Heard at Indian Science Congress: India had links with America before Columbus

  • HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times, Mumbai
  • Updated: Jan 07, 2015 11:50 IST

Explorer Christopher Columbus is credited with the discovery of the Americas in the late 15th century.

A paper on archaeobotany, presented at the Indian Science Congress on Tuesday by KS Saraswat of Birbal Sahani Institute, Lucknow, refutes this. It claims it was possible that India, and Asia, had links to America before Europeans found a route to the western hemisphere.

This and other claims that questioned established theories on European discoveries and the history of the human race were raised at the symposium titled ‘Future of the Past’ convened by Mayank Vahia, professor at Tata Institute of Fundamental Research ( TIFR), Mumbai. Saraswat’s claim comes from images of pineapple and maizelike foods and plants found in relief sculptures found in temples and other structures in India and the rest of Asia.

Experts have said previously that when the Europeans explored the Americas, they collected plant species from there and spread it across the world. Botanists have said crops such as maize, sunflower, peanuts and tobacco — all American species — were introduced to India by the Europeans in the 16th century. “Did Europeans bring these plants to India?” Saraswat asked. “While European contribution to discovery is important, claims like the discovery of America need to be cross checked.”

Saraswat said his study is in its preliminary stages. “I appreciate the fact that Europeans ended Arab monopoly on trade routes and, in the process, made it possible for the world to trade freely.”

Is India the origin of the human race?

In her paper ‘Tools, Techniques and Time: Multiple Approaches to the Study of South Asia’s Prehistoric Past’, Dr Shanti Pappu, director, Sharma Centre for Heritage Education, Chennai, said archaeological sites being excavated in Attirampakam, near Chennai, showed humanoids (human-like creatures) inhabited India much earlier than previously estimated.

The paper, researched jointly with Kumar Mithilesh, said the Tamil Nadu excavations showed humanoids lived there between 1.07 Ma (megaannus, equal to one million years) to 1.7 Ma. “This is closer to the age of sites in Levant and Africa (considered to be among the oldest humanoid settled areas),” said Pappu.

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