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Answer to Dorian Q. Fuller

From: Journal of Latin American Geography
Volume 12, Number 2, 2013
pp. 255-258 | 10.1353/lag.2013.0021

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We are pleased that Professor Dorian Fuller has reviewed our book: World Trade and Biological Exchanges Before 1492. The fact that he appreciates the value of setting the stage for future research and discovery on the ancient diffusion of plants and animals greatly pleases us. However, there are a number of issues we have with his overall dismissal of our research. Professor Fuller repeatedly indicates that he is unconvinced of the validity of our data because we did not personally subject every piece of discovered plant or animal remains to AMS-dating as is, according to him, the standard of modern archaeological sciences. Moreover he accuses us of substituting quantity for quality and not giving complete information in the appendices. Professor Fuller, although intrigued and calling for further research in this area due to some of the evidence we present, goes on to minimize the potential importance of this research and simply ignores the fact that we, in the pages of our book, agree that further AMS-dating needs to be done and that we indicated from the very beginning that this book was a survey of the available published material, not a work of original field investigation. Where we were able, we did try to re-verify or reexamine the evidence discussed in the original publications, but we did not set out to reinvestigate the 5,000+ separate investigated and peer-reviewed published materials in Sorenson and Raish (1996). We also examined the decade of published research since the publication of Sorenson and Raish’s annotated bibliography. Professor Fuller further indicated that we did not give any time to researchers who disagreed with the ideas and hypotheses we and the original writers were setting forth. However, if one were to read through the entire appendices of our volume, they would discover repeated references to opponents of the ideas of diffusion. Moreover, since every reference in the appendices is noted in our book’s 64- page bibliography section, anyone interested in further information from a particular source would be able to access the source material directly. Our short synopses or quotes about each publication were not meant to take the place of reading the original works. They were simply included to show that these works did indeed discuss and date these species.

One of Professor Fuller’s core issues with our data involves plant seeds drifting down through archaeological levels and “contaminating” older remains. The good professor does not seem to recognize that plant seeds can hardly fall through hard deposits in a series of old floors in buildings in the same site. These solid floors would inhibit the movements of seeds or other more modern particulates through them. Therefore the case for contamination would only be viable in archaeological settings where the entire outdoor site had already been compromised by small animals or other burrowing creatures. Many of the seeds and particulates discussed in the original publications were found under hard sediment or solid floors. Nowhere in our work did we deny the fact that some contamination could have happened, we simply do not accept Professor Fuller’s notion that every single incident of seeds found in older strata than was expected constitutes contamination. Such absolutism from either side of the argument is irrational and illogical. Even if some of the remains are contamination, and we accept that this is possible, it does not lessen the impact of the research. Moreover, we chose not to rely solely on AMS or other direct dating techniques. We have also looked at the literature of the era as well as the art and sculptural and language associated with the region and era. If we were to find annona seeds in an 11th Century CE Indian archaeological site, alone this could reasonably be considered a contaminant. However, if we also find depictions that are clearly identified by experts as annona fruit sculpted on mortise and tenon hard stone temple walls, both interior and exterior, where there is no way to change the sculptures without removing more than 300 tons of stone roof and we find words and drawings in books and all of this also dates from the 11th Century C...

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