Article 79 of 118 Subject: maize in ancient India: transpacific links (cont.) From: email@example.com (Yuri Kuchinsky) Date: 1996/12/27 Newsgroups: sci.archaeology.mesoamerican,sci.bio.misc,sci.bio.botany, bionet.general,sci.archaeology,sci.anthropology,sci.agriculture CARL JOHANNESSEN ON ANCIENT INDIAN MAIZE [part 2 of 2] Of course, information about this interesting ancient Indian (and Chinese) corn has been around for a while (detailed bibliography is given in the article). J. Needham wrote about this in his TRANS-PACIFIC CONTACTS. But hard studies about this were quite scarce until this publication in ECONOMIC BOTANY. We photographed and studied the Hoysala temples at Somnathpur, Belur, and at Halebid in 1986. Dozens of other Hoysala temples may contain similar "maize" carvings. (p. 164) Many temples in South India contain abundant stone carvings that look remarkably like maize ears. They are depicted being held erect in the hands of attendants to the gods with very specific hand symbols (mudras), always with thumb and index finger touching and middle finger extended along the axis of the ear. (p. 170) There is a great number of those carved representations in the three temples discussed in the article. In Somnathpur, we find two male and 63 female attendants to the deities holding the "maize ears". (p. 170) The following temples are also reported to have similar carvings, Sravana Belagola, a Jain Temple complex, 8th century AD; Boddgaya Temple, 1st century BC; and a Rajasthan (Kuvera) Temple, 8th century AD. ... [They are] comparable with those [of the temples under discussion]. (p. 175) And there are many more others... So one thing that cannot be doubted is the wide presence of corn in India in those ancient times. These are no flukes... ...this maize-like fertility symbol must have been present long enough before the 12th-13th century AD for it to have been incorporated into the religious symbolism in many Hoysala temples. (p. 171) And Maize is so tightly integrated at the Somnathpur, Belur, and Halebid temples that it might even be postulated that maize was the _cause celebre_ of the Hoysala Dynasty. (p. 179) In the article, authors discuss what else could have been represented by these carvings, but any alternative suggestions (such as annona, pandanus, pomegranates, and mango fruits, considered on p. 171) appear unpersuasive. Authors list possible difficulties with their conclusions, but they don't appear too difficult in the least. One item of interest that they bring up is the nature of evidence for ancient maize pollen in India. Such evidence have been found in "two separate cores in two mires in Kashmir" (p. 175), but so far such evidence is fragmentary. Authors suggest that the sites in question should be recored and examined again. But the difficulties with the evidence from pollen cannot cast doubt on the _unequivocal evidence_ from stone carvings that we already possess -- it can only, in the future, perhaps provide us with additional supporting details about when and where corn was in India. An interesting consideration is the lack of large scale present-day corn cultivation in the areas where temples are. The authors give a reasonable explanations as to why this is so. The best explanation, it appears to me, is that corn was, at some point in time, replaced in these areas by other crops that appealed more to the populace, for whatever reasons. Authors inform us that corn (including of some rather unusual, and possibly very ancient varieties) is still grown in India, but it is grown usually at higher elevations. ... it [corn] appears to be a dominant staple for many (perhaps all) of the "Hill Tribes" in India and the Himalayan peoples up to about 1,700 m (8,000 feet)... (p. 176) This alone, to me, is a strong indication of antiquity. It is a matter well-known to anthropologists that the higher one goes into the mountain areas, the more ancient and the more indigenous the tribes residing there are. Usually, invading tribes throughout history come in from the plains and push the previous residents (the more indigenous peoples) to less fertile areas at higher elevations. (Alternately, they can be pushed further into the jungle areas.) In turn, the previous arrivals to this general area push the even more indigenous people ever higher up into the hills. This sort of a process was, and of course still is, quite common around the world. (The destruction of native cultures is occurring at a very high rate currently.) The authors mention briefly the very interesting variety of corn found in the Sikkim area in the Himalayas. In the remote valleys in the Himalayas such as Tashigang in Bhutan and Ilam in eastern Nepal, we find primitive popcorns with seven to nine ears per stem, all concentrated in the upper 20% of the stem. Similar "Sikkim primitive" popcorn was also recorded ... [elsewhere in Sikkim] ... [and] in northeastern India. These stems have distinctive arrangements of leaves and ear locations and tassels that droop in a form not typical for American maize. (p. 177) The varieties of corn in India and in China are often quite unlike the ones found in the Americas. In particular, besides the "Sikkim primitive", the authors mention the "conical" corn with a "somewhat pregnant shape like the Mysore carvings" (in Bhutan, p. 177). Such variety is normally a sign of ancient speciation. Also, the waxy starch maize is found widely in Asia, Waxy starch maize is widespread in Asia from Manchuria and Korea to Burma and Assam, but rare in ancient America. This is a sticky starch. Professor You Xiuling of Hangzhou (pers. comm.) has stated that waxy-starched maize in China has a significantly distinctive isozyme distribution that is very different from New World maize isozymes. How far these new isozyme patterns extend into Southeast Asia and Subcontinent India has not yet been thoroughly explored, but Sachan et al. (1982) and Sachan and Sarkar (1986a,b) found that the multi- eared Sikkim primitive popcorn exhibits a distinct constitutive heterochromatic phenomenon similar to that found in South American maizes. Therefore, some ancient maizes have likely existed in Asia for a long time. (p. 177) So, great genetic variation of maize in India is an additional strong indicator of its antiquity there. Obviously more research needs to be done about all this, and maybe it is already being done, since, after all, the article was written in '89. Also, the authors say this, Finally, we should admit that only a few geographers, ethnobotanists, and anthropologists believe that maize was present in India before Columbus. Most researchers in these sciences have not seen the temples and the extensive representations of maize nor have they seen the variability of maize in the Americas; [At this point there may have been a misprint of some sort in this article. Johannessen probably meant to say _variability of maize in India and the Old World_ instead. I don't see how "the variability of maize in the Americas" would be relevant to his argument here. -- Yuri.] they are probably unaware of the evidence. (p. 176) Academics unaware of important evidence? I think we have heard these words before somewhere... Much needs to be done to evalute this evidence fully, and to put it in the context of culture development on both sides of the Pacific. It's interesting that two important "Smoking Guns" for diffusion provided by botany, the maize and the sweet potato, both indicate that cultural traits diffused _from_ the Americas to the Old World. This should give pause to those who like to toss around the accusation that the diffusionists "minimize and discount" the creativity of the ancient American peoples. For here, we have precisely the case when the ancient Americans contributed much to the Old World _even before_ Columbus' "discovery". (Of course, all of us know how many plants came from America _post-Columbus_ to enrich world agriculture.) Who is minimizing what here? I, for one, _know_ how creative and talented the ancient Americans were, and how much they have accomplished. The diffusionists that I read only wish to describe the particulars of cultural evolution objectively -- the way it was in reality. That reality clearly included cultural interaction across the Pacific that went _both ways_, starting from a very early date. To pretend that good evidence for this does not exist, to close one's eyes to all this, is to choose to live in a world of delusion, it seems to me... Regards, Yuri. =O= Yuri Kuchinsky in Toronto =O= --- a webpage like any other... http://www.io.org/~yuku --- It matters [whether Monte Alban ceramics reflect Chinese art forms] because questions of human inventiveness and the nature of human freedom are involved, and these are pivotal for the understanding of humans everywhere. D. Frazer, THEORETICAL ISSUES IN THE TRANS- PACIFIC CONTROVERSY, Social Research, 32 (1965) p. 453, as quoted by J. Needham.Click here to go one level up in the directory.