Article 117 of 118
  
Subject:      Old World maize: a twisted tale
From:         yuku@io.org (Yuri Kuchinsky)
Date:         1996/12/30
Newsgroups:   sci.archaeology.mesoamerican,sci.archaeology,
bionet.general,sci.anthropology,sci.bio.misc,sci.agriculture,sci.bio.botany

[follow-ups are limited to: sci.archaeology,sci.anthropology,sci.bio.misc]

[Part 4 of 4]

[This is the conclusion of the previous postings based on the article
PRE-COLUMBIAN MAIZE IN ASIA, by M. D. W. Jeffreys, in MAN ACROSS THE SEA,
U. of Texas Press, 1971, Carrol L. Riley et al., eds.]


Jeffreys doesn't really spend much time on discussing the important
botanical evidence for the antiquity of maize in India. This probably
weakened the impact of his argument somewhat. (Nevertheless, he quoted
from the Russian botanist Kuleshov who was sure as sure can be that maize
was ancient in India; I have given those quotes already in an earlier
post.) And yet, it is precisely this botanical evidence on the great
genetic variety of maize in Asia that seems the most persuasive to me.
You don't need to worry about the accuracy of the eyewitnesses, you don't
need to engage in linguistic disputations -- the plants are still there,
and anyone can go and see them for themselves, and test them. Genetics
has moved so far recently that, soon, if not already, it alone can
provide the sufficient and verifiable truth about the story of maize as
it was, it seems to me.

And now, let's conclude with the evidence coming from some
archaeologists.

      Vishnu-Mittre, (1966: 155) describing carbonized food grains
      and their impressions on potsherds from Kaundinyapar, an
      archaeological site in Madhya Pradesh, north India, wrote that
      "the evidence of maize in India is not in any case later than
      1435 AD.... and tends to establish its pre-Columbian age". (p.
      382)

      Vishnu-Mittre and Gupta (1966: 176, 184) ... concluded [in
      their study of pollen grains] that "...it may be said that the
      maize cultivation in Kashmir began in the 13th-14th century."
      (ibid.)

Jeffreys adds,

      Maize cultivation did not start in Kashmir, and therefore it
      must have been cultivated elsewhere in Asia earlier still.
      (ibid.)

Well, much more information is available in Jeffreys' article. I
only included small bits and pieces of the information he assembled.

                              ***

Perhaps it's now time to think of the implications and the meaning
of this investigation. I believe maize was ancient in the Old World.
One can argue about the chronology and the particulars of its
introduction from America, sure, and we don't yet have all the
information that can still be found to clarify these matters. But
what if the case is proven? What would it mean?

Well, the implications go far indeed. They go as far even as to cast
doubt on the whole story of maize as we know it -- not just in Asia,
but everywhere in the Old World, including in Europe! Let us ask, Is
it possible that such a thing could have been distorted so? Is it
possible that the Europeans could have created such a powerful false
myth of "Columbus Bringing Maize to the World" -- out of the thin air?

Well, perhaps there's a way to escape from the maximalism of such a
claim. One obvious thought that comes to me is that Columbus may
have brought from America a _more productive breed of maize_. The
breeds that existed in the Old World previously _may have been_
archaic and inferior -- similar to the "primitive corn" still found
in Asia. This is one possibility.

But, on the whole, with the evidence before me, I certainly think
that a false myth that I refer to _could have been_ constructed.
This is the inevitable product of the Eurocentrism that seems only
too obvious in the very revealing replies of some posters who
already contributed their "words of wisdom", and of immeasurable
sarcasm and mockery to these threads. Look at their strange anger
and spleen. Look at them jeer and cheer... How absurd that those
Asians could have had maize without the "enlightened" and "mighty"
Europeans showing them the way! That those Asians may have -- to the
contrary -- shown _the Europeans_ the way? How absurd is it that
those ancient Americans may have been able to navigate oceans
thousands of years ago?! Impossible, the mockers sneer...

What are the real roots of that mockery, of such self-assurance, of
this overweening certainty that these individuals demonstrate? If
you ask me, this attitude comes pretty close to the very same
attitude that created Western colonialism -- and the incredible
exploitation of the native peoples around the world in not so
ancient history.

Finally, a few more words about the _argumentum ex silentio_, a
common logical fallacy, that the mockers like so much to throw at
these investigations. Namely, what about fossilized corn cobs? Where
are they? Similar arguments were tossed at us previously in the
discussions about the pre-Columbian chickens in America. Yes, the
repertoire of the deniers is rather limited... There are posters
here who seem almost parrot-like in their insistence on repeating
the same few words... "Gime za fossil... Gime za fossil... Gime za
fossil..." But when I suggested to one of them how such an
archaeological investigation may be launched (i.e. doing such things
as defining the necessary anthropological and historical background,
determining the time scales for possible fossils, locating the
likely areas to look for such evidence, etc.), what was the reply?
Well he said that such an investigation would be "stupid" (yes!),
and that nobody would ever give a penny to launch it!

My conclusion, it is not the fossil that they want. They don't
really care very much to see that fossil... What they want is simply
to preserve at all costs certain _fossilized ideas_ about the
superiority of their Eurocentric dogma they inherited through their
upbringing. Or so it seems.

Regards,

Yuri.


            =O=    Yuri Kuchinsky in Toronto    =O=
  --- a webpage like any other...  http://www.io.org/~yuku ---

We found a large number of books in these characters and, as they
contained nothing in which there were not to be seen superstition and
lies of the devil, we burned them all, which they regretted to an amazing
degree   ===   Bishop Diego de Landa on his dealings with the Mayans.

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