Subject:      Re: maize in ancient India: transpacific links (cont.)
From:         yuku@mail.trends.ca (Yuri Kuchinsky)
Date:         1997/02/01
Message-ID:   <5cvl1t$dh8$1@trends.ca>
Newsgroups:   sci.bio.misc,sci.archaeology,sci.anthropology,soc.culture.indian

Hu McCulloch ([22]hmccullo@ecolan.sbs.ohio-state.edu) wrote:

: P&S say, following Prof. Prabhu Shanker of the Dept. of Ancient
: History and Archaeology, U. of Mysore, that the Hoysala sculptures
: are not maize, but "Muktaphala - a fruit made of pearls - very commonly
: in many icons."   I am told that Muktaphala literally means pearl-fruit.
: If one were to make up a name for maize, pearl-fruit would be
: as good as any.  So why can't Muktaphala just be the ancient
: name for maize,

Yes, Hu, I agree that this was the most likely scenario. I have just read
a recent article by Johannessen dealing with maize names around the world.
Fascinating stuff. Carl Johannessen, DISTRIBUTION OF PRE-COLUMBIAN MAIZE
AND MODERN MAIZE NAMES, in PERSON, PLACE AND THING, 1992, Shue Tuck
Wong,
ed., Louisiana State U.

One of the things that Jeffreys, the scholar who did major research on
maize distribution before Johannessen, speculated about is the puzzle
about the Mukgh or Makka-type maize names that are very common in India.
Jeffreys, who proposed the thesis about maize being introduced to India by
Arab traders, believed that these names derived from Mecca, in Arabia.

Well, now Johannessen has found something quite relevant that can help to
clarify this matter. It turns out that in Arawak family of languages in S.
America there exists a variety of maize names with _maka_ in their root.
So Johannessen is saying that the _maka_ type maize names came to India
from America in ancient times together with maize seeds. Also, in the
article, there's a lot more evidence presented about other similarities in
maize names in Asia and in America, as well as in Africa. And there're
quite a few such similarities.

So Maka ---> Muktaphala.

As Johannessen says in his article, the work of finding and cataloguing
the names for maize has been just barely started now -- both in India,
among hundreds of tribes there, and in America. Much more research needs
to be done. One prominent researcher whose work J. is using is a Pole, T.
Marszewski, most of whose work was published in Wroclaw (most recently in
1987).

: once a real crop and then later, after it was
: abandoned, a legendary "fruit" that continued to appear, in decreasingly
: accurate detail, in icons?

The question as to why maize cultivation would have been abandoned in the
areas around the Hoysala temples is of course quite complex. But my
suggestion is that the tribes who depended on corn may have been driven
away from these areas as a result of an invasion by other tribes. So they
escaped to the highlands taking corn cultivation with them. Apparently
corn cultivation is quite common in the Indian highlands today, and the
varieties of corn there appear to be quite unusual and ancient.

: The Hoysala sculptures are quite
: accurate depictions of maize ears, and could only have been made
: from actual specimens, as J&P point out.  Elsewhere, "Muktaphala"
: may well have become stylized to the point of unrecognizability.

Well, perhaps not quite. I haven't seen the picture of "Muktaphala", but
if it looks like _Kala Vriksha_, a Jain mythical fruit of plenty (the
picture of it is given in CURRENT SCIENCE 61:6, p. 397 [1991], in the
article by Veena and Sigamani, the critics of Johannessen), then it still
looks quite a bit like an ear of corn!

Best regards,

Yuri.
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