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Re: Old World maize: archaeological evidence? Yes!
In article <firstname.lastname@example.org> email@example.com (Yuri Kuchinsky) writes:
>As some of us are aware, the discussion about maize seemed to have bogged
>down with the conclusion that the archaeological "smoking gun" has not
>been in evidence as yet. Where's the archaeological evidence for maize in
>the Old World? my critics asked. "You have other types of evidence, but not
>the "hard fossil proof"!"
>Meanwhile, this proof seems to have been presented already! Take a look,
Already did, already posted twice why the evidence is not compelling. Here
I'll post it for you again.
>>Dr. Vishnu-Mittre, an Indian archaeologist, found that proof as far back
>as 1966... Surprise!
Read below and take special note of the fact that in 1986 Dr. Vishnu-Mittre
commented to J&P that he was no longer confident that the initial
identification was correct. Seems your information is now some 10-20 years
out of date - hopefully this will help you update it.
Peter van Rossum
This is subject to interpretation. 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.
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
1963 "Post-glacial Vegetational History of the Kashmir Valley," The
Singh, Gurdip & D.P. Agrawal
1976 "Radiocarbon Evidence for Deglaciation in North-Western Himalaya, India,"
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