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No. 45: May-Jun 1986

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The rabbit in the moon: more evidence of diffusion?

Mixtec stela from Tiaxiaco showing the rabbit in the moon motif.
A Mixtec stela from Tiaxiaco, Oaxaca, Mexica, showing the rabbit in the moon motif.
Diffusionists seize upon all manner of artifacts to prove that peoples of the various continents made frequent contacts among themselves long before the European exploration of the planet. In the latest issue of Archaeoastronomy (dated 1984 but published in 1986), C.R. Wicke analyzed the rabbit-in-themoon motif.

"Representations of a hare or rabbit on the moon are found in the art of ancient China and in Pre-Columbian Mexico. Mythologies of both areas also place a rabbit on the moon. Although such linkage might appear to be arbitrary, a comparison of the visible surface of the full moon with the silhouette of a rabbit does reveal a degree of congruence. Not only the distinctive ears of the rabbit but also other features appear to be delineated on the moon's surface."

Could the parallelisms in art and myth in China and ancient Mexico not be simple coincidence helped along by the rabbit-like visage of the full moon? Wicke's article deals with this possibility in depth, but he discounts it in the following paragraph:

"Moreover, if one delves into the complexities of the association of hare and moon as manifest in mythology as well as in graphic imagery, correspondence between those of China and Mexico seem both too complex and too arbitrary to have been arrived at independently. Indeed, the mythology and imagery of the hare on the moon in Mesoamerica would seem to derive from Transpacific sources."

(Wicke, Charles R.; "The Mesoamerican Rabbit in the Moon: An Influence from Han China?" Archaeoastronomy, 7:46, 1984.)

Comment. Considerable controversy has accompanied the assertion that the elephant motif also appears in Mesoamerican art. See our handbook: Ancient Man. It is described here.

From Science Frontiers #45, MAY-JUN 1986. 1986-2000 William R. Corliss