Deconstructing Myths: A Cosmic Hunt in the Berber sky by Accurat

For the December 2016 print issueScientific American asked Accurat Studio to develop a data visualization centered on the research paper “A Cosmic Hunt in the Berber sky: a Phylogenetic Reconstruction of a Palaeolithic Mythology” by Julien d’Huy. D’Huy’s work explores how myths change in the retelling down through the generations, and analyzes how those incremental changes can shed light on the history of human migration going as far back as the Paleolithic. (See his Scientific American article “Scientists Trace Society’s Myths to Primordial Origins”).

To examine how myths vary across culture and time, the author maps the stories’ minimal narrative units — called mythemes —as if they were genes in a DNA sequence and uses them to reconstruct the genealogy and migrations of the different populations that share stories about constellations. Accurat designed a visualization of these narrative units in order to visually represent the different versions of the myths and the common elements across cultures.