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Re: maize in Europe and India: a twisted tale

Dear Greg,

I have read carefully this long post of yours, and now will make some
comments about some of the issues you raise. Again, I compliment you on
the solid research that you did, especially in looking up some
specialized literature that is not easy to track down for

GKeyes6988 (gkeyes6988@aol.com) wrote:



You make three conclusions, and I will reply to them point by point. You
start with this,

: 1.  The articles by Jeffreys and Johannessen are deeply flawed and have
: been well rebutted, even by those who still favor a pre-Columbian maize in
: Asia.

Further, you include these details:

: "Johannessen and Parker conclude, on the basis of several intricate
: details, including kernel-like carvings, that these structures
: morphologically represent the maize ear.  their conclusions are, however,
: based on gross comparisons of MLS and maize ear, for qualitative traits
: such as the shape of MLS and kernels, curving at the tip of MLS, and
: arrangment of kernels.  Most of the characters for which they made
: comparisons are subjective and not quantifiable, and hence not amenable to
: statistical analysis.  Indeed, in the quantitative trait they recorded
: (width.thickness ratio for the bead-like structures or 'kernels' of MLS),
: MLS were significantly different from maize ears.  Payak and Sachan
: examined 50 friezes in Somnathpur and concluded that the objects resemble
: some kind of beaded ornamentation characteristic of the Hoysala tradition
: and they did not represent maize ears.  However, their conclusions also
: are not based on quantitative data. Hence the present study (Veena and
: Sigamani pg 196).

As I understand it, V & S have found problems both with Johannessen &
Parker, and with the work of P & S.

: In other words, both earlier studies basically "eyeballed" the icons in a
: subjective and highly interpretive fashion.  J and P "saw" ears of corn
: while Payak and Sachan "saw" nothing of the kind.

: Veena and Sigamani then proceed to do a systematic morphological study
: with statistical analysis and conclude that these icons -- whatever they
: might have represented -- do not likely represent corn.  This kind of
: analysis is crucial in the study of iconography -- and for that matter,
: unknown scripts.  Otherwise, something can look like whatever you want it
: to.

Now, what can I say here? V & S claim to have found the right kind of
methodology to evaluate these carvings. But is their methodology really
infallible? I'm sure someone else can easily come along and devise
another methodology, and claim that IT is the most appropriate?

In particular, they say above: "Most of the characters for which they [J
& P] made comparisons are subjective and not quantifiable". Well, sure,
these _may be_ subjective characters. But, really, what do we have here? 
We have a UNIQUE case of a large number of ancient carvings that _seem_
to many to represent maize. (And not only that, but also a very unusual
archaic variety of maize, that, although unusual, still looks like
maize.) How do you devise _an objective methodology_ for comparison in
such a case? And -- whatever methodology you devise -- is it possible
that nobody would come along to cast doubt on it and to suggest another
methodology? I don't think so. 

I don't think the debate about methodologies is irrelevant here. But
let's not get sidetracked too far. This matter is not so complicated that
it would not allow for an individual judgement -- yes, subjective --
based on simple observation.

Get a few fair-minded people to look at the carvings and take a vote. If
they vote, Yes, this is maize -- so be it. If, No, then No. Now, how's
this for a methodology? 

Does this seem flippant? Perhaps it is. But I say what I say in the firm
belief that this debate about Indian maize will not be settled by the
narrow debate about what the carvings represent. On the other hand, I
also firmly believe that this debate about Indian maise WILL BE SETTLED
eventually, and perhaps not too far away in the future -- but on a
different basis. On this, more later. 

As this post is getting long already, I will continue in the next one.

Best regards,



(provided originally by Domingo Martinez Castilla 

Johannessen, Carl, 1988 "Indian maize in the twelfth century B.C." 
Nature 332:587 (note that the date was wrong: should have said A.D.)

Johannessen and Parker 1989 "Maize ears sculptured..." Economic Botany. 

Payak and Sachan 1988 "Maize in Somnathpur, an Indian medieval temple",
Nature 335: 773-774

Payak, M.M., and Sachan, J.K.S. 1993 "Maize Ears Not Sculpted in 13th
Century Somnathpur Temple in India." Economic botany. APR 01 1993, vol.
47, no. 2, p. 202-

Veena and Sigamani 1991 "Do objects in friezes of Somanthpur temple (1268
AD) in South India represent maize ears?" Current Science 61:395-396


            =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.