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Presented by Ivano Dal Prete (Yale University).

The first book of Ovid’s ‘Metamorphoses’ narrates that after a universal deluge, the earth was repopulated by humans born directly from its “stones” thanks to the extraordinary fertility of a renewed world.

In this address Ivano argues that the Ovidian myth was but one of many accounts that in medieval and early modern Europe entwined the history of humankind and of life itself with that of its terrestrial abode. Avicenna, Albertus Magnus, Pomponazzi, and Celsalpino among others, scrutinised the possibility of periodical cataclysms bound to destroy an aging surface and its corrupt inhabitants, but also to restore its generative powers so as to bring forth new animals and renovated humans. Such doctrines challenged, troubled and complemented, and perhaps even enlightened the Genesis account, raising profound questions on, an proposing bold solutions to, the problem of the origin and nature of the human species. While philosophers and theologians debated their implications and their religious orthodoxy, recent geographical information hinted as the possibility that somewhere, the post-diluvial world might still hide pockets of primordial fertility, where human beings continue to rise from its prolific loams.

This talk was presented as part of the Fertile Furrows conference which took place 27-28 June 2023.