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Re: Old World maize: archaeological evidence? Yes!

In article <5ebego$2p2$3@trends.ca> yuku@mail.trends.ca (Yuri Kuchinsky) writes:
>Peter van Rossum (pmv100@psu.edu) wrote:
>: Here it is you who is misunderstanding the point.  You claimed he, "was 
>: certain maize was in Kashmir before 1430."  If you read the primary material 
>: you will see that he is confident that the *sherds* are older than 1435 A.D., 
>: he is obviously less certain that the impressions on those sherds were made by 
>: a Precolumbian maize cob. 
>Well, I don't know about this, Peter. Here's that post of mine that 
>started this thread. 
>      Vishnu-Mittre, (1966: 155) describing carbonized food grains
>      and their impressions on potsherds from Kaundinyapar, an
>      archaeological site in Madhya Pradesh, north India, wrote that
>      "the evidence of maize in India is not in any case later than
>      1435 AD.... and tends to establish its pre-Columbian age". (p.
>      382)

I guess the difference of opinion stems from how different people can
interpret the same statements.  Here's what I see when I look at V-M 1966:
1. "it would appear that the evidence of maize in India is not in any
    case later than 1435 A.D." (p. 155)  I tend to focus on the *appear*
    in this line which to me is less than certainty.
2. His heading for the discussion of the impressions is listed as
   ?Maize, ?Zea Mays L.  To me these question marks suggest less than
   certainty over the identification.
3. He also says "The correct interpretation of impressions of food grains
   on potsherds is indeed a very vexing problem. The potsherd from 
   Kaundinyapur bearing impressions that look very much like those of a
   cob of maize presents a similar problem." (p. 153)  To me this indicates
   that he acknowledges the difficulty in the classification.
4. In the co-authored article with Gupta in the same journal volume he also
   notes that 4 other experts disagree with his interpretation that the
   impressions were made by maize.  To me his inclusion, but not refutation,
   of these dissenting opinions also indicates less than certainty.
5. Other articles I've read by V-M either don't discuss the maize problem
   or when they do they mention there is a disagreement of opinion.

To me all these lines of evidence indicate less than certainty in his 
conclusion.  But on the other hand you can also cite statements like:

"From the present study it appears that the impressions on the potsherd were
in all probability made from the blades and the ears of maize." (V-M 1966:154).
"this archaeobotanical find tends to extend the history of maize in India
to the pre-Columbian period." (V-M 1966:155)

These statements indicate that V-M does still think his identification of
maize is accurate.

>So I didn't misunderstand you at all. Vishnu-Mittre said exactly what I 
>said he said...
>: In none of the articles I have read by 
>: Vishnu-Mittre does he state that the case is in anyway unequivocally settled.  
>: That is why your statement goes beyond what V-M actually says.
>I don't think so...

Maybe, maybe not. Seems like a matter of interpretation to me.  But so that
we can hopefully reach a resolution to this let me know if you consider the
following statement to be accurate?

Two potsherds with rows of indentations have been found at a site in India.
The original researcher believes these potsherds date to pre-1435 A.D.  Other
researchers believe that the impressions on the sherds were made by rolling
a maize cob on the clay prior to firing. But still other researchers do not
agree that the most likely source of the impressions was a maize cob.

Does that sound like a fair statement to you?  If not, let me know what
you think would be better.  If so, then wouldn't you agree that we're
again stuck with a piece of evidence which is in dispute?

Peter van Rossum

  1966 "Kaundinyapur Plant Economy in Protohistoric and Historic Times,"
       The Palaeobotanist, vol. 15, pp. 152-157.