Indologist confirms maize in ancient sculptures

Hu McCulloch mcculloch.2 at
Wed Oct 21 14:15:58 EST 1998

Oscar Schlaf (aka HornedReaper) writes,
concerning confirmation of maize in pre-Columbian Indian temple
sculptures by Shakti M Gupta (_Plants in Indian Temple Art_,
1996), as previously reported by Johannessen and Parker 
(in _Economic Botany_, 1989),

> Also given the usefulness of maize, one would think it would spread rather
>quickly(even asuming it was whiped out later by a blight). And with it's
>spread one would think to see many representations of it in the art of India
>such as the Temple complexes of Sanchi, Mamallapuram, Ellura, Bhubaneswar,
>Konark, ect. ect.  But it is totally abscent from temple art & texts. It is
>one statue against literally millions, when it comes to Maize being
>represented in Hindu mythology.

Totally absent from temple art??  One statue against literally 
millions??  Once again Oscar's math leaves me mystified.

J&P alone show photographs of 15 different objects in Indian 
temple sculptures that they identify as 
maize ears, in their 1989 Economic Botany article.   Several of these are 
repoduced on Yuri's website at (2 pages)
Three of these same maize ears (photographed from slightly different
angles, but in color) are on Carl Johannessen's site at ,
and linked on my site at .

Johannessen and Parker report maize ears in 
three different Hoysala temples in Karnataka:
Somnathpur, Belur, and Halebid.   In Somnathpur alone they found 65 
statues holding such maize ears.   They were told that several other temples 
had similar sculptures, but only visited and documented these three.  

Gupta (p. 176) specifically reports at least six such sculptures:
"several" (which I count as at least 3)  from the Chenna Kesava temple,
Belur, two from the Lakshmi Narasimha temple, Nuggehalli, 
Karnataka, and one from the Trikuta basti, 
Mukhamandapa,Sravanbegola, Karnataka.  Her plate 223 showsa Nayika from 
Nuggehalli holding a corn cob very much like the ones J&P depict.
Yet another maize ear sculpture appears on  the cover of the 25 Sept.
1991 issue of the Indian journal _Current Science_.  This is 
from Somnathpur, but on close examination it is a different sculpture
than any of the ones J&P depict. 

So we have published reports of at least 
65 + 6 + 1 = 72 maize ear sculptures, probably many 
more, in at least 3 + 3 - 1 = 5 different Indian temples,
probably more.  (It's likely that Gupta's Chenna Kesava
temple is the same as J&P's Belur temple, so I don't count it.)
We have published photographs of 15 + 1 + 1 = 17 of these
maize ears.   (Two photos in _Nature_ are of 
sculptures that are also shown in J&P, and so do not count as 
additional published sculptures.)  The majority of these 
photos are on the web sites enumerated in the original
posting to which Oscar is replying.  Yet he says there is only 
one sculpture, from zero temples!

It is true that all these occur in the southern state of
Karnataka, 12th-13th c AD, suggesting a rather restricted 
cultivation of maize in both time and space, but _any_
cultivation of maize in India before 1492 is sufficient 
to torpedo the widespread notion that Columbus 
invented the boat in that year.  

(An object  held by an 8th century Yaksha from Aihole
that Gupta identifies as "citron" 
has maize-like, but entirely un-citron-like, parallel
rows of kernels.  This specimen is worth looking into, but is 
not at present "officially" identified as maize.  I have seen
many similar photos from this earlier period, but Gupta's
Figure 60 is the clearest.)

Out of 70-odd plants Gupta identifies as being present in 
Indian temple sculptures, it is true that maize is only one.  Yet
as I already pointed out, she goes on to identify at least 5
other New World Plants in pre-Columbian sculptures 
(sunflower, custard apple, pineapple, cashew, and monstera).
Six out of 70 isn't a trivial minority!   Some of these go back
as far as the 2nd c BC, whence the relevance of this thread
to soc.history.ancient.

Gupta provides further
indications that at least two other New World plants (chili peppers 
and naga lingham, the blossom of the cannonball tree)
were also present in India before Columbus.   These
two would bring the total to 8.  (She also includes
both the American Magnolia grandiflora and the Asiatic
Magnolia soulangena  in her compendium of plants  
found in ancient temple art.   However, 
she does not positively identify any of the 5 sculpted magnolias
she depicts as being grandiflora, and admits that these
species would be hard to differentiate in sculptures,
so this ninth New World plant is only tentative.) 

> The majority of objects could be as easily interpeted as any number of other
>fruits/vegtables.  Johannessen & Parker aren't experts in Hindu architecture
>in any event & Gupta touches very briefly on the subject in seems to be more
>familar with written mythology

Gupta's new book is the only comprehensive survey of plants in Indian 
temple art.   Someday someone may refute her (and J&P's) identifications
one by one, but in the interim, hers is the last and authoritative word on the 
subject.  The fact that Payak and Sachan in 1993 did not mention her 1996 book
one way or the other does not constitute refutation, contrary to Oscar's
assertion in an earlier post.

>> > 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-
>> Columbian.

> It's common practice to test all organic materials found at digs,
>irreguardless of personal ideas.

No -- money is never wasted on dating the surface weeds, since the fact
they are still green is itself diagnostic of a very recent date.  Nor is
the beer residue in beer cans ever carbon dated, even if they are found
beneath the surface, since the cans themselves are
diagnostic of a 20th century AD date.  So why would money be wasted
on dating corncobs, if any well-trained archaeologist "knows" that 
maize itelf is diagnostic of a post-1492 date, and if one is 
primarily interested in earlier materials?   Some time ago, on
sci.arch, someone came up with an Indian site whose foodstuffs,
none of which was maize, were extensively 
identified and/or C-14 dated, but this turned 
out to be of Indus Valley vintage and irrelevant to the maize 

>So none haven't been found yet, for some odd
>reasons none have been tested, or Mr. Kuchinsky's theory of a conspiracy on
>the part of "Eurocentric" archaeologists tring to cover up the truth.....

I'd say it's more of a mindset than a conspiracy.  

-- Hu McCulloch
   mcculloch.2 at

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