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Geomythology is the study of alleged references to geological events in mythology. Dorothy Vitaliano, a geologist at Indiana University, coined the term in 1968.[1]

"Geomythology indicates every case in which the origin of myths and legends can be shown to contain references to geological phenomena and aspects, in a broad sense including astronomical ones (comets, eclipses, meteor impacts, etc.). As indicated by Vitaliano (1973) 'primarily, there are two kinds of geologic folklore, that in which some geologic feature or the occurrence of some geologic phenomenon has inspired a folklore explanation, and that which is the garbled explanation of some actual geologic event, usually a natural catastrophe'."[2][3]

The claim is that oral traditions about nature are often expressed in mythological language and may contain genuine and perceptive natural knowledge based on careful observation of physical evidence. Geomythology alleges to provide valuable information about past earthquakes, tsunamis, floods, impact events, fossil discoveries, and other events, which are otherwise scientifically unknown or difficult to trace.[citation needed]

To be distinguished from this are plainly aitiological tales that account for geological features without any connection to their formation; for example: the Native American legend of a giant bear chasing a couple who were saved when the land rose beneath their feet; the bear's claws left gouge marks on the sides of the uplift known today as Devils Tower, Wyoming.

In August 2004 the 32nd International Geological Congress held a session on "Myth and Geology",[4] which resulted in the first peer-reviewed collection of papers on the subject (2007).[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Compare: Piccardi, Luigi (2007). "Preface". In Piccardi, Luigi; Masse, W. Bruce (eds.). Myth and Geology. Special publication - Geological Society of London. 273. London: Geological Society of London. p. vii. ISBN 9781862392168. Retrieved 2017-10-10. [...] the study of the geological foundation to human myths, an emerging discipline in the Earth sciences galled 'geomythology'. This term was coined by Dorothy Vitaliano, in her pioneering book Legends of the Earth: their geologic origins (1973), as, 'the study of the actual geologic origins of natural phenomena which were long explained in terms of myth and folklore'.
  2. ^ Piccardi, L. and Masse, W.B. (eds) (2007). Myth and Geology, preface, p. vii
  3. ^ Dorothy Vitaliano, Legends of the Earth: their geologic origins (1973), dustjacket text.
  4. ^ "A Legendary Session: Myth and Geology", 32nd IGC Informs, (Full text Archived 2016-03-07 at the Wayback Machine)
  5. ^ L. Piccardi and W. B. Masse (ed.), Myth and Geology (London: Geological Society, 2007)

Further reading[edit]

  • Hamacher, D.W. (2014). Geomythology and Cosmic Impacts in Australia. West Australian Geologist, No. 505, pp. 11-14.
  • Hamacher, D.W. and Goldsmith, J. (2013). Aboriginal oral traditions of Australian impact craters. Journal of Astronomical History and Heritage, Vol. 16(3), pp. 295-311.
  • Hamacher, D.W. and Norris, R.P., (2009). Australian Aboriginal Geomythology: eyewitness accounts of cosmic impacts? Archaeoastronomy, Vol. 22, pp. 60–93.
  • Mayor, A., (2000). The First Fossil Hunters: Paleontology in Greek and Roman Times. Princeton University Press.
  • Mayor, A. (2005). Fossil Legends of the First Americans. Princeton University Press.
  • Piccardi, L. and Masse, W.B. (eds) (2007). Myth and Geology. Geological Society, London, Special Publications No. 273.
  • Vitaliano, D. B. (1968). Geomythology. Journal of the Folklore Institute, Vol. 5, No. 1 (June 1968), p. 11.
  • Vitaliano, D. B. (1973). Legends of the Earth, Indiana University Press, 305 p.
  • Vitaliano, D. B. (2007). “Geomythology: Geological Origins of Myths and Legends”. In: Myth and Geology. Piccardi, L., Masse, W. B (ed). GSL, Special Publications. 273: 1-7.