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

On 13 Dec 1996, Yuri Kuchinsky wrote:

> 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. 

Where does Carter say the Chicken was well-established among the Inca? He 
bases this entire statement upon Atahualpa's name, yet he also mentions 
that the chicken was named after Atahualpa, not Atahualpa being named 
after the chicken.

See below.

>       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)

Why? Atahualpa may have been a common name for Inca elite. And unrelated 
to the chicken.

> 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)

Let us see the rest of Capa's quote "... and the name leads us to believe 
that they were like our own; this however, is not so and only the birds 
of Paraguay and Tucuman were somewhat similar to ours."

This statement suggests that the term for hen may have been applied to a 
completely different bird (e.g. guan, currasow). Note also that Capa is a 
20th century writer, not a 16th century writer.

> 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.

But, Carter is not relying upon the original sources. His earliest source 
(Acosta) is writing in 1590, and Acosta seems to argue for a 
post-Hispanic introduction of the chicken. He is the one who states that 
the chicken was named after Atahualpa, not vice versa.

> 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
> argument.
>       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
> specialists.

The original records are not at all clear as to whether the Spaniards 
(and Portugese) were comparing different types of chickens or different 
types of Galliform birds (guan, currasow). There is a problem in 
translating Colonial period Spanish documents when you start assuming 
that the words mean the same thing today that they meant in the 16th and 
17th centuries.

>       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...

The Spanish Empire of the 16th century embrased not only Europe and the 
New World, but also East Asia. Ships from the west coast of Mexico and 
Peru sailed to Asia, not to Europe. Goods from Asia were often shipped 
to the west coast of Mexico, taken overland to the Atlantic Coast, and 
then shipped to Europe.

>       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)

Not necessarily true. The Araucanians were a coastal people, involved in 
trade networks along the coast of South America in prehispanic times. I 
doubt they would have abandoned these trade networks. The 19th century 
appearance of asiatic chickens in this area should not be surprising, 
particularly given the trade between the west coast of the New World and 
Asia. Perhaps you are not aware of the large Asian populations living in 
Latin America, particularly in the Pacific coast regions?

Again, Carter's "evidence" can easily be explained without recourse to 
Prehispanic diffusion.

Jeff Baker

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