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Diffusion chickens, sweet potato, maize, grourds and more coming
Well, the "what-a-moment" "smoking gun" of pre-Columbian diffusion is back to
"the" book, Man Across the Sea (Carroll Riley et al., editors, U of Texas,
1971), so we may as well get ready for what it will be coming, almost for
sure, during the next ... er ... months?
Let us see (some titles from said book...):
- The Sailing Raft as a Great Tradition
- Cultural Patterning ...[in] Pre-Columbian Ax and Adz Hafting
- Pre-Columbian Chickens (it may come back)
- Near East and Mesoamerica similar concepts (temples, cosmic axis, navel of
the world, burials, zero, urns, and such)
- Quetzalcoatl: European or Indigene? (author says indigene)
- A Transantlantic Stimulus Hypothesis for Mesoamerica
- Bottle Gourd (again)
- Sweet Potato (idem)
- Travels of Corn and Squash
Allow me to quote from the last page of the Conclusions (unsigned, thus
apparently written by the editors, clearly pro pre-Columbian diffusionists) of
that book (remember it was published in 1971, on the basis of a symposium held
in 1968), to see if this brings some sense to the apparently never-ending
argument in this forum:
"The present symposium, though it has not answered our questions, has by
itself set up certain guidelines. It is clear that we must involve several
disciplines --anthropology, botany, geography, history, and certainly
paleontology and zoology. The experts in each field must acquaint themselves
with both the data and the most current thinking from the other disciplines.
Cross-disciplinary evidence must be closely scrutinized and weighed with great
caution. Particularly, we must guard against ideas so imbedded that they are
accepted as gospel without check or challenge.
"In comparing complexes, particularly where style, type, or other variation in
form is involved, we are probably going to need much more exact tools than the
subjective ones now generally used (...)
"With such guidelines we should eventually be able to reach the point where
given pieces of evidence can be generally accepted, rejected, or at least
assigned a level of high or low probability.
The commentaries at the end of each of the three sections are uneven (the
first one written by a companion of Heyerdahl, the second by a mostly
theoretical discussant, and the third by a botanist who does not quite accept
any of the "evidence"). But in all cases they underline that there was a lot
of work to be done to even approach the level of evidence required by current
It could be interesting to find out what has been the progress in these
issues, if any. If no progress has been made to the post-Pleistocene
pre-Columbian diffusion, it could also be interesting to find out why
(discounting of course very silly conspiracy theories).
I believe that bringing the same symposium book again and again, as the last
word on diffusion, makes a really poor case for the plausibility of the
hypothesis, because it would be indicating that almost nothing else has been
added to the "evidence" in almost 30 years. The only "new" thing shown here
has been the "maize" in the hands of the Indian deities, which, when shown to
a professor of Ancient History at the University of Mysore, caused the
immediate reaction: "It is not maize. It is Muktaphala --a fruit made of
pearls-- very commonly seen in many icons." (from Payak and Sachan, 1993).
I hope this helps to bring these groups into more useful discussions, but it
is --I confess-- a vary faint hope.
Domingo Martinez Castilla