Indologist confirms maize in ancient sculptures

Hu McCulloch mcculloch.2 at
Mon Oct 19 20:05:10 EST 1998

Oscar Schlaf writes,

>In article <mcculloch.2.59.36276C7C at>,
>  mcculloch.2 at (Hu McCulloch) wrote:
>> Oscar Schlaf writes, concerning Yuri's comment on my 10/13
>> review of Shakti M Gupta's 1996 book _Plants in Indian Temple
>> Art,_
>> > It's over two decades old and dismissed by subsequent investigations...
>> > (see quoted article at the end of this follow-up)
>> I don't understand Oscar's math here -- it seems to me that
>> 1998 - 1996 = 2, not a number in excess of 20.  Gupta's work
>> confirming the presence of maize and at least 5 other [!] New World
>> plants in pre-Columbian Indian sculptures  is _subsequent to_
>> the 1993 Payak and Sachan critique of Johannessen and Parker,
>> not the other way around.

> Yuri used direct quotes from her earlier books & use her earlier books as
>proof of her expertise.

>"Plant Myths and Traditions  in India"(1971)
>"Vishnu and His Incarnations" (1974)
>"Legends  around Shiva"(1979)

Yuri did not quote Gupta directly, but merely attached my 10/13 
posting (which appeared on sci.arch, s.c.i, and b.g, but not s.h.anc).
I mentioned these earlier works by Gupta, but only
quoted her 1998 book on Plants in Indian Temple Art.

> And like Mr. Hyerdahl, she includes much of her older material to support
>her newer theories.  And as I pointed out the theories stated in her older
>books have been challenged by others subsequently, such as Sachan ,Payak,
>Mangelsdorf, and Anderson.

The 1993 Payak and Sachan article in _Economic Botany_, 
whose abstract Oscar attached to his posting, makes no mention
of any of Gupta's works, let alone her 1998 book (!), so how can they
have challenged her?   They didn't mention her works in their 1988
_Nature_ note either.  Was this refutation in some other article they

 I wasn't aware (though it's possible) that 
Gupta said anything about maize in these earlier works -- 
I included them merely because they  
establish her expertise as an Indologist.   Did she, and if so did 
Mangelsdorf (1974) really reply to her?  Who's Anderson? 

>> [snip]
>> > Yawn.....See what a two non-European non-American Hindus had to say about
>> >the "Maize statues":
>> > Payak, M.M., and Sachan, J.K.S.
>> > 1993 "Maize Ears Not Sculpted in 13th Century Somnathpur
>> >         Temple in India." Economic botany. APR 01 1993, vol. 47
>> >        no. 2, P. 202->
>> While it is true that Johannessen and Parker are neither Indian nor Hindu
>> nor experts on Hindu temple art (apart from what they have picked up in
>> their search for maize), the significance of Gupta's book is that she
>> is an Indian,

> Nationality really doesn't matter, least to me. 

Oscar brought up nationality and religion as credentials for Payak and
Sachan.  Why, if it doesn't matter?  (I don't think it matters much, but 
will concede that it does give one at least a headstart on understanding
these sculptures.  Gupta has this same headstart Payak and Sachan
do over Johannessen and Parker, and, unlike them, is an Indologist to boot.
I have no idea if she is a practicing Hindu, but, unlike Payak and 
Sachan, she has written extensively on the subject.) 

> Payak & Sachan are biologists, Gupta does not share thier expertise on
>Maize, nor is she a linguist, nor a historian of trade unlike  Panchamukhi.
> See:
>  Panchamukhi, R. S., 1975, Agriculture and Trade in Ancient
>   Karnataka. Studies in Indian Epigraphy

Do you have the volume editor's name?  I can't find this in our library.

>>      Again, Gupta has no problem identifying these objects as
>> corncobs, despite her exertise on plants in Hindu mythology and
>> in particular in Indian temple art.

> Maize doesn't appear in Hindu mythology, any expert could tell you that. :)

Gupta is an expert on Hindu mythology, yet tells us that maize appears 
in the hand of Mohini, an incarnation of Vishnu, in the Lakshmi 
Narasimha temple, Nugehalli, Karnataka. 

>Even if it did appear under a differant name, one would think at least a few
>physical descriptons of it would appear, along with pictures of it.

Johannessen and Parker and Gupta have documented plenty of  
ancient pictures of it, carved in stone.  See my webpage and Yuri's.
Stone happens to be a lot more durable than writing media.

> Why haven't any corncobs radio-carbon dated to the time been found?

Good point, but my suspicion is that archaeologists have simply dismissed
all corncobs they have found as obviously (indeed, diagnostically) post-

> Why is there no mention in any Indian text of the time of the plant(or any of
>the other New World ones)?

We don't necessarily know what name maize would have gone by.  I'd like to 
know in which texts, if any, muktaphala is mentioned.  This is supposed to be
a Sanskrit name, and so presumably it exists in texts, not in oral traditions. 
According to Gupta, the chili pepper (Capsicum annuum Linn.) is mentioned
in the Siva Purana and the Vamana Purana, circa 6th-8th c AD. 

> Why isn't there any mention of voyages to or from the New World prior to

Beats me.   Why is there no mention in Indian chronicles of 
the invasion of Alexander the Great?  (There is none, 
according to _The Splendor that Was India_.)   
There was a Moghul invasion that disrupted the continuity of 
Indian culture.  Perhaps that had something to do with it.

> Why & how would the East Indian sailors go all the way across the Pacific?

Why would the crossing have to have been across the Pacific?  The Atlantic
is at least as good a bet.    And the crossers could have been Chinese, 
African, or even the Americans themselves.  On the other hand, Indians
did get to Madagascar and Indonesia, so they are good candidates.

> Why would the East Indians end up with Maize, but not The Polynesians or
>Maylasians would would be first on any presumable trade route between the
>new World & South India?

Magellan completely missed Polynesia, and he crossed the Pacific.  If these
people crossed the Atlantic instead, it would be even easier to miss it!  
Magellan reportedly found maize in the Philippines (according to Jeffreys, 
in _Man Across the Sea_), but this isn't as solid as the Indian sculptures 
documented by Johannessen and Parker and now Gupta.

>> >We hold that these temple sculptures
>> >do not represent maize or its ear but an imaginary fruit bearing pearls known
>> >in Sanskrit as "Muktaphala"
>> Muktaphala literally means "pearl-fruit".  My hunch here is that this was
>> an an ancient word for maize.

>> What better name for maize than pearl-fruit?

> Why the name Maize or Musukin Jola, :)  The question is, why exactly would
>the basic word for a plant change so dramatically?

A survey of American grocery stores would, by this logic, demonstrate that 
maize is unknown in America today, because there are no packages of "maize".
Shelves and shelves of "corn", but no "maize".    So maybe Makkai/
Mokka Jona used to be Muktaphala, and before that something entirely different.


>                                     ---Oscar Schlaf---

> "A witty quote proves nothing" - Voltaire

   "Du [Voltaire] bist ein Esel.
     -- Friedrich der Zweite"

-- Hu McCulloch
   mcculloch.2 at

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