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Re: maize in Europe and India: a twisted tale
Douglas Weller writes:
>On 7 Jan 1997 15:20:26 GMT, firstname.lastname@example.org (Yuri Kuchinsky) wrote:
>>If yes, i. e. maize indeed came to India before Columbus, this will be a
>>huge breakthrough that will shed much light on research in quite a large
>>number of disciplines: archaeology, anthropology, ethnobotany, and
>>ancient AND modern history, to name but a few. This will prove beyond any
>>reasonable doubt that ancient Americans possessed sailing craft capable
>>of crossing the Pacific, that they did cross the Pacific, and that they
>>perhaps even had regular links with Asia -- however incredible this may
>How do you get from pre-1492 maize in India to all these 'amazing' <G> claims?
>It might result in new questions to answer, yes. But questions don't shed
>light, answers do. And certainly your last sentence has no foundation. Maize
>in India at any point can't 'prove beyond any reasonable doubt' anything on
>its own, let alone your list.
I agree here with Doug, to the extent that Yuri is going overboard
to insist that it was the Americans who brought the maize depicted
in the Hoysala sculptures to India. The Mayans, Incans, etc, surely
had some sort of boats, but my perhaps merely uninformed preconception
of them is that they weren't particularly maritime.
My bet would be that it was Hindu traders who brought maize back from the
new world. In the 1st millenium AD, the Indians brought
their religions to Indonesia and SE asia, traded with China, etc., so
it wouldn't be unthinkable for them to have ventured on across the
Pacific. Maya expert Michael Coe (interview in Americas, a publication of the
Organization of American States, Jan/Feb 1996) has no problems, on other
grounds, thinking that there might be "real connections" that are not just
independent convergence, between the Maya and Bali. "The
resemblances between SE Asia and Mesoamerica are extraordinary..."
Another possibility that shouldn't be overlooked is Africa. There is
some literature on pre-Columbian maize in Africa (sorry, I don't have
the page reference or title, but it's somewhere in Fingerhut's recent book on
diffusion). Perhaps Africans, a la Van Sertima, brought maize back across
the Atlantic, and then the Hindus picked it up from them, either directly
or via Arabs. Mocha was a big Arabian seaport (home of Mocha Chip Ice
Cream! :-), and in India, maize is today called, roughly, Mocha Sorghum.
(makke-jola in Kannada, makka in Hindi, mokka jonna in Telegu, makaa or
makkai in Northern India, mecca cholam in Tamil, etc.) Some
people read Mecca into makka, but Mecca, unlike Mocha, was not a
seaport or trading center. Jola, jonna, jaun, etc, mean sorghum, whose
plant looks a little like a maize plant. The photos of sorghum seed heads
I have seen look nothing like the Hoysala corncob sculptures depicted in
Johannessen's photos in Economic Botany (1989, 164-80), however.
BTW, I spoke with Johannessen this morning, and he seems amenable
to putting some of his color photos on a web site, perhaps with Yuri's
help. He's a newbie to the internet, however, and so this may take some
-- Hu McCulloch
Ohio State U