History Archeology and Mythology

It would seem at first that history and archaeology would stand on their own as studies. If you want to know about a society, then you should just look at their history, at the buildings they’ve built, or at the cultural remains they have left behind and nature hasn’t claimed. These are easy enough to try and locate and understand, however you will never truly understand any society without also taking a look at their mythology and beliefs.

Mythology is not just a collection of stories that people use to understand the world around them. Mythology is an organic way a society expresses their value system. Study a society’s end of time myth and you will have an insight into what that society fears. This value system might be hard to comprehend without first understanding their myths.

Values shape every facet of society, and what beliefs are present will change the look of architecture, city planning, their history of war and their food choices. It will determine accepted social norms with regard to artworks, dress and day to day dealings with others. Even if these beliefs are not overtly accepted in individual members of society, they are subtly guiding their decisions.

Looking at a Mayan city, it’s easy to see what the focal points of the city are. The pyramids with their steep stairs that were created for the Gods and the showmanship of blood sacrifice. They reach up to the sky where they can be seen by anyone within the city. Their size, shape and decoration tell passers by who are knowledgeable about the myths lots of information. For whom the temple was built, what activity transpires on the steps and which of the Gods were most valued by that city are all shown in the stonework. Take away the understanding of mythology and you are left with still impressive buildings, but no clue to who the people were who built them.

Take a walk in the outdoor malls of Orange County, CA, and you will see a similar story. Over sized architecture that dwarfs the individual walking past the shops. Doors and windows that appear to be of normal proportions from a distance, are actually twice as tall as normal when standing next to them. This architectural trick is also used in the Churches of Europe to indicate God resides in those buildings. But what does it say about Southern California’s myths and values?

We have been told in subtle ways that Capitalism and Democracy are linked ideas. They are not inherently linked for the first is an economic system and latter is a political system. We are told if we do not like a company or if a company goes out of business, people “voted with their dollars”. We have politicians explaining that in order to show terrorists that they did not succeed in stopping America, we must go out and shop. What we have found in Orange County is a place were we can worship the dollar as past societies have worshiped their God(s). Walking through the mall one might not understand this observation without understanding the story of American capitalism.

Mythology is a part of both History and Archeology. Trying to understand a society without also looking at the stories they tell will never give one a complete picture or an accurate understanding of the past.