Berezkin Yu. Borderlines and Contacts: Patterns of Area Distribution of Folklore and Mythological Motifs in Eurasia

Yu. Berezkin
Peter the Great Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography
(Kunstkamera) of the Russian Academy of Sciences
St. Petersburg, Russian Federation
ORCID 0000-0001-6001-7339


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ABSTRACT. Computer processing of episodes and images selected from dozens of thousands of traditional narratives reveals several patterns of the area distribution of motifs across Eurasia (including North Africa but excluding the insular Southeast Asia). These patterns correspond to the cultural borders that existed in different epochs. Such a research has become possible thanks to the detailed thematic classification of motifs, each group being processed separately. The area distribution of motifs related to the main ideas of the world (cosmogony and cosmology, the Sun and the Moon, atmospheric phenomena) shows the existence of two interaction spheres, the Northwestern (Continental Eurasian) and the Southeastern (East Asia and the eastern part of South Asia). Such a distribution goes back to the pattern that probably emerged after the initial peopling of the world by the modern man. Motifs describing ideas concerning the objects of the night sky distinguish Europe (including the Caucasus) from Siberia (including East Asia). Motifs of the eastern set find counterparts in North America. Motifs explaining animal characteristics are distributed according to a similar model. The most recent pattern is based on the analysis of the distribution of episodes extracted from realistic tales and anecdotes. Its dating (ca. AD 1500) follows from the arrangement of the dividing line that separates the Christian world from the Islamic zone of influence (including the Great Steppe). A larger part of episodes typical of magic tales fits the same pattern and was probably disseminated during the same period. The lesser part of such episodes and episodes of animal tales fit a different pattern, Eastern Europe and Siberia being opposed to the southern zone from the Atlantic to Southeast Asia. These interaction spheres can be provisionally dated to ca. AD 500–1200.


KEYWORDS: interaction spheres in prehistory, Eurasian folklore, Eurasian mythology, statistics in humanities


DOI 10.31250/2618-8600-2021-4(14)-6-23
УДК 7.046+398



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