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ancient corn in India

Yuri Kuchinsky yuku at mail.trends.ca
Wed Jul 16 08:42:48 EST 1997


Thank you for your interest.

J.R. Pelmont (Jean.Pelmont at wanadoo.fr) wrote:
: Hu McCulloch <hmccullo at ecolan.sbs.ohio-state.edu> wrote (excerpt) :
: > I have now located the 1992 and 1993 notes by Kumar and Sachan 
: > on the genetics of northeastern Himalyan (NEH) maize, demonstrating
: > that is more closely related to certain primitive Mexican and 
: > Peruvian maizes than it is to the Caribbean maize introduced 
: > by the Spaniards into Europe after Columbus.  These NEH maizes
: > even have traits in common with teosinte, the wild Mexican ancestor
: > of maize, that are completely unknown in modern maizes.  
: > K&S conclude on the basis of this genetic evidence that maize
: > was introduced into Asia long before Columbus.  
: > 
: Dear Hu McCulloch,
: your message to my mail box is difficult for me to answer, because I
: have too little knowledge in these quite disputed topics. I am a
: biochemist and enzymologist interested in bioremediation and far from
: archaeology and temples of northern India. I am not a geneticist, just
: knowing the general methodologies of molecular biology as used by the
: geneticists or enzymologists.
: I have seen the pictures and it is true that the similarities with corn
: are disturbing indeed.

Well, they only disturb those who are wedded to dogma. Honest scientists
should be *excited* by these findings... <grin>

: However we need convergent data from different
: methods. I understand there is already a wealth of data using genetics
: and biochemistry.

No, Jean, you misunderstand. We don't have much evidence such as this. If
we REALLY did have such evidence, there wouldn't be a debate any more, in
my opinion. The case would have been proven 100% already. As it is, it's
very close to being proven...

What we DO have (for precolumbian Asian corn) is 

1. considerable evidence from botanical observation in Asia,

2. literary evidence from China, plus 

3. a detailed analysis of these Somnathpur carvings done by Prof. Carl
Johannessen, and published in ECONOMIC BOTANY journal.

Modern genetic analysis has contributed very little as yet -- because of
the apathy and inertia in the field. Can you believe it that no general
botanic inventory of the very many Old World maize varieties has been done

: However I still feel a little bit skeptical for
: several reasons.
: 1) There is a risk that the carvings are symbolic pictures of plants
: with no desire to be exact representations.

Johannessen refuted this. For those interested, please take a look at
these carvings at:


and read Johannessen's article that includes many more photos.

: 2) According to botanists, the definition of species and varieties may
: be difficult to establish, the criteria being ill-defined in some cases.

I doubt it in this case.

: 3) Similarities in chromosome banding and biochemical analysis may
: indicate relatedness.

But this work _has not_ been done yet.

: But long-range conservation of the genome
: structure may occur during evolution, even after a few millions of
: years. Maybe I am completely mistakened, because I did not read the
: evidence. Anyway if corn had be brought at times older than let us say
: one or two thousands years, this is a very short term in evolution and
: we should be able to find in Asia modern plants that are really very
: similar to maize or teosinte.

Exactly. And we do find them.

: 4) There is such a huge distance across the Pacific ocean from side to
: side that it seems hard to believe in any easy exchange, even using
: different islands. Eastern Island West of Chile is about 2.5 thousand
: miles from the continent, I believe.

Polynesians were amazing navigators many thousands of years ago. They had
3,500 km trading networks in the Pacific already 6,000 years ago. I've
posted an article from SCIENCE about this already, and I can repost it.
Ancient Asian, Polynesian, and American sailing craft were closely

Let's hope that professional botanists, biologists, and biochemists will
get on with expressing more interest in this important subject. The truth
lies on the surface here, and yet nobody seem to be willing to pick it up
and look at it! 

Best regards,


Yuri Kuchinsky in Toronto -=O=- http://www.io.org/~yuku

Or what tangled webs we weave when first we practice to believe

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