forth. You won’t find it in text books. Yet.
To demonstrate what I’m talking about I’ve picked the Deluge myth. It is so pervasive throughout extant and extinct faiths that it is almost impossible to list every one of them. In general the deluge myths speaks of a great flood sent by the Gods, or God for reasons usually related to retribution. From the ancient Middle East to Eurasia, the Americas and and Australasia, flood mythology is a persistent theme that deserves some attention. It has been suggested that these deluge myths relate to the flooding of the world after the Ice Age. Enormous amounts of fresh water were released as the glaciers of the northern hemisphere melted, vast tracts of land were submerged. It would have been a catastrophic event for many societies; one that would remain in the memories of certain societies for generations to come. Their worlds changed so much after the ice age that it was impossible for them not to consider the event as an act of the Gods. Is it possible for a story to persist for thousands of years? Story telling is one of humanity’s most powerful tools. I believe if we look closer we’ll find many more comparisons in myths and legends.