ancient corn

Yuri Kuchinsky yuku at
Mon Jun 9 11:40:19 EST 1997

bortiz at wrote:
: In article <5nebid$kq$2 at>,
:   yuku at (Yuri Kuchinsky) wrote:

: > : : Jeffreys did a lot of work on Portugese accounts. According to
him, they : > : : confirm that corn was in the Old World before Columbus.
I read about this : > : : (his article in MAN ACROSS THE SEA) a few months
ago, and I believe his : > : : case is valid. I have something about this
on my webpage. His case hinges : > : : on what term exactly the Portugese
used for "maize". 

: I hate to get into this but as usual Yuri relies on an obsolete and
: discredited source *Man Across the Sea* published in 1971 and written
: probably a couple of years before.

How nice of you to say so, Bernard, but your observation happens to be
widely off the mark. 

a) Yuri has been posting a lot of the latest research on maize. I'm aware
of a lot more that I haven't posted yet. Greg also posted the latest
research in these threads. On the other hand, Bernard, with the exception
of one brief quotation of uncertain value from Coe, has been treating us
with the quotes from the 60s. I would have said "Pot. Kettle. Black.",
except that, myself, I quote recent stuff, mostly...

b) Although I went beyond MAN ACROSS THE SEA long ago, it remains to be
seen exactly how and in what way is it "discredited". Unread, yes, but
discredited? I would like more details about this, Bernard.

: As I've quoted before even the
: diffusionists editors of the book wrote in it that "The consensus of
: botanical evidence given in the symposium seems to be that *there is no
: hard and fast evidence for any pre Columbian introduction of any single
: plant* [emphasis in the original] across the ocean from the Old World to
: the New World, or vice-versa. This is emphatically *not* [emphasis in the
: original] to say that it could not have occurred (Riley, Kelley,
: Pennnington, and Rands 1971: 452-453).

The problem, Bernard, is that you don't quote, and perhaps are unaware of,
much of the recent scholarship in this area. I would like to bring it to
your attention that the strongest case for transoceanic contact is
provided at this time by the sweet potato studies. That it diffused with
human assistance from America to Polynesia is now considered a CONSENSUS
among the scholars in the field.

And here's a quote from a _recent_ source:

AMERICAS, Smithsonian, 1995

[begin quote]
The spread of the sweet potato into Oceania from S. America with its
name (probably in two different movements, with two versions of the
name) is perhaps the most widely accepted case of pre-Columbian
diffusion beyond continental limits. It is particularly interesting
because the Polynesian god of the sweet potato is *Lono, who is
supposed to have brought it in his belt, the Rainbow. The double-
headed rainbow serpent appears as the belt of the principal Moche
deity on the north coast of Peru, and parallels with myths of *Lono
are widespread in Amazonia. Tying together mythological evidence
with the botanical evidence is largely work for the future, but it
may throw considerable light on the contexts in which such
borrowings occurred. (p. 117)

[end quote]

: I again recommend that you read my article in *Current Anthropology*
: where I discuss the so-called "evidence" for pre-Columbian African corn.
: I quote:

[quote about African corn omitted]

As I said before, I'm not really qualified to speak about maize in
precolumbian Africa, at this point. I haven't done much research about
this. Recently someone asked about early Portugese accounts mentioning
maize, and I helpfully pointed out that Jeffreys did study this and
believed that these accounts support his case. More about this I can't
say. Although this is an interesting historical conundrum, there's a lot
more promising evidence for me to investigate than this. Others are
welcome to try... 

Bernard seems to know more about Africa, although he quotes mostly from
somewhat dated sources. To give him the benefit of the doubt, recent
sources are often difficult to come by in this somewhat, and undeservedly,
obscure field. Perhaps later I can brush up on the African stuff and come
back to this discussion. From what I've seen, precolumbian African maize
seemed like a promising area to investigate.

Now, Bernard, since, you specialize in "African diffusion refutations",
perhaps you would like to have fun with the following, also from Kelley?

[begin quote]

Van Sertima discusses yams and bananas, both Old World crops, both
prominent in Africa, both reported in Inca period graves in Peru.
Against these reports are only three factors: the excavations were
done prior to the development of modern excavating techniques;
similar reports have not come from modern excavations (the most
serious objection); and they are contrary to expectations. The
latter is probably the most important factor in dismissing the
reports, aside from ignorance of their existence. (p. 116)

[end quote]

I will not argue with you about African maize, Bernard, at this point, but
if you wish to present a more global case, you should take a look at some
more recent literature. I can help you with bibliography if you wish. 

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: -----

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