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The Lowly Sweet Potato May Unlock America's Past
The Times Online ^ | 3-24-2008 | Norman Hammond

Posted on 03/24/2008 2:24:47 PM PDT by blam

From The Times
Norman Hammond, Archaeology Correspondent
March 24, 2008

The lowly sweet potato may unlock America’s past

How the root vegetable found it's way across the Pacific

One of the enduring mysteries of world history is whether the Americas had any contact with the Old World before Columbus, apart from the brief Viking settlement in Newfoundland. Many aspects of higher civilisation in the New World, from the invention of pottery to the building of pyramids, have been ascribed to European, Asian or African voyagers, but none has stood up to scrutiny.

The one convincing piece of evidence for pre-Hispanic contact has been the humble sweet potato, which is of tropical American origin but widely cultivated across the Pacific islands. Until a few years ago it was assumed that this was the result of Spanish transmission, dating to the early colonial period, but archaeological discoveries in the Cook Islands show this to be wrong: excavations at Mangaia yielded carbonised remains of sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas) dating to AD1000, five centuries before Europeans entered the Pacific Ocean.

The question then arose as to whether the diffusion of this useful crop was the result of Amerindians sailing west to Polynesia, as the late Thor Heyerdahl always claimed, or whether it came about because Polynesians exploring on “the road of the winds” beyond Easter Island came to the South American mainland, and took back with them the hardy and nutritious root crop which is today fifth in importance in developing countries.

The lack of evidence for Native American seafaring and the reputation of the Polynesians as navigators inclined most scholars to the latter thesis: but a new simulation study suggests that either the Amerindians or nature may have been responsible: Alvaro Montenegro and his colleagues in the Journal of Archaeological Science argue that computer experiments demonstrate that accidental drift voyages could have been responsible.

The experiment was set up to investigate two transfer theories, by accidental voyages from the American mainland that reached Polynesia, and drifting of Ipomoea seed capsules. Deliberate voyaging was not included.

Starting positions were in a series of “departure bins” defined off the Central and South American coastlines from 50 degrees south to 30 degrees north — roughly from southern Chile to northern Mexico.

The drifter point was located at the centre of each bin, and thus some distance offshore. The various Pacific island groups were designated as targets, and the probable drift of vessels the size of a large canoe under the influence of the known winds and currents simulated over a six-month period; the drift of seed capsules was simulated for a full year.

The most probable canoe crossing to score a “hit” was from Central America to the Marshall Islands, with a likelihood of 11.5 per cent. The much shorter crossing from Ecuador to the Galápagos was second, at almost 10 per cent, followed by the central Polynesian island groups of Tuamotu and the Marquesas at 7.4 and 5.7 per cent repectively. Most other targets scored very low, although Hawaii had an almost 3 per cent chance of being encountered.

The drifting seed capsules had a 17.4 per cent chance of reaching the Galápagos, only 600 miles off Ecuador, with the Marquesas at 2.7 per cent the next most likely hit. Hawaii cultivated the crop before European contact, and probably got it from Mexico on the basis of the simulation, but there was no further onward dispersal. This route might well have been used in the putative Polynesian-Californian contacts recently proposed (The Times, November 21, 2005).

The fact that 16 of the 23 target areas were hit with at least 1 per cent probability indicates “that vessel drifts provide many access routes from South America into Polynesia”, with hits on a particular island group coming from drifters starting on specific stretches of American coastline. These could have informed Polynesians of lands to the east, making two-way traffic possible.

The date by which all this happened remains debatable. Expansion east out of Tonga and Samoa may have begun as early as AD1, but perhaps not much earlier than AD1000, when the sweet potato is attested in the Cook Islands.

Easter Island seems, on the latest evidence, not to have been settled until around AD1200, so it could not have played a part in the initial transmission. In the end what this simulation experiment tells us is that purposeful voyaging, in either direction, was not necessary for this first, tenuous contact between the settlers who had moved out of Asia and around the Pacific rim to settle first the continent of America and then, much later, the ocean wastes of the Pacific.

Journal of Archaeological Science 35: 355-367.


TOPICS: News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: america; archaeology; godsgravesglyphs; past; sweetpotato

1 posted on 03/24/2008 2:24:48 PM PDT by blam
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To: blam

are we talking about the ‘typical’ lowly sweet potato here ?


2 posted on 03/24/2008 2:26:55 PM PDT by kingattax (99 % of liberals give the rest a bad name)
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To: SunkenCiv
GGG Ping.

Polynesian Chickens in Chile

DNA from chicken bone shows Polynesians 'found' South America

3 posted on 03/24/2008 2:28:38 PM PDT by blam (Secure the border and enforce the law)
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To: All

mmmmmm sweet potatoes with melted butter and brown sugar please...


4 posted on 03/24/2008 2:30:16 PM PDT by Poetgal26 (God bless the US Military and our vets!)
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To: Poetgal26

Yum!
Sometime try it with butter and sour cream. Yummy.


5 posted on 03/24/2008 2:32:12 PM PDT by EggsAckley
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To: EggsAckley

Seriously? ...hmmmm I might try it but sounds gross lol


6 posted on 03/24/2008 2:34:40 PM PDT by Poetgal26 (God bless the US Military and our vets!)
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To: Poetgal26

The sourness of the cream makes the potato taste even sweeter.

Same thing works with putting salt on grapefruit.

(but then again, I AM a little strange) Heheheh.


7 posted on 03/24/2008 2:40:04 PM PDT by EggsAckley
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To: blam

My brother who is diabetic and has done a lot of research on foods safe for diabetics, says the sweet potato is about the closest thing to a perfect food one can eat.


8 posted on 03/24/2008 2:40:39 PM PDT by OB1kNOb (The Presidential election is a race to the bottom. Which Party will out stupid the other to lose ?)
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To: EggsAckley

No hun, I am strange too lol
But salt on grapefruit, yucky....

I tried to view your page and it didn’t work


9 posted on 03/24/2008 2:42:14 PM PDT by Poetgal26 (God bless the US Military and our vets!)
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To: EggsAckley

Same thing works with putting salt on grapefruit.
***************************************************
Filipinos put salt on mango’s ... I’m assuming you mean a fully ripe sweet pink or yellow grapefruit..


10 posted on 03/24/2008 2:44:06 PM PDT by Neidermeyer
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To: EggsAckley

you’ve got freepmail


11 posted on 03/24/2008 2:44:54 PM PDT by Repeal The 17th
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To: kingattax

I yam what I yam.


12 posted on 03/24/2008 2:46:44 PM PDT by sportutegrl
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To: sportutegrl

LOL....good one


13 posted on 03/24/2008 2:47:52 PM PDT by kingattax (99 % of liberals give the rest a bad name)
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To: OB1kNOb
"My brother who is diabetic and has done a lot of research on foods safe for diabetics, says the sweet potato is about the closest thing to a perfect food one can eat."

That explains my neighbors habit of ordering sweet potatos everytime we go to dinner together...he's diabetic.

14 posted on 03/24/2008 2:49:05 PM PDT by blam (Secure the border and enforce the law)
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To: OB1kNOb
My brother who is diabetic and has done a lot of research on foods safe for diabetics, says the sweet potato is about the closest thing to a perfect food one can eat.

That is great news. I have been looking for a site that would list things like that. My husband is a diabetic and I know that other types of potato are not good.

15 posted on 03/24/2008 2:50:18 PM PDT by Irish Eyes
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To: Poetgal26
"mmmmmm sweet potatoes with melted butter and brown sugar please..."

I'm eating them right now with cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and lemon zest, baked.

16 posted on 03/24/2008 2:50:26 PM PDT by monkapotamus
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To: Poetgal26

I too think it’s good.

http://www.google.com/search?sourceid=navclient&ie=UTF-8&rls=PCTA,PCTA:2006-24,PCTA:en&q=sweet+potato+recipes+butter+and+sour+cream


17 posted on 03/24/2008 2:55:17 PM PDT by Gator113 (Obama has "changed" me. I am now "a Typical White Person”.)
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To: blam
One of the enduring mysteries of world history is whether the Americas had any contact with the Old World before Columbus, apart from the brief Viking settlement in Newfoundland.

This article is at least 20 years out of date. There is co0nclusive proof that Europeans settled in America between 13,000 and 11,000 years ago, bringing with them the Clovis Point. The same technology is found in Spain and France from the same period.

18 posted on 03/24/2008 2:57:37 PM PDT by pabianice
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To: blam; StayAt HomeMother; Ernest_at_the_Beach; 1ofmanyfree; 24Karet; 3AngelaD; 49th; ...

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Gods
Graves
Glyphs
Thanks Blam.
The one convincing piece of evidence for pre-Hispanic contact has been the humble sweet potato, which is of tropical American origin but widely cultivated across the Pacific islands. Until a few years ago it was assumed that this was the result of Spanish transmission, dating to the early colonial period, but archaeological discoveries in the Cook Islands show this to be wrong: excavations at Mangaia yielded carbonised remains of sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas) dating to AD1000, five centuries before Europeans entered the Pacific Ocean. The question then arose as to whether the diffusion of this useful crop was the result of Amerindians sailing west to Polynesia, as the late Thor Heyerdahl always claimed,
end. ;')

To all -- please ping me to other topics which are appropriate for the GGG list.
GGG managers are Blam, StayAt HomeMother, and Ernest_at_the_Beach
 

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19 posted on 03/24/2008 3:03:30 PM PDT by SunkenCiv (https://secure.freerepublic.com/donate/______________________Profile updated Saturday, March 1, 2008)
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To: pabianice
IBERIA, NOT SIBERIA?
20 posted on 03/24/2008 3:05:49 PM PDT by blam (Secure the border and enforce the law)
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To: Neidermeyer

Some people put salt on watermelon too.
At least when I was growing up they did.


21 posted on 03/24/2008 3:13:10 PM PDT by tet68 ( " We would not die in that man's company, that fears his fellowship to die with us...." Henry V.)
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To: Irish Eyes

You want foods with high satiety, low “glycemic index” and/or low “glycemic load”. The metabolic response varies between people, but there are general trends that have been compiled.

See http://www.nutritiondata.com/ for a good bookkeeping site with satiety factors (though satiety varies so strongly between individuals that the values may not be useful).

See http://www.glycemicindex.com/ for glycemic index and glycemic load values. Click GI Database on the left-hand menu.

Another good site is http://www.whfoods.com/, see http://www.whfoods.com/foodstoc.php in particular.

This is all important stuff for bodybuilders and other athletes as well, so often you can find helpful resources for diabetes diets on fitness websites.


22 posted on 03/24/2008 3:18:38 PM PDT by M203M4 (True Universal Suffrage: Pets of dead illegal-immigrant felons voting Democrat (twice))
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To: M203M4
Thank you SO much. Will check out these links.
23 posted on 03/24/2008 3:23:33 PM PDT by Irish Eyes
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To: blam

Asian chickens in Guatemala.


24 posted on 03/24/2008 4:02:44 PM PDT by ThanhPhero (di hanh huong den La Vang)
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To: ThanhPhero
"Asian chickens in Guatemala."

See the linkin post #3.

25 posted on 03/24/2008 6:32:37 PM PDT by blam (Secure the border and enforce the law)
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