[NOTE: This is a very long file. It starts with my original post on this subject (with some deletions and corrections), and then further clarifications and explanations follow. At the end, in order to help researchers, I include a couple of relevant articles by Ross Clark where he critiques some of this evidence, and provides some of his own.] Polynesian history: more botanical evidence Author: Yuri Kuchinsky Date: 1998/08/05 Forums: sci.archaeology, sci.anthropology, rec.arts.books, soc.culture.native How extremely ironic it is that the mainstream scholars who are forever trying to 'refute' Heyerdahl so often don't even bother to read Heyerdahl. Here we will see one more good indication of this. Recently I've documented how Dr. Paul Bahn, the main recent mainstream critic of Heyerdahl, obviously failed to read Thor's key works, and to bother to get a grip of even the basic theories about Polynesian history that Thor has proposed. How can we find a better illustration of wilful mainstream ignorance in this area, and perhaps even dishonesty? In his book, Dr. Bahn focused on only two items of botanical evidence indicating EI -- SA links, manioc and chili. He did his best to dismiss them and he felt he has done enough. So, obviously he _hasn't even read_ Heyerdahl's more academic works dealing with this subject (refs are at the end of this post). This is shameful professional incompetence. And so, here's a list of important items culled from these two books by Heyerdahl. --- [there are 22 items in these original lists] Botanical evidence for contact between Easter Island and South America -- new evidence not cited before as yet in these discussions. Very good-- small tomato (Solanum Zycopersicum) [Ross: new name Lycopersicon esculentum] pineapple taro (Xanthosoma atrovirens) tobacco Polygonum acuminatum (fresh-water medicinal plant). husk-tomato (Physalis peruviana -- more ancient tomato-like plant) Good-- Cyperus vegetus (edible roots) Lycium carolinianum (edible berries) arrow-root [this one was later withdrawn, as evidence was insufficient] manioc chili ["By the turn of the present century, however, W. Knoche (1925, p. 122), speaking of the local presence of the chili pepper, says: "From the same family derives a small tomato (Solanum Zycopersicum) which has disappeared from EI." (Heyerdahl, EARLY MAN AND THE OCEAN, 1978, p. 226)] --- Botanical evidence for contact between other Polynesian islands and South America. Very good-- husk-tomato (Physalis peruviana) pineapple maho (Hibiscus tiliaceus) Argemone (medicinal plant) papaya Heliconia (fibre plant) yam-bean (Pachyrrhizus) taro (Xanthosoma atrovirens) Good-- chili (found growing wild in the Marquesas) Aristida (used for head-ornaments) Ageratum (used for ornaments) yam (Dioscorea) beans: common (Phaseolus) lima-bean (P. lunatus) jack-bean, or sword-bean (Canavalia sp.) So here we go, ladies and gentlemen. These are two rather long lists. I've sorted them according to my own estimate of how solid the background information and references Heyerdahl provides seem to me. "Very good" category seems quite solid to me. "Good" category can be challenged, but if taken together with the other items, the balance of probability will point towards these items as valid. Much more can be said about all of the above botanical items of course. But this should be a good start. Refs: AUTHOR: Heyerdahl, Thor. TITLE: Early man and the ocean : a search for the beginnings of navigation and seaborne civilizations. PUBLISHED: Garden City, N.Y. : Doubleday, 1979. AUTHOR: Heyerdahl, Thor TITLE: Sea routes to Polynesia. With editorial notes by Karl Jettmar and a foreword by Hans Ahlmann. PUBLISHED: London Allen and Unwin  Regards, Yuri. --- [NOTE: Above items were closely scrutinized in the discussion that followed. Subsequently, I've withdrawn only one item, arrowroot, since some (not insurmountable) problems were found with it. Hibiscus was discussed in detail, and its relevance was questioned. Still hibiscus seems like a good item. The rest still stand as clear evidence of SA influence on EI and Polynesia. See the following post with my current position on hibiscus. Out of these plants, Ross considered as the stronger ones, small tomato (Solanum Zycopersicum, more recently known as Lycopersicon esculentum) pineapple Xanthosoma taro tobacco husk-tomato (Physalis peruviana, also known as Cape gooseberry) manioc papaya chili (in Marquesas)] -- Author: Yuri Kuchinsky Date: 1998/08/18 Forums: sci.archaeology, sci.anthropology, rec.arts.books Now, here's my position on hibiscus/maho. We now know that it was native to South America. We know that the ocean currents in the area strongly favour human travel from SA to Polynesia. It is also known that the ethnobotanical uses of this plant in SA and in Polynesia are in close parallel. We also know that the names of the plant in both areas seem similar. All this would indicate that the plant, and its associated uses and names, diffused from SA to Polynesia. The alternative hypothesis, I presume, is that the plant and its uses diffused to Polynesia from Asia. Against this the arguments seem to be. a) It is not certain at this point that the plant is really native to Asia. We have an assertion of one scholar to this effect, and that's about it. This is a very complex and little studied subject area, and even "famous scholars" have been known to be wrong on such things, and often. Maho may well have been introduced to Asia from SA. This is certainly not impossible. b) So far, we still don't know anything about ethnobotanical uses of this plant in Asia. How can we be sure that this plant was used in Asia in the same way it was used in Polynesia? Another uncertainty. c) Such an alternative hypothesis will need to rely on a lot of questionable assumptions, and will leave a lot of data unexplained. Such as, How come the names and the uses of this plant in Polynesia and in SA are so similar? Pure coincidence? A theory that needs to postulate a lot of such coincidences should be suspect by its very nature. So, without any further information being introduced, the available evidence still points to maho being brought to Polynesia from America. Regards, Yuri. -- [Some items clarified:] BEANS Sword-bean = jack-bean (Canavalia sp.). Widely cultivated throughout the Pacific (Heyerdahl, EARLY MAN AND THE OCEAN, 1978:80-81). So this item still remains very relevant to Polynesia because it indicates the strong trans-pacific influence of ancient Americans. Two types of common beans, (Phaseolus vulgaris, and Phaseolus lunatus). With P. lunatus, Heyerdahl actually doesn't give any evidence that it was present in Polynesia. But P. lunatus, a native American crop, went even further than Polynesia; it went all the way to Indonesia and Indo-China where it is well attested as a very ancient crop. So P. lunatus actually indicates ancient American influence as far as _Asia_ (where maize, and some other Americans crops were also present). So this item still remains very relevant to Polynesia because it indicates the strong trans-pacific influence of ancient Americans. (Heyerdahl, SEA ROUTES TO POLYNESIA, 1968, p. 71ff.) P. vulgaris is another similar case. Although it is not apparently attested in Polynesia, it is well attested in Europe, where it was mentioned by the Greek writer Hippocrates ca 400 BC as Phaseolos (Ibid in Heyerdahl; further ref: Hutchinson, Silow, and Stephens, THE EVOLUTION OF GOSSYPIUM AND THE DIFFERENTIATION OF THE CULTIVATED COTTONS, London, 1947, p. 138.). So here we see a case where ancient Americans contributed to the European civilization some 2,000 years before Columbus. -- Dioscorea (yam). (Heyerdahl, EARLY MAN AND THE OCEAN, 1978:234-235). Cultivated in Polynesia and America. But, according to Ross, there's a claim (Simmonds, _Evolution of Crop Plants_) that the New World yams of the genus Dioscorea are different species from the Asian-Pacific ones. I haven't checked this out yet. Needs more research. -- [Later I wrote:] Allow me to clarify one very important point. I'm certainly _not_ trying to argue that solid and irrefutable evidence exists for _each and every one_ of the 30 plants on this list. What I'm _really_ arguing here is that THERE WAS CULTURAL CONTACT between ancient S America and Polynesia. And also that ancient Americans contributed greatly to world civilisations, although professional authorities still refuse to give them credit that is due to them. In other words, the plants are not an argument for their own sake. To be sure, evidence is much stronger for the 11 plants that I itemised separately, but some evidence for transmission exists for 29. Since we already have the sweet potato accepted widely, all we really need is ONE OR TWO MORE plants to make the case for cultural contact solid IN COMBINATION WITH OTHER, NON-BOTANICAL EVIDENCE. Pineapple and papaya will do the trick, it seems, so there is no real need to argue about the whole lot of them, and to examine the little minutiae of each and every case in isolation from others, and from the larger issues. Some scholars no doubt will find it useful to examine each case separately, and for them this file should be of help. When the botanical evidence is being considered, the first thing to keep in mind is the CUMULATIVE NATURE of these arguments. In other words, if we know that one plant was carried to EI by humans from SA, this means that IT IS VERY LIKELY that other plants were also carried to EI. Even in cases when the evidence for one of these plants may be in doubt, the fact that a few others are not in doubt should help settle the other cases as well. And, very importantly, EVEN ONE good case should be able to substantiate the general theory. Once we have, for example, pineapple clearly established as ancient introduction to EI, we don't really need anything more. All the other items are then merely the icing on the cake. Having established that humans brought some agricultural plants from S America to Polynesia, we can confidently expect that the burden of proof for other such plants will be lightened. Migration of one plant provides corroboration and support for similar migrations of other plants. The more substantial claims are substantiated further in other files on my webpage. [post by Ross with his review of evidence] From: Ross ClarkClick here to go one level up in the directory.
Subject: Re: Polynesia: academic Fantasy World Date: 04 Dec 1998 00:00:00 GMT Message-ID: <3667634F.6F3A@antnov1.auckland.ac.nz> On Oct. 25 I posted the results of looking in Heyerdahl's Early Man and the Ocean (1978) for information on 13 species. These were species for which Yuri had claimed there was "good" or "very good" evidence of pre-European human transmission from the Americas to Polynesia, but had not presented any evidence of this in his posts. The results of my search were not very impressive. But, as Yuri points out, there was yet another Heyerdahl book, Sea Routes to Polynesia (1968), which I had not looked at. Now I have, so let's go over the 13 again: 1) Polygonum acuminatum (fresh-water medicinal plant) Observed by Skottsberg, early 20th century, said to be of American origin and require human transport. Heyerdahl cites Selling as finding Polygonum pollen appearing suddenly in pollen cores at time of first human occupation. Selling's results are apparently still unpublished, according to Bahn & Flenley (1992:42). They mention Heyerdahl's claim, but don't directly answer it. 2) Cyperus vegetus (edible roots) Observed by Skottsberg as (1), but no evidence of early presence mentioned. 3) Lycium carolinianum (edible berries) As for (2) 4) Physalis peruviana (husk-tomato or cape gooseberry) Mentioned by Hillebrand as in Hawaii in 1888. Heyerdahl says "formerly widespread in eastern Polynesia", without further references. No evidence about early presence or possibility of unassisted transmission. 5) Argemone (medicinal plant) Puakala or Hawaiian poppy. Part of a mainly American genus, but now considered a distinct species (A.glauca), hence not of human introduction. Remember that there is lots of "American" flora and fauna in Hawaii that got itself there long before humans. [earlier note by Ross] "Argemone - The two sources I have here (O. Degener, Plants of Hawaii National Parks, 1930, and A.K.Kepler, Hawaiian Heritage Plants, 1984) consider this an indigenous Hawaiian species, A.glauca, not the same as any American species." [LATER NOTE (Thompson:379,ch11,n28): Feddi and Prain noted the plant's genetic affinity tot he Peruvian Argemone, which was also used as a medicinal] 6) Heliconia (fibre plant) "wild banana". Heyerdahl cites Baker (1893) and O.F.Cook (1903) as favouring human introduction. Merrill (Botany of Cook's Voyages, 1954, 305) is not convinced. 7) Pachyrrhizus (yam bean). Heyerdahl cites Cook (1903) again. Guppy and Graeffe seem to be the primary sources on the range and use of this plant. There is no mention of its occurrence in eastern Polynesia. Tonga is one of the places where it is said to grow, but Whistler (Ethnobotany of Tonga, 1991) does not mention it, and I have seen hardly any mention of it anywhere in Polynesia or Melanesia. A possible clue to the problem is Merrill's opinion (op.cit.) that it was a misidentification of Pueraria, another leguminous plant of Asian origin. This incorrect identification found its way into a Flora of Fiji and has been re-quoted by many people ever since. 8) Xanthosoma (type of taro) I found no evidence of pre-European introduction in any of Heyerdahl's books. 9) Aristida (grass used for head ornaments) pavahina, Marquesas. Brown (1935) considered it a possible unintentional introduction by early inhabitants. 10) Ageratum (used for ornaments) mei roro, Marquesas. Also mentioned as in Tubuai, and found in Samoa and Tonga. Brown considers it another unintentional early introduction. Brown describes this species as "pantropic", which makes me wonder exactly what his reasons are for also saying it's "of American origin". 11) Phaseolus vulgaris (common bean) 12) Phaseolus lunatus (lima bean) There is no mention in Heyerdahl 1976 or 1968 of any evidence that either of these species was present in Polynesia or the Pacific islands generally before European times. 13) Canavalia (jackbean or swordbean) Heyerdahl cites Stonor & Anderson (1949) as saying that this plant is "widely cultivated throughout the Pacific". This is news to me. Several vines of this genus grow in the Pacific islands as beach weeds. They are not cultivated, and nobody eats them except pigs. Possibly Stonor and Anderson provide some evidence for their claim, but since the title of their paper is "Maize among the hill peoples of Assam", it seems more likely that it was just a casual remark that Heyerdahl never bothered to check. So, having looked at the evidence, I suggest we forget about 5, 8, 11, 12 and 13 unless you can come up with something better. 7 also does not look at all promising. The remainder can join the "maybe" pile. [An unusual post where Ross argues for more plant introductions from America:] From: Ross Clark Subject: Re: Polynesia: academic Fantasy World Date: 03 Dec 1998 00:00:00 GMT Message-ID: <36663A78.1F45@antnov1.auckland.ac.nz> Just a couple of followups on the revived Trans-Pacific botanical discussion: First, as promised, a clarification of the bottle gourd business. The basic reasons for considering the bottle gourd (Lagenaria) to be an American-Polynesian introduction are: (1) It is widespread and archaeologically attested very early in the Americas. (2) At first European contact it was found in eastern Polynesia (including Hawaii and New Zealand), but not in western Polynesia or Fiji. To expand on these two points: (1) The question of whether, as Lathrap suggests, the gourd came to America from Africa at some very early date, seems not to be relevant to how it got to Polynesia. (2) The pre-European gourds of western Polynesia and Fiji are a different species, the wax gourd (Binancasa hispida). On this point see W.Arthur Whistler, "The other Polynesian gourd", Pacific Science, 44(2): 115-122 (1990). Apparently Lagenaria is well established in New Guinea, but I have no good information on the rest of Melanesia. Of course with Lagenaria there has been a lot of argument about the possibility of natural dispersal by seaborne fruits. There is also a lot of argument about varieties, eg one researcher claimed that the New Guinea gourds were more like the African than the Asian types. I don't know if any more recent genetic work has shed any light on this. In any case, this looks like at least as promising a candidate as some of the others on Yuri's list. But wait, there's more! I just happened across Edwin N.Ferdon's Early Observations of Marquesan Culture, 1595-1813 (University of Arizona Press, 1993). One of his major sources is an English missionary, William Pascoe Crook, who spent 18 months on Tahuata, 1797-99. He was a complete failure as a missionary, but he wrote an extensive account of the Marquesans and their language, which, unfortunately, has never been published. (The language portion has, however, just been published by Steven Roger Fischer of rongorongo fame.) As it turns out, Crook mentions, according to Ferdon, seven species of plant as being present which are known to be of American origin. (I say "according to Ferdon" because Crook was not much of a naturalist, and some of the identifications are more secure than others.) The list is: 1. Chili pepper (Capsicum) 2. Cashew (Anacardium) 3. Pineapple (Ananas) 4. Soursop (Annona muricata) 5. Soapberry (Sapindus saponaria) 6. Sweet potato (Ipomoea) 7. Cotton (Gossypium) Now this is more like the sort of evidence we need to make a good case for these plants -- certainly better than Heyerdahl's speculations in the 1930s. However, of course, Crook was not the first visitor to these islands. In his discussion (pp.131 ff.) Ferdon manages to keep a remarkably open mind -- even about the sweet potato! (He was writing before the recent archaeological remains were found in the Cook Islands.) He points out the real possibility that some or all of them may have been brought in, deliberately or accidentally, by any of the various ships from Mendaņa's expedition onward. This is fine. I think all of these could be added to our list of "maybes". [snip]