Friday, July 14, 2017

Does Corn Prove Others Were in the Land of Promise When Lehi Landed? – Part IV

Concluding from the previous post regarding whether or not the presence of corn among the Nephites proves that a previous people occupied the Land of Promise at the time Nephi arrived. In the last post, we were discussing the findings of Sonia Zarrillo, Department of Archaeology, University of Calgary, regarding the finding of maize in ancient Ecuador.
Sonia Zarrillo (right) and Peter Leach, at a site in the Pucuncho Basin, located in the Southern Peruvian Andes, the highest-altitude Pleistocene archaeological sites (10,400 B.C.) found to-date
Further, Zarrillo, claims that the interior charred residues from eight cooking-pot sherds were processed for starch recovery, in which all contained starch granules that were well preserved, allowing taxonomic identification--of the 116 starch granules recovered, the majority were identified as maize (n = 73), with 85% of those being hard endosperm maize, such as flint or pop, and 15% soft endosperm (flour) maize. Some of the ceramic residue maize starches showed damage consistent with milling, as characterized by replicate studies.” 
    The report also indicated that almost fully gelatinized starches were present, “exhibiting swelling and partial loss of birefringence (double refraction), and numerous starch aggregates, all of which indicate that starch was extensively heated in water as in the cooking of a soup or stew. Sediment samples from the matrix of seven of the eight pottery samples were also processed for starch recovery; four resulted in the recovery of maize starch. Although some maize starch granules recovered from the sediment samples had milling damage, no partially gelatinized starches or starch aggregates were observed. These findings support the argument that the maize starches recovered from the directly sampled charred sherd residues are indeed from the cooking residues and not from sediment transference.”
    Which all suggests that the research, findings and studies of the results were not only accurate, but extremely well tested and conducted. Thus, we can take a page from Sorenson’s thinking, that while this adds several thousand years to the origin date of maize in Andean South America, bringing it much closer to Mesoamerica for maize domestication, who knows what further research will tell us?
Corn and Chili Peppers growing in the same plot, along with certain other vegetables. We are just learning today to plant in the manner that the ancients did thousands of years ago

In fact, Zarillo also states that “Chili peppers (Capsicum spp.) are widely cultivated food plants that arose in the Americas and are now incorporated into cuisines worldwide. Here, we report a genus-specific starch morphotype that provides a means to identify chili peppers from archaeological contexts and trace both their domestication and dispersal.”
    While Chili peppers are conceded by most researchers to have originated in the Andes, it is interesting that this food has been connected with maize (corn) since its first discovery. In fact, according to Barbara Pickersgill, a British botanist, specializing in domestication of crops, and the genetics, taxonomy and evolutionary biology of cultivated plants, claims that of the five species of domesticated chili peppers, C. baccatum and C. pubescens are distinct domesticated species in Peruvian and Bolivian Andes of South America (Pickersgill, Biologisches Zentralblatt, vol 107, 1988, p381).
These starch microfossils have been found at seven sites dating from 6000 years before present to European contact and ranging from the Bahamas to southern Peru. As Linda K. Perry, of Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, who, contrary to popular belief among scientists, first discovered that chili peppers contained starch, and who suggests that chili peppers originated in the Americas much earlier than previously thought, states: “The starch grain assemblages demonstrate that maize and chilies occurred together as an ancient and widespread Neotropical plant food complex that predates pottery in some regions” ( Perry, Zarrillo, et al, Starch Fossils and the Domestication and Dispersal of Chili Peppers (Capsicum spp. L.) in the Americas, Anthropology, 2007)
    As Perry also stated: “"So that means the domestication [chili peppers] must have occurred earlier than even 6,100 years, after which people would have migrated or traded them into this region." It is also important to know that the scientists also found maize (corn) alongside the chili-pepper grains at many of the sites. This suggests that maize and chili peppers could form a Neotropical crop grouping in South America analogous to the "three sisters," a trio of agricultural crops—maize, beans and squash—frequently grown together in North America (Jeanna Bryner, Live Science Managing Editor, as stated in Journal of Science, 2007).
    However, in all this discussion about dates back into the 6,000 to 8,000 B.C. period that places maize in Central and Meso America is fallacious since the Flood destroyed all evidence of plants and animals throughout the world around 2344 B.C., or 4350 years ago. So any claims of evidence prior to that time are neither accurate nor based on anything more than speculation. As Piperno points out, her findings show that maize, which was the preeminent crop in the Andes at the time of European contact, was being cultivated in Andean South America before 4000 years ago.
In fact, the non-speculative, solid dates of 2200-1900 B.C. for maize introduction into Ecuador by archaeologist and anthropologist Deborah M. Pearsall (left),  University of Missouri, recipient of the 2002 Fryxell Award for Exceptional Interdisciplinary Research, by the Society for American Archaeology, and specializing in Paleoenthnobotany, and the Phytoliths in the Flora of Ecuador, is perfectly aligned to when the Jaredites arrived in the Land of Promise. In fact, Staller and Thompson, themselves, even suggest that maize in Andean South America was a secondary plant of economic importance, which would place it within the realm of the neas and sheum grains as primary plants (“A Multidisciplinary Approach to Understanding the Initial Introduction of Maize into Coastal Equador," Journal Archaeololgical Science, vol 29, 2002, pp33-50).
    Once again, the idea that Sorenson promotes that because someone had to have domesticated the teosinte plant into maize before Lehi landed, then there had to be others in the land is without merit. What he fails to recognize is that Lehi did not have corn as far as we know from the scriptural record, and corn is not mentioned in the record until after the Nephites had been in the land for more than 400 years, leaving the more likely possibilities mentioned in the last post that either the Nephites domesticated it themselves in those 400 years, the Mulekites domesticated the plant before the Nephites reached them, or the Jaredites domesticated the plant and this knowledge was passed on to the Mulekites through Coriantumr’s being with them (Mulekites) for nine months before his death.
    So, contrary to Sorenson’s “big clincher,” all his comment does is open up the probabilities mentioned above.

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