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No. 58: Jul-Aug 1988

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Maize In Ancient India

Conventional wisdom is clear on two accounts:

  1. Maize originated in the New World.

  2. There were no cultural, maizebearing contacts between the New and Old Worlds in the lengthy period between the (hypothetical) dash across the Bering Land Bridge circa the waning of the (hypothetical) Ice Ages and the (hypothetical) Viking incursions into North American waters.

But C.L. Johannessen is certain that the ancient Indians (that is those in India) were enjoying corn-on-the-cob at least as early as the Twelfth Century BC. He writes:

"Goddesses and gods in sculptuted soapstone friezes in Hoysala temples of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries BC near Mysore, India, hold in their hands representations of maize ears. There are more than 63 of these large ears at Somnanthpur, and maize is represented at three other temples I have visited.

"In the Hoysala tradition, worshippers must have used maize as a golden-coloured and many-seeded fertility symbol in their religious rites. That the ears are modelled on maize is shown by the ear length-todiameter ratio, the ear sizes in relation to parts of the human figures, and the wide variation of anatomical detail in the carvings that all belong to maize: the ears have either parallel, highly tapered or bulging sides, their tips are pointed, and their axes may be straight or warped, depending on the moisture at the time of picking and the way maize dries. ...No other plant or object has the extensive intricacy and variation of highly segregated maize that could serve as a model for the sculptures. No other fruits have the same number and shape of the closely packed kernels that are arranged in parallel rows in the sculptures."

(Johannessen, Carl L.; "Indian Maize in the Twelfth Century BC," Nature, 332:587, 1988. Ct. R. Noyes.)

From Science Frontiers #58, JUL-AUG 1988. 1988-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987