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new history

Did the Old World have links with the New World much before Christopher  Columbus discovered  it between 1492 and 1498 AD- particularly India and Asia ?  Archaeologists and palaeo-botanists have come out with a startling claim – the Old World- New World link was established way back in the past around 740 BC or so.

new history

The proof , however , is not in eating the proverbial pudding but the custard apple , commonly known as sharifa or sitaphal  that is found plenty in India. That is the view of K.S. Saraswat  and associate Anil Pokharia of the Birbal Sahani Institute of Palaeo- botany , Lucknow.

Saraswat claims that ‘Carbon 14’ dating test of the remains of custard apple and seeds found during recent excavations at Raja Nal Ka Tila in Sonbhadra district ( adjacent to Mirzapur district in Uttar Pradesh ) date back to 740 BC. His claims put to naught the so far undisputed fact that this fruit, grown extensively in South America and the Carribean islands, was introduced in India by Portuguese traders in 16th  century AD. To give credence to the 740 BC claim , the 1985 excavations at Sanghol Tila ( near Ludhiana in Punjab ) by the Archaeological Survey of India ( ASI ) are being cited as another proof. Remains of custard apples were found among the Kushan period ( 1st -3rd century AD) relics. Custard apple remains of the Kushan period and even earlier have also been found in the ongoing trans-Ganga excavations. However , test results are still awaited.

new history

The findings at Sanchi, Madhya Pradesh,  give impetus to the 740 BC theory. General Cunninghum , the founder director of the ASI, had carried out excavations at Sanchi in 1879. Carved on the panels  of the gateway to the main Stupa are figurines, floral climbers and fruits – among them are custard apples too. However, Cunningham’s interpretation of the custard apple figuring in Sanchi panel was unceremoniously  dismissed by the British experts and archaeologists of his day. Pesent day experts, however, claim that it would have been the sculptors’ imagination of the fruit. If the claim is established, will history , as we know it so far, go haywire ?

Unlikely , says archaeologist J.N.Paul of the ancient history department of  Allahabad University. Majority of archaeologists and experts feel that 740 BC theory of custard apple should be taken with a pinch of salt. “It is highly improbable,” says Paul adding that at that time navigation could not have developed to the extent of global connection. “ How can one conclude that custard apples  were not grown in India” asks  Paul, who leads the team that is excavating the pre-historic sites at Jhunsi.

Another palaeo- botanist has yet another different view: “ There is enough evidence of migration of birds from 1st century BC onwards. May be the seeds of custard apple were brought by them.”

                                             Courtesy  Sahara Times

                                             Published on 25 Dec, 2004






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