ancient gourd (Lagenaria)

Garry Williams gdwill at
Sun Jun 29 08:10:44 EST 1997

yuku at (Yuri Kuchinsky) wrote:


>Your examples are valid, and yet we must clarify a couple of things right
>from the beginning. What kind of gourd arrived to America and when? You
>should clarify your position on this.

Sorry to disappoint you, but I don't have a position on that yet. When
I have a chance to see more evidence ( in whatever direction), I might
be persuaded to take one, but right now I'm just at the observation
stage.  I'm one of those quirky people that think that theories should
account for all available facts, and that the more facts available,
the better shot one has at making a good theory. In the meantime, I
just take a wait-and-see attitude and try not to draw any conclusions
that can't be supported with the evidence available to me. I hope this
doesn't offend anyone's sensibilities.  :-)

>_If_ gourd arrived to America as a cultigen, at about the time when
>agriculture began in America (ca. 10,000 bp), I believe that the chances
>will be overwhelmingly that it was brought over by humans.

If the concept of agriculture had been imported, why would the
importers have only brought one or two familiar, inedible plants
(bottle gourds and cotton) instead of bringing a whole spectrum of
edible plants? Maybe there's an excellent reason, but I'm having
trouble imagining it. Perhaps if we just had some evidence, it would
be a little easier to explain. Or then again, maybe not. 

>_If_ gourd arrived in its wild state much before that, then it was
>probably domesticated here independently. Still, in such a case we will
>have to explain _why_ the gourd was among the first domesticates in
>America, as well as in Africa. Simply a coincidence?

Why not simply because it's a useful plant, and easy to grow, as well?
Why are cereals important domesticates all over the world? Simply
coincidence? Or is it because they're useful?

Then there's the discussion we just had of being naturally adapted to
growing in disturbed areas, something which humans are good at

OTOH, if the bottle gourd, Lagenaria siceraria (I haven't heard anyone
suggest yet that any other gourd species was transported between the
Old World and the New in prehistoric times, or are we including the
cucurbits, too? Please correct me if I've misunderstood.) arrived in
the Americas as a cultigen, I would assume that you don't think it
arrived via Berengia and that it arrived instead by boat. Do you know
of any evidence of ocean going boats (I mean direct evidence, ie,
remains of the boats themselves, or reliably dated drawings of boats,
etc) being found in the Americas that can be dated to the beginnings
of agriculture in the New World?

If memory serves, the first Australians and New Guineans (or Greater
Australians or whatever you want to call them) had to have arrived by
boat since there was always a certain amount of water separating them
from Southeast Asia even during the height of the ice ages. And I seem
to recall that humans arrived in Australia about 40 or 50,000 years
ago. How much do we really know about boat travel that long ago? The
problem here is the type of evidence; we can't go around making
circular arguments such as "we know there was boat travel to the
Americas because a certain gourd species is found there, and we know
that a certain gourd species is found there because there was boat
travel to the Americas".  OTOH, Easter Island wasn't settled by the
Polynesians until around 400 AD, I believe, much too late to explain
the bottle gourd coming that way. That leaves Africa. So where's the
"smoking gun"? Any direct evidence of ocean-going boats on either side
of the Atlantic 10,000 years (give or take a few) ago?

Garry Williams
 gdwill at or
 gdwill at

More information about the Bioforum mailing list