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

"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'."[1]

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.

To be distinguished from this are plainly aitiological tales that account for geological features without any connection to their formation; an example is 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"[2], which resulted in the first peer-reviewed collection of papers on the subject (2007).[3]


  1. ^ Piccardi, L. 2007. "Preface" in Myth and Geology. Geological Society, London, Special Publications, 273.
  2. ^ "A Legendary Session: Myth and Geology", 32nd IGC Informs, (Full text)
  3. ^ Myth and Geology, Ibid.

Further reading

  • 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.
  • 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.

See also

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