Thursday, April 03, 2008

Pre-Columbian Custard Apple in India

Another recent study suggests that an American crop, the custard apple (Annona squamosa) -- was present in India during pre-Columbian times. The discovery of custard apple seed at the Neolithic site of Tokwa is very early, but it would tend to confirm other previous identifications of fruit coat and seeds respectively at Kushan and Iron Age Punjab sites. Custard apples appear to be represented artistically at the 3rd-1st century BCE Sunga dynasty sites of Bharhut, Mathura and Sanchi, identifications made originally by Sitholey and Cunningham.

The authors also mention the archaeological identification of various American beans e.g., the kidney bean or common bean (Phaselous vulgaris), sierra bean (Phaseolus lunatus) and phasemy bean (Phaseolus lathyroides) in peninsular India and a weed Mexican poppy (Argemone
mexicana) in Uttara Pradesh, all from very early sites. They conclude that the evidence argues in favor of pre-Columbian contacts between America and Asia.

Paul Kekai Manansala

Palaeoethnobotanical record of cultivated crops and associated weeds and wild taxa from Neolithic site, Tokwa, Uttar Pradesh, India

Anil K. Pokharia Birbal Sahni Institute of Palaeobotany, 53, University Road, Lucknow 226 007, India

Investigation of botanical remains from an ancient site, Tokwa at the confluence of Belan and Adwa rivers, Mirzapur District, Uttar Pradesh (UP), has brought to light the agriculture-based subsistence economy during the Neolithic culture (3rd–2nd millennium BC). They subsisted on cereals, viz. Oryza sativa, Triticum aestivum and Hordeum vulgare, supplemented by leguminous seeds of Lens culinaris, Pisum arvense and Vigna radiata. Evidence of oil-yielding crops has been documented by recovery of seeds of Linum usitatissimum and Brassica juncea. Fortuitously, an important find among the botanical remains is the seeds of South American custard apple, regarded to have been introduced by the Portuguese in the 16th century. The remains of custard apple as fruit coat and seeds have also been recorded from other sites in the Indian archaeological context, during the Kushana Period (AD 100–300) in Punjab and Early Iron Age (1300–700 BC) in UP. The factual remains of custard apple, along with other stray finds discussed in the text, favour a group of specialists, supporting with diverse arguments, the reasoning of Asian–American contacts, before the discovery of America by Columbus in 1498. Further, a few weeds have turned up as an admixture in the crop remains."

Full article at:


Vinod Khare said...

Amazing!! I've recently become very interested in these pre-columbian connections between India and America. The topic is fascinating. Can you point me to more material on this subject?

Paul Kekai Manansala said...

Vinod, if you check out the full article in the pdf link, the footnotes have references to most of the literature that I'm aware of.

Also another recent study was mentioned previously in this blog: