maize in ancient india: strong transpacific links are indicated
Yuri Kuchinsky (firstname.lastname@example.org)
26 Dec 1996 16:46:14 GMT
[followups directed to: sci.archaeology.mesoamerican, sci.archaeology, and
Well, ladies and gentlemen, some of you may have followed these
discussions about trans-Pacific diffusion of cultural traits and
other things for a while. Did the people of Asia and America
communicate with each other across the ocean before Columbus? What
about those ancient sailors?
Great many individual items were considered in all these sometimes
heated discussions. Some of them appeared, to me and others, to
indicate diffusion rather persuasively, and some others not quite to
the same extent... We have been looking for a "Smoking Gun" for some
time, and many candidates have been suggested. Some of them still appear
quite valid to me. I delayed responding to detailed criticisms of my
opponents about sweet potato and some other items, mainly because I
didn't want to get too technical with one single item when so many
relevant and promising items pointing in the same direction needed
to be evaluated and researched. The adventures of the chicken are
still unfolding in these groups, and the follow-ups keep adding up
in the discussion threads.
Nevertheless, up to now, I've not been able to identify a real
"Smoking Gun". Such real "Smoking Gun" would need to be something
preferably not too complex to evaluate that, if considered by an
impartial observer, will _leave no doubt_ in the mind of the
observer that these ancient transoceanic contacts _existed for
sure_. But now, it seems, I have it! What a moment...
[I am grateful to my netpal Kerry A. Shirts <email@example.com> for
pointing me towards this research. He seems to have been keeping up with
this sort of material for some time, and had accumulated much data about
Carl L. Johannessen and Anne Z. Parker, MAIZE EARS SCULPTURED IN
12TH AND 13TH CENTURY A.D. INDIA AS INDICATORS OF PRE-COLUMBIAN
DIFFUSION, in Economic Botany, 1989, 43 (2): 164-180.
That's where it is. And here's the abstract:
Evidence for the presence of maize (_Zea mays_, Poaceae) in
India prior to traditional European contact is found in stone
sculptures of maize ears in the 12th and 13th century (and
earlier) Hoysala temples in southern India near Mysore. These
"ears" present the morphology of maize in such intricate and
specifically variable representations that it would have been
impossible for sculptors to have imagined the variability
consistently and realistically without large numbers of actual
maize ears as models. No other natural model could supply this
variability. We should search for other crops and cultural
artifacts that would have diffused with maize across the
oceans before 1492 AD.
This just about says it all.
I have read the article, and will now try to summarize the most
interesting parts. (I'm aware that, because of holidays, many University
research libraries are closed, so many would be unable to check out these
refs for now.)
The best parts for a layman are the photographs. Yes, this is the
"Smoking Gun", no doubt about it... The stone carvings are
_extremely intricate_ and realistic -- and well preserved. No
mistake about it. Every little grain of corn is portrayed
painstakingly. _Little doubt_ can remain that corn was definitely in
India very early on!
The article is quite technical for the most part. It mostly deals
with the minutiae of precise identification. Authors spend very
considerable space analyzing the portrayals of corn in these Indian
sculptures. They actually isolated 23 (!) minute items of comparison of
the sculpted ears with the real-life ears of corn. Examples:
...the size and shape of "ears" in husks, partly husked or
entirely dehusked; the proportional shapes of "kernels" that
are normally wider than thick; the expansion of the "kernel"
adjacent to the missing "kernel"; the smaller sized "kernels"
at the tip; one tip with undeveloped, tiny "kernels" and the
bottom four-fifth normal; the normality of parallel rows over
tessellate row conditions or tessellate "kernels" at the base
and parallel rows in the middle and tip of the "ear";... (p.
These sorts of descriptions go on and on... But one picture is worth
a thousand words... Take a look at these photos, you, the doubters
out there! (In the future, I will try to scan some of these photos
and to put them up on my webpage.)
The sizes and shapes of "ears" and of incised "kernels", both
in the overall form and in fine detail, suggest that maize was
indeed the model for these stone carvings. (p. 164)
[More details to come later.]
=O= Yuri Kuchinsky in Toronto =O=
--- a webpage like any other... http://www.io.org/~yuku ---
Diffusionist studies are not, as they are sometimes said to be,
attempts to depreciate the creativity of peoples; rather they are
efforts to locate and specify this creativity. D. Frazer,
THEORETICAL ISSUES IN THE TRANS-PACIFIC CONTROVERSY, Social
Research, 32 (1965) p. 454, as quoted by J. Needham.