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Re: Ad Yurii Gloriam (and Adios Yuri)
In article <firstname.lastname@example.org> email@example.com (Yuri Kuchinsky) writes:
>You really did not understand what I was trying to say there, did you?
>What I was trying to say was that these arguments will never be settled
>merely by discussing the similarities between the carvings and maize.
>Impossible... AND YET, I firmly believe that these arguments WILL BE
>SETTLED eventually. How will this happen? Well, these are just some
So I take it that the counter-arguments which have been presented have
convinced you that you were presumptuous in earlier concluding that
Johannessen & Parker's work conclusively proved the case of Precolumbian
>a) As Johannessen's research indicates that maize was a staple crop in
>that area, these cob fossils shouldn't really be that difficult to turn up
>in excavations. Is anyone looking for them?
Yes. This has been explained to you many times. When archaeologists carry
out an excavation they recover as much of the material remains of the people
as possible - this includes plant remains. Next archaeologists try to
identify the materials which they recover. Finally they build interpretations
based on the research that they just carried out. Given that corn cobs are so
easy to identify if any excavator recovers a cob they can immediately identify
it. They can also use radiocarbon dating techniques on a recovered cob to
obtain a direct date of the cobs time of deposition.
No one has yet reported finding a pre-15th century maize cob in an Indian
context. Therefore, I hope we can both agree that at present the "maize in
ancient India hypothesis" remains unproven and cannot be considered at
present to represent a smoking gun type of argument for Precolumbian Old/New
>b) The evidence from studying maize genetic liniages alone can tell us
>when maize arrived to India. This work is being done now.
I hope so and maybe that it will resolve some of these questions.
>c) Our ability to find and analyse ancient plant pollen is constantly
Yes and much of this improvement in pollen identification is being carried
out by archaeologists with biological/botanical training, often working in
conjunction with full-time botanists. So much for academic lethargy. People
are working very hard to further our understanding of past cultures. That
is why they get irritated when people who don't understand the issues or
complexities of archaeological analysis constantly claim that based on their
reading of a couple of books on a topic they are in a better position to judge
the evidence than people who have devoted their lives to such studies.
>So THIS IS where the final confirmation will come from, I believe. The
>carvings are merely a strong indication that maize was in India
>pre-Columbus. They should point us towards further research.
The carvings don't point us to any further research than what was already
being carried out by competent scholars in many fields. People have been
working on using genetic tests to understand maize origins and diffusion for
about a 100 years. For decades archaeologists have been using the most
advanced means at their disposal (and developing new techniques) for
understanding the dietary and environmental characteristics of ancient
people. These are the areas where questions like this will addressed - by
mainstream researchers doing mainstream research, not by someone looking at a
couple of stone carvings claiming to have identified the plant and then
launching into unsubstantiated hypotheses of a 15th century coverup by
Europeans and also extending said coverup to include archaeologists (albeit
possibly without their being aware of having been duped.
>Do you understand my point now? I should hope so...
Do you understand our point now? It was always that Johannessen & Parker's
analysis did not conclusively prove that Precolumbian contacts happened. We
have not claimed that we know for sure that they didn't happen, we have only
said that at present this hypothesis has not been confirmed (it can never be
>And here, I would like to quote for you from a relatively new publication.
>ISLANDS, PLANTS, AND POLYNESIANS: AN INTRODUCTION TO POLYNESIAN
>ETHNOBOTANY, Paul Cox and Sandra Banack, eds, Portland, 1991. In the
>article POLYNESIAN PLANT NAMES, Karl H. Rensch writes:
>"I do not intend to go back to the question of whether the word _kumara_
>[signifying sweet potato, _Ipomoea_], which has reflexes in most
>Polynesian langauges, is of South American Indian origin. The case for it
>has been proven beyond doubt (Yen 1974)" (p. 98)
>So how about you try this one on for size, Domingo?
Been there, done that, the definite conclusion cited above is unwarranted,
alternate possibilities exist. Kind of frustrating to make a case, have said
case acknowledged and then have see it be regurgitated again as though the
original discussion never took place. Ah well, we've gotten kind of used to
>And do I really need to explain to you that the case for the
>human-assisted diffusion of potato west from America pre-Columbus
>significantly strengthens the case for the similar diffusion of maize? I
No it doesn't, neither case is definitive.
>: And do not expect for people in these forums to be able to disprove
>: Even if you submit that, say, Cahokia
>was built using : digital computers from outer space, nobody can disprove
>Yes, but on the other hand, we can prove that technology existing at the
>time was sufficient for constructing it.
Exactly and that's why I think the better explanation is that it was built by
humans. But this doesn't for sure, without a doubt, 100% prove that it wasn't
built by aliens - we just don't have any evidence for the aliens. Just like we
don't have any direct evidence for Precolumbian maize in ancient India,
chickens in South America, or peanuts in China. Also it has been shown that
the distribution of sweet potato, bottle gourds, cotton, and coconuts can be
explained by natural processes which occur every day (humans may have been
involved but this has not been conclusively demonstrated). Also there are
substantial reasons for being skeptical that Shang Chinese ever conquered the
Olmec, and there is no evidence that Mesoamerican cylindrical seals are an
import from Babylonia or the Indus Valley. Did I miss any of the other
arguments you've brought up?
Now I think I'll try to get back to working on my Ph.D. dissertation,
preparing a couple of papers for an upcoming conference, continue developing
a GIS database for a regional survey project, resume reanalysing a paper
on Central Mexican settlement distributions, spend more time using the
internet to maintain contact with Mexican scholars whom I'm proud to call
friends and spending more time with my wife. And far less time on arguments
presented by people who have little grasp of just what it is archaeologists do
and why we do it.
Peter van Rossum