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Friedrich Max Mueller thought that the "absurdity" of Aryan myths could be explained by a "disease of language," that is a shift implying that metaphor was taken for reality. Thus, cosmic and meteorological phenomena came to be considered as human beings living human adventures. He found the etiology of this disease in language, and specially in the polysemy and ambiguity of Vedic Sanskrit which he opposed to the limpidity of Hebrew. While the difference between the two languages does exist, the explanation has long been acknowledged to be false. Actually, the opposition becomes understandable if we consider that Indo-Europeans and Semites belong to much wider cultural basins. Indeed, characteristics attributed by Max Mueller to the Aryans also belong to the Altaic cultures, while those assigned to the Semites are shared not only by Hebrews, but also by many other Semitic and by non-Semitic cultures of the Near East. Hence, we can define two large cultural sets north and south of the Black Sea and the Caucasus. In the northern one, Indo-European and Altaic cultures share many traits: organization of space and time, society and knowledge, unreliability of the visible world, conception of the human body, rejection of figuration, for instance. In the southern one, we find radically different conceptions shared by the indigenous Near Eastern cultures. Considering that linguistic communication and ways of thinking are only aspects of these two cultural sets, elaborated separately since the Neolithic and adapted to different conditions of life, we may expect mythologies to reflect these differences and understand that the opposition of Vedic Sanskrit and Hebrew is only a small facet of a global phenomenon.


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