Myths are Erzählstoffe ("narrative materials"). They do not exist in physical form. Rather, they are embedded in medial manifestations such as texts, images, films, dances, pantomimes, or other performative acts. The basis for the work conducted by this research group, therefore, lies in the reconstruction of these mythical Erzählstoffe from various ancient cultures. This is accomplished by analysing their medial manifestations: from these we extract the smallest action-bearing units, which we propose to designate as (mythical) hylemes. In this way, myths from different medial sources - as well as from different localities, periods, languages, religions, and cultures - are made accessible in a streamlined, formalized, and standardized format. It also allows for the comparison of different myths, whereby we can pinpoint specific idiosyncrasies in individual cases as opposed to larger patterns common to all. We can examine their historical and functional roles - both within the same culture and across different cultures. Complex and detailed analyses of ancient myths would be difficult if not impossible to conduct without it.

Over the first three-year term of the grant the research group has primarily worked with textual sources; in the second phase we plan to include iconographic sources as well. The practical procedure of a hyleme-based stratification analysis of ancient mythical materials (Stoffe) requires a solid technical and organizational foundation, and this is provided by the research data base Digitale Kartographie mythischer Stoffe ("Digital Cartography of Mythical Materials"). The data base serves as a central research platform for the work of the entire group with its sub-project directors, their staff, and associated and cooperating projects, as well as research assistants from the student body in the areas of data collection, processing, analysis, and visualization, while also facilitating the day-to-day exchange of data and information. For this purpose a modular web-based client-server solution has been developed. Myths and mythical hylemes can be evaluated, their temporal and spatial coordinates can be mapped, and mythical Stoffe can be identified alongside their versions and variants. The research database is an indispensable tool for decentralized collaboration on text and image files, as well as for accessing external repositories via its network interfaces. It simplifies working with ancient languages and non-Latin alphabets (e.g. by hosting software to transcribe cuneiform script).