maize in Asia: other evidence

Jeffrey L Baker jbaker at U.Arizona.EDU
Sat Mar 14 16:04:23 EST 1998

On 10 Mar 1998, Yuri Kuchinsky wrote:

> Jeffrey L Baker (jbaker at U.Arizona.EDU) wrote:
> : On Mon, 9 Mar 1998, Hu McCulloch wrote:
> : 
> : >  Jeffrey L Baker <jbaker at U.Arizona.EDU> writes:
> : 
> : > Chowdhury makes no mention of maize one way or the other in 
> : > the 1972 note.  Does he expressly mention its absence in 
> : > the Encyclopedia article?  Prior to what date?  500 BC again? 
> : 
> : He clearly mentions maize in the 1990 article, but does not mention any
> : evidence for palaeobotanical remains of maize.
> Hu,
> Jeff here is a little reticent to provide details. Perhaps the reason for
> this will become apparent later on in the post...

> I've actually looked up this publication in the library here.
> In v. 1, p. 7, one finds the following:
> [begin quote]
> 2.2.7 _Zea Mays_ (maize, makka). Imprints found at KAUNDINYAPURA in c.
> 1435. Primitive (living fossil) maize in Sikkim is cytologically different
> from American of Carribean maize, supporting its pre-Columbian occurrence
> in the subcontinent, though perhaps it was reintroduced by the Arabs.

Yuri is suggesting that I am not providing details because it is
embarrassing to my position. Yet, on March 5, 1998, I posted an article
that included this very quote (a post that Hu responded to on March 8).
This quote is relevant for three reasons:

One, there is no mention of botanical remains of maize, two, there is
no mention of the Hoysala temples (which were discussed in the 1970's in
Current Anthropology) and three, it demonstrates that some paleobotanists
in India are quite receptive to the idea that maize might be present in 
precolumbian strata in India (which rules out the suggestion that
archaeologists are throwing out maize remains as being inclusive).

> [end quote]
> This of course refers to the work of Vishnu-Mittre which has been
> considered in some detail previously last year by me and Peter. It seems
> like Chowdhury is persuaded that this archaeological evidence is valid.

Like Yuri, I originally attributed this section to Chowdhury, but a
reexamination of the article suggests that Chowdhury only wrote the 
section on charcoal remains (the last page or so), while Vishnu-Mittre
wrote the rest of it, including the section on maize.

> Besides a few Muslim coins, the cultural data for this Pd [late medieval]
> are very meagre, the only interesting object being a potsherd bearing the
> impression of a maize cob which, along with the prehistoric maize from
> Java, constitutes the only example of the pre-Columbian occurrence of
> maize in the Old World. (Dikshit, M.G., 1968, Excavations at
> Kaundinyapura, Bombay.) 

But why didn't Vishnu-Mittre find maize in the botanical remains from this
site (he is the individual who undertook the botanical analysis of the
botanical remains (see his article in the 1968 volume, which is not in 
the U of A library, so I haven't seen it). He does list rice and several
varieties of peas coming from Kaundinyapura in the paleobotany section of
the Encyclopedia of Indian Archaeology.

> Lower Deccan. The area now covered by Karnataka State was ruled by several
> important dynasties in the late historical period -- the Chalukyas, ... 
> the Hoysalas, etc., -- who studded the land with temples and left behind
> inscriptions and coins. But the archaeology proper of the area during this
> period [Late Historical] has been inadequately studied, with the result
> that hardly anything of the material culture is known. 
> [end quote]
This quote is only relevant if maize was thought to be confined to the 
12th and 13th centuries in the Hoysala region of India. Yuri (on March 9,
1998) makes it very clear that he thinks maize was present "in many places
in Asia" 

> So things are rather clear now. These archaeological digs in that area
> that some here were expounding about exist only in their own minds. The
> argument from the absence of evidence is completely irrelevant in this
> case.

I have never claimed that digs in the Hoysala area were extensive. In an
earlier post I noted "As far as excavations at Karnataka (or in that
region), off the top of my head, I don't know of any." 

What I have been arguing (and continue to argue) is that there has been
ample archaeological work in India, without finding any botanical remains
of maize. 

It is also worth noting the following book: Palaeoethnobotany: Plants and 
Ancient Man in Kasmir, Farooq A. Lane, Maqsoda Khan, G.M. Buth. Rotterdam:
A. A. Balkema. 1993.

This book provides information from the Kasmir Valley in the Himalayas
(where the primitive maize is located). It is also located along the 
Silk Road. Guess what? No precolumbian maize. Though it is grown locally

(from reading the above paragraph, I seem to be implying that the
primitive maize is from the Kasmir Valley. I don't know if it is. But it
is from the Himalayas).

Jeff Baker

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