Subject:      how did the chicken cross the ocean from Asia?
From: (Yuri Kuchinsky)
Date:         1997/04/30
Message-ID:   <5k82ft$ape$>
Newsgroups:   sci.archaeology,sci.archaeology.mesoamerican,,sci.anthropology,sci.agriculture

Greetings all!

I'm back again after a rather long break, trying to figure out where I
left off the discussions that were rather active at the time.

As many of the readers in these groups know well, I have a particular
interest in the theories dealing with the possibilities of trans-Pacific
diffusion in ancient times. There's a large and growing body of evidence
that indicates that ancient peoples were exchanging cultural knowledge
across the Pacific Ocean (also, quite possibly across the Atlantic) in
ancient times, 2 and 3 thousand years ago.

These theories are not exactly mainstream. In fact the mainstream academic
opinion looks at these theories with thinly disguised horror. It is
difficult for those not in the know to imagine the depth of resentment
that these theories evoke in most specialists in American prehistory. Yes,
friends, this is true. Why this is so is a difficult matter to explain,
and I will not try to explain it at this point, although previously I
tried. Maybe later.

But one thing is clear. A significant amount of detailed research has been
published in solid, although perhaps obscure, academic publications
pertaining to this matter. I have done my best in the past to dig out and
assemble some of this information that is not well known even among the
specialists in the field. Among the matters I raised is the "Mystery of
the American Chicken". You see, the common domestic chicken has been
domesticated in South East Asia in ancient times. Yet when the Spanish
came to America -- strange to imagine -- they reported often that the
natives in many parts of America had the chicken! So a number of
researchers believe that the chicken made it to America before Columbus,
brought over by some ancient mariners. 


[independent invention, i.e. convergence?]

The big debate in such cases as this is obviously between diffusion vs.
independent invention. In the case of the chicken, Johannessen indicates
clearly that independent invention of such rituals as he discovered among
Mayan-speaking tribes in Central and S. America is hardly possible.
Diffusion from Asia in ancient times makes much more sense as an

I should add here the following correction of some of the things I stated
before. In our previous discussions of precolumbian chickens in America we
were wondering about what was the range of this hypothetical precolumbian
chicken dispersal. Many eyewitnesses reported chickens at contact in South
America. But there was some confusion about whether or not the chicken was
in Central and North America. After reading George Carter's article in MAN
ACROSS THE SEA, I was led to believe for a while that chickens did not
spread to Central America pre-contact. After some further research, I now
believe that chickens were present at contact in Central and North

This whole matter is rather complicated and the information about it is
scarce. To summarize, my main reasons for believing that chicken was in
America pre-contact are as follows:

a) The kinds of birds in possession by remote Native tribes are quite rare
Asian breeds, including the so-called Black Meated Chicken, and also the
chicken laying blue eggs! These were unknown in Europe.

b) It is clear from ethnographical literature that Native tribes possess a
great number of unusual ritualistic complexes centering on the chicken.
These have links with Asia and certainly not with Europe. In particular,
and perhaps the strangest cultural trait of all, the Natives, even in our
times in some cases, eat neither the flesh nor the eggs of chickens! How
would they learn this from the Spanish? Impossible. Most often chickens
were raised for ritual use, among which cockfighting seems prominent.

c) And lastly, we know that the chicken was all over the Pacific islands
pre-contact. All the ritual uses are extremely close to those in America
and Asia. So this definitely seems like the missing link that is usually
disregarded. And if the chicken made it all the way to Easter Island
pre-contact, it really strains the credulity that it could not have made
the last "leap" to the American mainland, IMHO. There's just too much
evidence on other grounds that there were links between America and

Best regards,


Yuri Kuchinsky   | "Where there is the Tree of Knowledge, there
     -=-         | is always Paradise: so say the most ancient
 in Toronto      | and the most modern serpents."  F. Nietzsche
 ----- my webpage is for now at: [24] -----

Click here to go one level up in the directory.