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maize in Asia before Columbus

Hu McCulloch mcculloch.2 at osu.edu
Mon Mar 16 10:24:38 EST 1998

Jeffrey L Baker <jbaker at U.Arizona.EDU> writes:
>On Fri, 13 Mar 1998, Hu McCulloch wrote:
>>  yuku at mail.trends.ca (Yuri Kuchinsky) writes:
>> >2.2.7 _Zea Mays_ (maize, makka). Imprints found at KAUNDINYAPURA in c.
>> >1435. Primitive (living fossil) maize in Sikkim is cytologically different
>> >from American of Carribean maize, supporting its pre-Columbian occurrence
>> >in the subcontinent, though perhaps it was reintroduced by the Arabs.
>> >[end quote]
>> >This of course refers to the work of Vishnu-Mittre which has been
>> >considered in some detail previously last year by me and Peter. It seems
>> >like Chowdhury is persuaded that this archaeological evidence is valid.
>> Yes, it does!  On rereading J&P, I think they 
>> are overly cautious about these potsherd imprints
>> of maize kernels and leaves from Madhya Pradesh.  They note that the 
>> imprints have Width/Thickness (W/T) ratio of 2.0, whereas the kernels in 
>> the Somnathpur temple, depicted at
>If maize was present at Kaundinyapura, why didn't it appear in the
>botanical remains from that site (which Vishnu-Mittre analyzed)?

This work was apparently done prior to 1968.  Was flotation commonplace
that early?  I think you noted earlier that maize remains would be more likely
to show up  _in flotatio_ than _in situ_.      [That's a new technical term 
I just made up.   ;-)  ]

>> me he's aware of something there, but hasn't had the opportunity to check 
it >> out adequately yet.  Were the references to it authored by Chowdhury?
>> Perhaps we should try to contact him.

>Chowdhury is deceased. The only reference in that section of the
>encyclopedia is to the excavation report of Kaundinyapura 
>Dikshit, M. G., 1968, Exavations at Kaundinyapur. Bombay.

>> It does stand to reason that there should be lots of maize 
>> remains to be found if it really was as important as J&P claim it must have 
>> been.  The fact that none have turned up may simply reflect that there haven't 
>> been that many digs in the relevant area.

>Are you arguing that it was only present in the Hoysala area in the 13th
>and 14th centuries? There has been ample research in other areas of India.

13th c So. Karnataka is where we have the best sculptures of maize,
so if it shows up anywhere it ought to be there.  Sikkim is another good 
candidate, since that is where the primitive maize grows that Kumar and JKS 
Sachan argue on genetic grounds must have been established before Columbus.
(So far as I can tell, this is curiously the same JKS Sachan who, with 
Payak, is a leading critic of Johannessen & Parker's iconographic 

>Also over the last ten years a major project has been ongoing at
>Vijayanagara (in the southern Deccan), including work into the
>agricultural activities by Kathleen Morrison. No maize.

>This site was occupied from around 1350 to ca. 1600.

No post-1492 maize at all?  According to the Jean Andrews
article you mentioned earlier in Geographical Review, 1993,
maize was well established
in India by 1520 or so, being exported in bulk by the Portuguese 
from Gujurat, the coastal area of India W. of Bombay, by that date.
It may not have been suitable for all climates, but surely it should
show up somewhere in the archaeological record if it is as indestructable
and immistakable as we have been led to believe. 

Or if she  _has_ found post-1492 maize, are you certain 
she is not using it to date horizons?     

>Jeff Baker

-- Hu McCulloch

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