The Origins of the World's Mythologies by E. J. Michael Witzel

The Origins of the World's Mythologies

byE. J. Michael Witzel

Paperback | January 20, 2013

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This remarkable book is the most ambitious work on mythology since that of the renowned Mircea Eliade, who all but single-handedly invented the modern study of myth and religion. Focusing on the oldest available texts, buttressed by data from archeology, comparative linguistics and humanpopulation genetics, Michael Witzel reconstructs a single original African source for our collective myths, dating back some 100,000 years. Identifying features shared by this "Out of Africa" mythology and its northern Eurasian offshoots, Witzel suggests that these common myths -- ecounted by the communities of the "African Eve" - are the earliest evidence of ancient spirituality. Moreover these common features, Witzel shows, survivetoday in all major religions. Witzel's book is an intellectual hand grenade that will doubtless generate considerable excitement - and consternation - in the scholarly community. Indeed, everyone interested in mythology will want to grapple with Witzel's extraordinary hypothesis about thespirituality of our common ancestors, and to understand what it tells us about our modern cultures and the way they are linked at the deepest level.

About The Author

E. J. Michael Witzel is Wales Professor of Sanskrit at Harvard University.
The Origins of the World's Mythologies
The Origins of the World's Mythologies

by E.J. Michael Witzel


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Title:The Origins of the World's MythologiesFormat:PaperbackDimensions:720 pages, 9.25 × 6.12 × 0.68 inPublished:January 20, 2013Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0199812853

ISBN - 13:9780199812851

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Table of Contents

1. Introduction1.1 What is myth, how do we study and compare it?1.2 Definition; study of myth in the past1.3 Comparative mythology1.4 Laurasian mythology: establishing the common origin of the mythologies of Eurasia and the Americas1.5 Earlier explanations of myth1.6 Ur-forms, history, and archaeology1.7 Summary2. Comparison and Theory2.1 Theory and practice of comparisons2.2 Reconstructing Laurasian mythology2.2.1 Similarities2.2.2 Regular correspondences and establishment of a unified narrative scheme2.2.3 Oldest texts to be used2.2.4 Geographically dispersed items2.2.5 Reconstruction of the Laurasian common story line and individual myths2.3 Enhancing the reconstruction: local, regional, macro-regional, and subcontinental variations2.4 Reconstructing the Laurasian mythological system and inherent problems2.5 Structure and content in some macro-areas of Laurasian myth2.5.1 Macro-areas2.5.2 The Four ages in the Eurasian and Meso-American macro-areas2.5.3 Later centers of innovations2.5.4 Late borrowings (diffusion)2.6 Some objections to the approach of historical comparative mythology207 Conclusion3. Creation Myths: The Laurasian Story Line, Our First Novel3.1 Primordial Creation1. Chaos and darkness 2. Water 3. Earth diver and floating earth 4. Giant 5. Bull 6. Egg 7. Combined versions3.2 Father Heaven, Mother Earth3.3 Separation of heaven and earth, the prop3.4. Creation of land3.5.1 Creation of light3.5.2. The slaying of the dragon3.5.3 The theft of fire and of the heavenly drink3.6 Generations, Four Ages and five suns3.7 The creation of humans3.8 Descent of 'noble' lineages 3.9 The flood3.9 The flood3.10 Heroes3.11 The final destruction3.12 Summary4. The Contributions of Other Sciences: comparison of language, physical anthropology, genetics, archaeology4.1. Linguistics4.2 Physical anthropology4.3. Genetics4.3.1 Recent advances in human population genetics4.3.2 Overview of recent developments4.3.3 Out of Africa4.3.4 Movement northward after the last two Ice Ages4.3.5 Genetics, language and mythology4.3.6 Summary and outlook4.4. Archaeology4.4.1 Cave paintings and plastic art4.4.2 Sacrifice in Late Palaeolithic art4.4.3 Food production4.4.4 Domestic animals and pastoralism4.5 Other items of comparison: children's songs and games; ancient music and regional styles; use of colors; gestures and their regional variations4.6. Conclusions resulting from the comparison of the sciences involved5. The Countercheck: Australia, Melanesia, sub-Saharan Africa5.1 Possible ways to countercheck5.1.1 Method5.1.2 Criteria for testing the theory5.1.3 Diffusion vs genetic relationship5.1.4 Later additions5.2 Beyond Laurasia: Gondwana mythology5.3. Gondwana mythologies5.3.1 Sub-Saharan Africa, the Andamans, New Guinea, Australia and Tasmania -- an overview5.3.2 Australia5.3.2.1 Tasmania5.3.3. Melanesia5.3.3.1 Negritos and other southern remnant populations5.3.4 Andaman Islands5.3.5 Africa5.3.5.1 Remnant populations: San and Pygmies5.3.5.2 Sub-Saharan Africa5.3.5.3 Northern influences: the western North-South highway5.3.5.4 The eastern North-South Highway5.3.6 Summary5.4. Individual Gondwana myth types and their common characteristics5.5 Secondary influences on Gondwana mythology5.6. Conflicting myths in Gondwanaland5.6.1 Gondwana element in Laurasian myth5.6.2 Laurasian elements in Gondwana myth5.7 Countercheck of Laurasian mythology based on Gondwana mythology5.7.1 Essential features of Gondwana and Laurasian mythology5.7.2 The flood myth in world wide perspective6. First Tales: Pan-Gaean Mythology6.1 Beyond Laurasia and Gondwana: common myths6.2 Our first tales7. Laurasian Mythology in Historical Development7.1 Late Palaeolithic religion7.1.1 Late Palaeolithic shamanism7.1.2 Sacrifice7.2. Changes from Palaeolithic to state societies7.3. Dating Gondwana and Laurasian mythology8. Outlook8.1 The meaning of Laurasian Mythology8.2 Beyond Laurasia, Gondwana and Pan-Gaia8.2.1 Persistence of myth8.2.2 Some reasons8.3 Epilogue