Have you ever had the feeling that the religious stories we have might be older—far older—than anyone imagines?
"Focusing on the oldest available texts, buttressed by data from archeology, comparative linguistics and human population 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--recounted by the communities of the "African Eve"--are the earliest evidence of ancient spirituality. Moreover these common features, Witzel shows, survive today in all major religions."
Oxford’s abstract of the book’s Introduction says:
"This introductory chapter explores the definition, scope, and past investigations of myth: a “true” narrative that tells of cosmology and society as well as of the human condition and that is frequently employed to explain and justify social circumstance. Worldwide similarities between individual myths are habitually explained by diffusion or by common human psychic traits (Jungian archetypes). However, the current Laurasian proposal supersedes these approaches as it involves a whole system of myths, notably one characterized by a narrative structure (story line) from the creation of the world to its end. The Laurasian scheme also supersedes the Jungian proposal because the actual formulation of myths and their arrangement in a complex narrative system are located on higher planes than that of the archetypes. The artistic arrangement of myths in Laurasia (and beyond) is explored and traced back in time to the Mesolithic or Upper Paleolithic period. Finally, the history of the Laurasian scheme is sketched, from the Paleolithic until today."
Witzel’s theory is controversial. How can our stories go back so far? Yet, it makes sense intuitively there must have been a continuous oral transmission for much of human history, as malleable and changeable as that transmission must have been.
- E. J. Michael Witzel. The Origins of the World’s Mythologies. Oxford Univ. Pr., 2013.
- E. J. Michael Witzel. “Introduction (Abstract).” The Origins of the World’s Mythologies. Oxford Scholarship Online <oxfordscholarship.com/>. Retrieved May 13, 2020.