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Re: maize in ancient india: strong transpacific links are indicated

In article <5aj6ke$13u@news1.io.org> yuku@io.org (Yuri Kuchinsky) writes:

Yuri, I'd like to start out by thanking you for the tone of your recent posts.
I'll do my best to keep my responses on an equally high level.

>I don't know which photos you've seen. As you may know, the number of
>those carvings is huge. The photos that I've seen in Johannessen's
>ECONOMIC BOTANY article certainly look remarkably like maize to me. One
>doesn't _need_ to be a botanist to say this.
>So the pictures look like sorghum to you. In spite of the fact that
>sorghum grain grows in a panicle, and not in an ear. You're a botanist,
>and your opinion should count for something. OK, let me ask you this, If
>those carvings indeed obviously represent sorghum, how come other
>botanists -- equally as well qualified as you -- clearly disagree with
>you? Namely, they think the pictures are of Pandanus, of pomegranate, and
>of who knows what else? How come you people cannot get your story

The point here (as I see it) is that you are right - people can't get their
story straight.  When different people see the sculptures they see different
things.  The identification of the objects as corn is an identification that 
is subject to interpretation, and different people interpret those sculptures 
as representing different objects.  That is why I do not accept Johannessen
and Parker's identification as definite proof of Precolumbian maize in India.

>Pre-columbian maize pollen _has been found_ in India.

This interpretation does not appear to be as clear as you suggest.  I'm 
working on a review of this but unfortunately the citation for one of 
these finds appears to be incorrect. In the Johannessen & Parker article 
they cite:  
  Singh, G. & D.P. Agrawal
    1976 "Radiocarbon evidence for deglaciation in north-western 
       Himalaya, India," Nature 260:323.
I looked for this article but didn't find it.  Does anyone know what the
correct citation is?

>Also, Kay, let me ask you this. As a botanist, you should be very
>knowledgeable about what the implications of a great genetic variety of a
>plant in a certain area are. This is an indication that the plant has
>been growing in this area for a long time. The varieties of corn in India
>are extremely many, and some of them are very rare. What does this
>indicate? And why all of the critiques of Johannessen that I've seen so
>far, including yours, diligently avoid this issue? I'd be interested to
>see your take on this...

Time depth is not the only factor related to the diversity of a plant in
a given area:

  "Vavilov thought that areas of maximum genetic diversity represented 
   centers of origin and that the origin of a crop could be identified by
   the simple procedure of analyzing variation patterns and plotting 
   regions where diversity was concentrated. It turned out that centers of 
   diversity are not the same as centers of origin, yet many crops do 
   exhibit centers of diversity.  The phenomenon is real and requires 
   explanation.  What causes variation to accumulate in secondary centers is 
   not too well understood, but some observable factors are:
     1. A long history of continuous cultivation
     2. Ecological diversity, many habitats accomodate many races.
     3. Human diversity, different tribes are attracted to different races
        of the crop.
     4. Introgression with wild and weedy relatives or between different
        races of a crop."
   (Heiser 1990:137).

So we see that just because an area has a wide diversity of a specific plant 
does not necessarily mean that we can in a straightforward manner adduce 
exactly when it was introduced to the area.  This fact led another researcher 
to comment:

  "Although some attempt has been made to show that prehistoric maize 
   reached South Asia from the west, it is much more likely that it arrived 
   in Asia (none of the wild relatives of maize occurs in the natural floras 
   of east Asia) via Spanish voyages from Mexico through the Phillipines and 
   so west into south China, where its cultivation caused great destruction 
   of natural forest cover and erosion on the hill and mountain slopes of 
   Yunnan.  When the first maize cultigens reached the highly contrasting 
   monsoonal environment of north-east India (elevations 150 to 4,000 m,
   rainfall 1,000 to 5,000 mm) they manifested the great diversity noted by
   Bhag Singh in a secondary center of diversity." (Whyte 1985:263).
So again, just as in Greg Keyes' recent posts regarding "waxy corn" in Asia,
there are other researchers who don't seem to have any trouble reconciling 
the genetic diversity in Asian corn with a relatively recent introduction.

Heiser, Charles Bixler
  1990 "Seed to Civilization: The Story of Food." Cambridge: Harvard U. Press.

Whyte, Robert Orr
  1985 "Annual Crops of South and Southeast Asia," In Recent Advances in
    Indo-Pacific Prehistory." V.N. Misra & P. Bellwood, eds.  New Delhi:
    Oxford & IBH Publishers Co.

Peter van Rossum