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Stratum Plus. 1997

Igor Manzura (Kishinev, Moldova)

The archaeology of basic myth

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Pages: 26-46

The article is an attempt to consider archaeological data in the light of the basic Indo-European myth, after Vyach.Vs.Ivanov and V.N.Toporov (1974), or the myth of the second creation in the Vedic sources, after W.N.Brown (1942; 1965) and Ph.Kuiper (1975). The general research background of the analysis is based on the inference that the myth represents a definite well-structured model of the Indo-European universe in terms of its organisation and creation and as such itcan be correlated with the structure of a funerary ritual reconstructed after archaeological record.
The archaeological evidence comes from the small Chalcolithic cemetery (c.4300 B.C.) in the vicinity of the village of Giurgiule[ti on the Lower Danube (the Republic of Moldova). The cemetery consisted of five graves and two sacrificial features. The layout of the burials and features, distribution of sacrificial animals and grave goods as well as other attributes show very close relation of the cemetery to the structure of the basic Indo-European myth evidenced first of all in the Vedic and Avestian mythological traditions.
It is like the myth that the ritual at Giurgiule[ti demonstrates the same pattern of basic binary oppositions including top–bottom, fire–water, south–north, sacral–secular, birth–death, etc. Moreover the ritual reveals the same concept a threefold organisation of the ordered cosmos with clear distinctions between two visible worlds/heavens and the highest or invisible world/heaven. Furthermore according to the Giurgiuleºti data the ordered cosmos is opposed to the zone of unordered cosmos or primordial chaos duplicating the basic structural dichotomy of the Indo-Iranian cosmogony.
It is besides the static aspect in the organisation of the cosmos that the ritual at Giurgiule[ti communicates the dynamics of the mythical plot in question. The latter narrates realising treasures hidden in a cave by a hero-demiurg and the creation of the ordered cosmos. It is shown that the motif of the destruction in this case is closely related to the idea of creative immolation.
It is the main conclusion that a ternary system indeed was a basic principle in cosmogonic, teologic, ritual, and social representations of the Indo-Europeans. In general the system included two members of binary opposition and the third element as a relationship between the first two.

Information about author:

Igor Manzura
(Kishinev, Moldova). Doctor of history. High Anthropological School.
E-mail: [email protected]

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