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Re: Maize origins [was re: "Corn" in medieval Europe]

Hu McCulloch (hmccullo@ecolan.sbs.ohio-state.edu) wrote:

: I've now had a chance to look at Finan's excellent 1950 book, based on his 
: interdisciplinary (Botany, Romance Languages, Classics, and Art and
: Archaeology) master's thesis at Washington University.   It is a survey 
: of the treatment of maize in 16th and 17th century herbals.   It's only 
: 33 pages long, but for some reason the pages are numbered 149-181.
: Finan concludes that in the 16th century, there were two principal varieties
: of maize in Europe.  Tabernaemontanus (1588) actually describes both
: in separate chapters.

Thanks for this very useful article, Hu, and to David Friedman for posting
this ref. I wonder where David got the ref for Finan's publication, and if
Jeffreys or Johannessen are aware of it. Finan's publication doesn't seem
to be available in Toronto. I found only a couple of books by him dealing
with recent Latin American history. 

: The first, generally called Frumentum Turcicum or Tuerkische Korn (Turkish
: grain) has no prop roots or "flag leaves", and is the only type described in 
: the earlier herbals.  It was said to have been introduced from the Turkish 
: domains to the east.  Recall that the Turks were deep into Europe, and
: beseiging Vienna in 1529, so these were not just  abstract generic
: "foreigners".    

: The second, which has prop roots and flag leaves, and apparently a 
: larger ear, was not depicted until 1576.  It was generally called 
: Frumentum Indicum (Indian grain or Indian corn, using corn in the UK 
: sense), and said to have been brought from the W Indes by the 
: Spanish. 


: In 1570 one herbalist argued that the Turkish Grain in fact came 
: from the W. Indes, but Finan is of the view that this writer was not 
: differentiating  the two varieties.


: Finan notes that some of his herbalists thought that maize was 
: the same as the black, large kernelled millet that Pliny had reported as
: coming from India, since they observed that maize often had dark, almost
: black kernels.  This was called Milium Indicum or Pliniarium by 
: Dodonaeus and L'Obel.  This is an interesting angle, but an entirely 
: different story.  Unfortunately, Finan does not indicate where to find this 
: in Pliny, or what "typha" means in the discussion.  

The ref in Pliny should be easy enough to track down. Perhaps someone 
should ask in a classical studies newsgroup or list.

: According to Finan (p. 150 n3), in the report of his 3rd Voyage,
Columbus : describes the maize he found in the New World, and reports that
it was : already widely cultivated in Castille, claiming that he himself
had introduced : it after one of his earlier voyages.  This is very
interesting, since it : sounds like perhaps the Castillians were already
growing "Turkish grain", : and Columbus just took credit for it. 

Makes sense to me...

: Recall that he was an Italian, not a 
: Spaniard, and so would have had little knowledge of Spanish agriculture 
: prior to his first voyage.   Unfortunately, Finan supports this with a
: secondary source, rather than a direct cite of Columbus.  (For a botanist,
: he's an outstanding historian!)

A ref for what Columbus said exactly would be a little bit harder to 
find, I imagine. 

: So Finan lends a little suppport to the Johannessen and Parker (Economic 
: Botany, 1989) contention that maize appears in 12th and 13th c AD Hoysala 
: sculptures from So. India.  This could then be the source of the Corn
: that was introduced into Europe by the Turks. 

Yes, this seems right.

I have previously suggested in these discussions that Columbus may have 
brought a whole different (and more productive) type of maize from 
America, so the "old" type of maize existing in Europe previously may 
have just dropped out of sight and was forgotten. What I see posted 
recently may be adding weight to this hypothesis.

: The Indians (of India) may have : gotten it either from eastern N. Am -
note that the Hoysala were the rulers : of Kannada! - or maybe from the
Amazon - Johannessen, in _Person, Place : and Thing_, edited by Shue Tuck
Wong, 1992, notes that Maka/Makai/ : Makki/Makka/Makkai/Mokkajonna, etc,
used in most parts of India and the Guinea : coast of Africa for maize, is
similar to the Amazonian Arawak terms : Makanatsi, Makanazi, Makanadzi,
Maiki.  The Spanish got : their Maiz from the Hispanola form of this word,

: There was some dispute in the herbals about whether or not maize
: was fit for human consumption.  So perhaps the Turkish/Indian Corn
: distinction corresponded to our modern Field Corn/Sweet Corn distinction.
: The latter is eaten off the cob, frozen, or canned, by humans, whereas
: the former is grown primarily as fodder for livestock.   Any farmer 
: can tell at a glance which is being grown.

Again, I agree.

: Finan does not indicate whether there were herbals prior to 1539 that 
: would have described Turkish Corn if it was present then,

This would be very interesting to find out.

: or if there 
: simply were no herbals prior to that date. 

Perhaps medieval specialists can help with this?

: The Turks were into Europe
: from 1453 on, at least.

Well, it's been well before this. This is just the date for the fall of
Constantinople (traditionally seen as the ending of the Middle Ages

I think somewhere I've seen a suggestion that maize was brought to Europe 
by solders returning home after one of the Crusades.

Best regards,


Yuri Kuchinsky   | "Where there is the Tree of Knowledge, there
     -=-         | is always Paradise: so say the most ancient 
 in Toronto      | and the most modern serpents."  F. Nietzsche
 ----- my webpage is for now at: http://www.io.org/~yuku -----