Historians of religion who investigate the myths, rites, and symbols of the multilocal Indo-European speakers are not unlike historians of the planet earth who investigate the dispersed continental land masses and ocean floors of the present time. The former labor to reconstruct from hundreds of thousands of mythological, philological and iconographical details the language, religion and social structure of an ancient parent culture, while the latter proceed from an equally bewildering variety of geological and oceanographical puzzle-pieces to determine the character of that primordial “Pangaea” from which continental plates of the earth's surface originated. Interestingly, both areas—comparative mythology and earth science—have recently been reinvigorated by fresh schools of investigation after long lapses subsequent to the discrediting of nineteenth-century hypotheses. A generation ago no Asian studies scholar would have supported the claim that the massive Indian epic Mahābhārata and the Iranian epic Shāhnāmeh have preserved significant structures of the Indo-European mythological worldview that went unreflected in the vedic and avestan texts, any more than a reputable earth scientist would have maintained the idèa that the Himalayan massif was created by a wayward “India” crunching into central “Asia” after a multithousand-mile journey from the loins of South Africa.

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