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Re: chicken in America: from Asia? (cont.)

[part 2 of 3] 
Now, let's look at the eyewitness evidence more closely. We have
plenty of eyewitnesses of first contacts of Europeans with native
populations all over the Americas. It is very common to find
evidence that the Europeans found chickens in the hands of natives
in the remotest tribal settlements all around the continent at first
The first landing of Europeans on the coast of Brazil was near Bahia
in 1500 (Cabral) (p. 199). But
      The first Spaniards into the interior of Brazil (Rio Ucayale,
      1544; upper Amazon, 1560) found chickens already established.
      (p. 200)
      The evidence indicates that chickens were very widespread in
      South America within 20 to 40 years of first contact. These
      spot records indicate that the chicken was established from
      the Atlantic to the Pacific and from northwest Brazil to
      Argentina in less than 40 years. (p. 200)
This is, of course, totally out of sync with the evidence about the
slowness of acceptance of chickens in the Old World.
      This rate of diffusion of the chicken from eastern Brazil to
      Peru is totally out of step with the parallels from Eurasia.
      (p. 200)
The case of the Incas is extremely curious. When the Spanish arrived
to Peru, they found chickens extremely well established and widely
used in religious rituals. The name of the last Inca, Atahualpa is
connected with the word "chicken". Also the name of his uncle. 
      Either these men were named after the chicken, or the chicken
      was named after them. Garcilaso de la Vega says that the
      chicken was named in memory of Atahualpa so that each time the
      cock crowed, he would be remembered. This leaves unexplained
      the naming of Atahualpa's uncle. (p. 200)
Can we really believe that the Incas would be not only accepting
this domesticated animal instantly -- but also integrating it into
their religion and government instantly? This really strains the
limits of credulity...
We have already cited the account by Acosta. Now, another source,
      Capa [a scholar of Spanish conquest] says: "In the first
      accounts of the conquest, we frequently hear of hens..."
      (Capa, 1915: V, 427) ... Capa had access to original sources,
      ... His comments would seem to verify chickens for Paraguay
      and Tucuman at contact time. (p. 202)
I think I should state here my belief that the last thing the
Europeans would have been worried about when they were subduing
native tribes is the derivation of the chickens. They may have been
somewhat surprised when they saw natives possessing chickens, but
they probably would not have cared less about where they came from.
Nevertheless, what they _did_ often remark upon are the unusual
varieties of chickens they saw.
In his article Carter carefully distinguishes between the chickens
found in Asia, and the varieties that existed in Europe at the time
of the conquest. This distinction is very important for his
      These markers allow us to state, with some caution, that fowl
      with certain characters have specific origins, and that it is
      possible to distinguish with some certainty between European
      and Asiatic fowl. (p. 184)
Why is this important? Because it was _the Asian_ varieties of
chickens that were all over the Americas at the time of European
colonization. I will not get into zoological details -- suffice it
to say that these distinctions are clear and agreed upon by all
      All poultry experts agree on the presence of Asiatic races,
      and they almost equally uniformly blandly assume post-1500
      introductions. No proof is ever offered. (p. 205)
      Finsterbusch (1929: 86) specifies for Brazil: "The best breeds
      there are straight Oriental, Malays, Indian type ... (p. 210)
It seems to me that the proponents of the "Instant Embrace Of
Chicken" by native peoples would like to tell us that the Spanish
not only introduced chickens with lightning speed, but they also
introduced the kind of fowl they didn't even themselves have in
Europe at that time!? Hard to believe...
Now, where are we likely to find the oldest chicken varieties in the
Americas, if chickens were indeed pre-Columbian? Naturally, one
would look to the native peoples living in remote areas who are the
most distant from European influence. But we find Asian chickens
precisely there!
      It has frequently been pointed out that there are non-European
      chickens in the hands of remote Indian groups (Sauer, 1952;
      Castello, 1924; Latcham, 1922). ... He [Castello] stated that
      there were then five types of chickens in Chile, though now
      badly mixed... [only one of them being European] (p. 210)
And how about this:
      It seems significant that the location of our best zoological
      record is among the Araucanians [in Chile]. In this area of
      minimal Spanish influence, among an Indian people who remained
      fiercely free into the 19 c. with their culture fairly intact
      until well toward the end of the 19 c., we find fowls with the
      unique character of blue eggs. They also possess Asiatic
      characteristics: ear puffs, taillessness, melanotic [traits --
      this means black skin, flesh, and bones; only the colour of
      the flesh is strange; the taste is apparently rather nice],
      silky (or hairlike) feathers and peacombs. None of these are
      traits known early to Europeans. ... One would have to look
      far indeed to find a situation better suited to preserving a
      precontact record of chickens ... than the Araucanian
      situation. (p. 211)

[part 3 to follow]

            =O=    Yuri Kuchinsky in Toronto    =O=
  --- a webpage like any other...  http://www.io.org/~yuku ---
Diffusionist studies are not, as they are sometimes said to be,
attempts to depreciate the creativity of peoples; rather they are
efforts to locate and specify this creativity. D. Frazer,
Research, 32 (1965) p. 454, as quoted by J. Needham.