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Re: maize in ancient India: transpacific links (cont.)

In article <5aj6ke$13u@news1.io.org> yuku@io.org (Yuri Kuchinsky) writes:
>Pre-columbian maize pollen _has been found_ in India.

This is not nearly as secure as you suggest.  Johannessen and Parker 
(1989:175) list three cases where people may have recovered Precolumbian 
maize pollen from India

  Case 1 - they remark that the dating of the cores containing the pollen
    recovered by Singh (1963) is uncertain.  Also keep in mind the comments of
    Jeffrey Baker that the identification of maize pollen is not necessarily
    a simple task. Therefore this case is certain neither for date nor for
  Case 2 - In a nearby site of Tosh Maidan, maize pollen was identified in
    two other cores.  A review of the article (Singh 1963) indicates that not
    only did they identified maize pollen from a level dating to 2790 +/-160 B.P.,
    they also identified maize pollen stretching all the way back to 10,000 B.P.
    This is truly astounding since the earliest evidence we have of maize in
    the New World may date to about 7000 B.P. (some argue that it is even more
    recent).  So if Singh and co. are correct then they have domesticated maize
    in India about 3000 years before it was originally domesticated in the New
    World.  I guess we can tack on a time machine to the already impressive list
    of achievements of ancient Indian society.
  Case 3 - Vishnu-Mittre and Gupta (1966) initially believed they had recovered
    Precolumbian maize pollen and maize impressions from ceramics but by 1986 
    Vishnu-Mittre told Johannessen & Parker that he was no longer confident of 
    the identification.  Given that even the original researcher is not confident
    in the initial report, why should anyone else be?

So due to the problems of dating the cores, the difficulty of identifying maize
pollen and even the possibility of stratigraphic admixture it is easy to see 
that each case of "maize remains" listed in Johannessen & Parker is equivocal.
Given this it would certainly be very premature to conclude that Precolumbian
maize remains had definitely been found in India.

Peter van Rossum

Singh, Gurdip
  1963 "Post-glacial Vegetational History of the Kashmir Valley," The
       Palaeobotanist 12(1):73-108.

Singh, Gurdip & D.P. Agrawal
  1976 "Radiocarbon Evidence for Deglaciation in North-Western Himalaya, India,"
       Nature, 260:232.

Vishnu-Mittre, & H.P. Gupta
  1966 "Pollen Morphological Studies of Some Primitive Varieties of Maize (Zea
       Mays L.) with Remarks on the History of Maize in India," The Palaeobotanist