Re: maize in ancient india: strong transpacific links are indicated

Yuri Kuchinsky (
3 Jan 1997 14:55:10 GMT


Thank you for your reply.

Kay Lancaster ( wrote:

: I'm neither a cultural diffusionist nor an isolationist... I'm not
: even an anthropologist or archeologist. Just a simple plant systematist
: who did her dissertation on morphological variation in Sorghum bicolor,
: and who grew up looking at a full range of maize morphologies. I repeat,
: the photos I've seen don't look like maize. They look like some of the
: illustrations in Snowden's book on Sorghum, which was based on semi-wild
: types and cultivated types of sorghum before the scientific plant breeders
: got going on them, creating types more suited for mechanized agriculture.

I don't know which photos you've seen. As you may know, the number of
those carvings is huge. The photos that I've seen in Johannessen's
ECONOMIC BOTANY article certainly look remarkably like maize to me. One
doesn't _need_ to be a botanist to say this.

: Sorghum and maize are both Andropogonoid grasses. Vegetatively, they're
: fairly easy to confuse, even if you know one species or the other. I
: recall a couple of the plant physiology students asking me how my "funny
: corn" was doing in the greenhouse. The two real hallmarks of Zea mays
: that would immediately prove this theory would be the discovery of
: tassels (the male inflorescence) or cobs (the axis of the female
: inflorescence) in reliably dated sites. Sorghum has a more standard
: branched inflorescence, typical of other andropogonoids, so if you have
: a piece of the actual inflorescence axis, this would be a reliable way
: to distinguish the two.

So the pictures look like sorghum to you. In spite of the fact that
sorghum grain grows in a panicle, and not in an ear. You're a botanist,
and your opinion should count for something. OK, let me ask you this, If
those carvings indeed obviously represent sorghum, how come other
botanists -- equally as well qualified as you -- clearly disagree with
you? Namely, they think the pictures are of Pandanus, of pomegranate, and
of who knows what else? How come you people cannot get your story

: The place to look for physical evidence of this sort, or pollen that
: might still be intact enough to do PCR on, would be peat deposits
: or sediments from lake beds. Has anyone looked?

Pre-columbian maize pollen _has been found_ in India.

Also, Kay, let me ask you this. As a botanist, you should be very
knowledgeable about what the implications of a great genetic variety of a
plant in a certain area are. This is an indication that the plant has
been growing in this area for a long time. The varieties of corn in India
are extremely many, and some of them are very rare. What does this
indicate? And why all of the critiques of Johannessen that I've seen so
far, including yours, diligently avoid this issue? I'd be interested to
see your take on this...



=O= Yuri Kuchinsky in Toronto =O=
--- a webpage like any other... ---

We should always be disposed to believe that that which
appears white is really black, if the hierarchy of the
Church so decides === St. Ignatius of Loyola