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Re: chicken in America: from Asia? (cont.)
Good post, Yuri
As with the sweet potato(in Asia), there is no particular reason that the
Polynesians couldn't have brought chickens to South America. If chickens
can be certainly shown to have been in South America in pre-Columbian
times, this is what Ockham's razor would suggest -- a chicken for potato
I have a couple of comments before I go find the Carter article and do
1. Faunal remains are analysed pretty carefully and consistently at
archaeological sites. If pre-Hispanic groups were eating chickens, we
would certainly have pretty good evidence (probably overwhelming) from
trash pits, etc. Likewise, if they were used only ceremonially, we would
still find them, albeit in different contexts (interrments, as grave
goods, etc.) Only if the chickens were neither eaten nor interred in any
fashion would we have no faunal evidence by now. Or if every group that
adopted them also adopted a taboo forbidding the eating or intering of
chickens, which would be rather odd.
2. As unlikely as some may think it, new crops and certain animals did
spread pretty quickly after contact. In the SE U.S. (where I work) we can
track the chicken pretty well. It shows up in Natchez faunal remains (and
in the historical record) very quickly after contact -- within a decade.
So does dent corn (a Mexican variety the SE Indians did not have) and
melons (ultimately from Africa). The melon, I know, spread unbelievably
fast to the plains and Southwest, probably because its cultivation was so
similar to that of the native cucurbits and because it was tasty.
3. Spanish and Portuguese sailors could have had access to Asian chicken
varieties, replenishing their shipboard supply in Asian ports. A fair
number of early hispanic contacts came via Asia.
Basically what we have here is inference from post-Columbian evidence.
What would be nice for this hypothesis is any evidence dating to a
pre-Columbian context. I suspect that the hypothesis has languished
because of the lack of such evidence. I have not yet read the Carter
article, however. Perhaps he presents such evidence.
Now I'll go do some reading.