Geomythology:  The Quest for Scientific Explanations of “The Great Flood”
and Other Mythical Catastrophes

Myths from many cultures around the world contain descriptions of phenomena or events that bear a striking resemblance to natural disasters including floods, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, tsunamis, and meteorite impacts. Geomythology is an emerging discipline that combines geology, archaeology, mythology, and history to investigate the possibility that some of these mythical “stories” may in fact be garbled accounts of actual events that occurred in the distant past. There is strong evidence that some myths originated over 7,000 (and possibly up to 40,000) years ago.  Thus a major challenge in geomythology is to see through the changes these stories underwent as they were passed down orally over hundreds of generations. In this talk we will examine the origins of the Great Flood story, analyzing the Biblical and Mesopotamian versions as well as possible linkages to catastrophic flooding of the Black Sea. We will also discuss Plato’s account of the sinking of Atlantis and several stories that appear to have originated with earthquakes and tsunamis. Included among the latter are legends from the Pacific Northwest that feature battles between the thunderbird and the whale, a motif now recognized as a tsunami metaphor.

Jeff Tepper is a Professor and Chair of the Geology Department at the University of Puget Sound. He received his AB from Dartmouth College and his MS and PhD from the University of Washington, where he studied the origins of granites in the North Cascades. After teaching on the east coast for ten years, he joined the faculty at Puget Sound in 2001. Dr. Tepper’s research uses geochemistry to investigate geologic questions. He and his students are currently studying the Eocene magmatic and tectonic history of the Pacific Northwest, the environmental history of the Puget Sound area as recorded in lake sediments, and the behavior of heavy metals in sediment.   

Tepper’s lecture is on Saturday, February 1, at 4 pm at the Quimper Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, 2333 San Juan Avenue, Port Townsend. It is sponsored by the Jefferson Land Trust’s Geology Group and is free and open to the public, but a donation of $5 would be appreciated to defray expenses. For more information, contact Michael Machette (paleoseis@gmail.com) or visit our web site at www.quimpergeology.org

 

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