ancient gourd (Lagenaria)

Yuri Kuchinsky yuku at
Fri Jun 27 11:49:09 EST 1997

bortiz at wrote:

: Yuri, I went back to my files and found a previous post on Lagenaria that
: cites a more recent work by Charles Heiser than the one you cited and
: which takes a firmer stand against human diffusion. Peter Van Rossum
: cites *The Gourd Book* 1979.

Thanks for reposting this, Bernard. This was one of the more weighty posts
bu Peter.	:)


: For Lagenaria siceraria [the bottle gourd], "Whitaker and Carter
: demonstrated that gourds could float in sea water for at least 347
: days - ample time to have crossed the Atlantic by floating - and that
: the seeds still retain their viability.  In fact, these scientists
: found that the seeds would still germinate after having remained in
: these gourds for six years" (Heiser 1979:101).

I accept this as valid.

Yes, it could have floated over by itself. The question is did it?


: "That a gourd soon disappears from a cultivated area, once cultivation is
: abandoned, is probably not unlikely. 

This is indeed the case.

: Gourds are dependant upon disturbed
: areas...such disturbed areas today are usually created by man, but
: natural disturbances such as river flooding, forest fires, earthquakes,
: and landslides do occur without man's aid." (p. 113)

If we need to invoke natural disasters such as these, the case for the
gourd surviving upon its auto-arrival is weakened thereby.


: "So I claim it is likely that a gourd, probably wild, became established
: in the Americas after floating across the ocean." (p. 116)

I disagree. Please note "probably". Why don't we know this for sure? In
what form did gourd arrive to America? This is _extremely_ important. I
will maintain that our studies to date are inadequate to come to a firm
conclusion. Genetics should be able to provide these answers in the
future. Genetics will be able to establish

a) when exactly gourd arrived, and
b) what kind of gourd arrived.

When we know this, everything else should become clear.

In the absence of the above data, of course, you can prove me wrong by
finding only _one case_ of another plant that auto-diffused from Africa at
the same or similar time that you think the gourd auto-diffused. Any
evidence for this that you may know of?

May I remind you also that most of the theories about gourd floating over
_assume_ that it floated over because it was used as a net flotation
device by early fisherfolk. So it must have been a cultigen, or at least a
cultivar by then. Otherwise, there's still a problem of how did it get in
the water _in the first place_! 

: So Heiser makes it clear that Lagenaria siceraria can survive without
: man's aid - contrary to what you seem to be claiming above.

That it can survive by itself is unlikely, in my opinion, especially if
one has to postulate uncommon events such as forest fires for this to

: Heiser, Charles
:   1979 "The Gourd Book." Norman: Univ. of Oklahoma Press.


: Peter Van Rossum also dealt quite adequately with the question of sweet
: potatoes

We have dealt with potato over a long period of time, and the last I've
heard from Peter about this, he just about gave up on his case. 

The fact that the names of sweet potato in Polynesia strongly indicate
human-assisted diffusion clinches the case. The double-rainbow motif of
god Lono adds to the case still further. I'm not aware of any authorities
in Polynesian ethnobotany who still defend "auto-diffusion" in this case.
Specialists consider this case of human-assisted diffusion of potato from
America as _proven_. I've given the citations.

Please note that this, the potato, is _only one case_ of many that Heiser
considers likely.



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
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