New World Crops in the Old World

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: Before 1900' started by DominusNovus, Feb 1, 2006.

  1. DominusNovus Humbled by Fate

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    Your challenge is to get New World crops, such as corn and potato, to the Old World, without establishing any serious contact between the two continents. Knowledge of the New World should last no longer than a generation or two, if that.
     
  2. tinfoil Occupant, Great White North

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    The Great White North
    Vikings visit New Workd, as in OTL. Their colonies die out after a few years, as OTL.

    The difference is that they explore further south before giving up, and bring back some samples of new crops.
     
  3. DominusNovus Humbled by Fate

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    Oh, and the earlier the better.
     
  4. corourke Member

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    Jan 1, 2004
    Perhaps China? If anyone could forget about an entire hemisphere, it's the Chinese.
     
  5. Pendragon Member

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    Mar 16, 2004
    An idea could be that a sea trading state finds the new world and manages to gain the crops. Such a trading city-state would have to be one that does not routinely set up colonies, maybe a one city state. Eventually, said city-state must be conquered and destroyed by another power. During the conquest all govenrment documents and records must be destroyed.

    A thought (that doesn't really work, but is just a representative) would be if a sea-trading Carthage managed to find the new world. After its destruction by Rome any of its records would no longer exist. Just replace Carthage and Rome with two other locations that are close to historically accurate.

    All in all, I like the idea behind the thread. At the same time I wonder if there is a way to make it possible for Rome to have access to said crops without them being the ones who actually get them.
     
  6. DominusNovus Humbled by Fate

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    Shhh! I don't want anyone else drawing the connection to Historia Mundi!

    er, oops. :eek:
    :cool:
     
  7. carlton_bach Member

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    Altona, Occupied Denmark
    OK, Round up the usual suspects. Here are a few ideas grouped by arrival date:

    The Thor Heyerdahl route. Natives of the Americas sail the Pacific, much in the same way the early Polynesians did, in the first millennium BC. They spread potatoes, new world curcubitae, peanuts and maize to their nerw island homes, but have only mythical memories of their origin in pre-Incan civilisations. First contact with Melanesian populations spreading west is made in Australian waters, and the crops are adopted in New Guinea by the time Gupta India and Qin China learn of them. They reach Egypt by trade routes through India and are there associated with that country, eventually becoming 'Indus beets', 'Taprobanean wheat' and 'Indian gourd'. The peanut is initially adopted only in China and spreads to India and Africa in the 1200s as 'Chinese almond'.

    The Carthaginians sail the Atlantic in the quest for lucrative trade, but find little enough that is rewarding. However, when an expedition headed to the Azores is blow off course, they reach the Carribean and encounter a settlement of earlier shipwrecked sailors mixed with locals and subsisting on local crops. The Carthaginian seafarers decide to take all who want to come home with them, provision their ships for next year's navigation season, and depart. However, the trade winds leave then blown off course, their supplies nearly exhausted, on the African coast. Another settlement is made and the remaining seed stocks used for farming. It takes them three seasons of hard labour, peril privation, and canny trading to provision themselves for the journey back. The council of Carthage hears their reports, and find that this island is too hard to reach and not worth trading with. Their seed stock is readily accepted, though, and maize and sweet potatoes conquer North Africa. By 146 BC, there is a saying in Rome that 'No good came to Italy from the Punic but his wheat'. Cocoa beans will only become a trade item much later, when the seedlings planted by the Punic castaways in Central Africa have spread over the entire region.

    The massive expedition commissioned by the Huangdi Emperor reaches the Americas, and some of the ships return with natives, animals, plants, herbs, and other rarities. However, as it turns out none of them are the sought-after elixir of immortality, they are consigned to their fate in the care of subordinate palace gardeners and menagerie keepers who neglect some, appropriate others, and sell a few. By the time the Qin dynasty falls, seedlings have become scattered all over China in the gardens of nobles and officials. That is why the chronicles later record that in the second year of the Han dynasty, a famine in the Yen province was alleviated by the exertions of official of the second rank Wang Tsu, who mandated the growing of a special kind of root local farmers called the 'Emperor's Garden Bread Radish'. Maize and peanuts by now grown in Yue territory and cocoa will in time become a major export of the Champa Empire, while it will take centuries longer for a pharmacist in the service of the Northern Wei (Toba) emperors to discover the use of the decorative tobacco plant (whose leaves some tribes in the uncivilised south chew) as a source of a powerful, undetectable poison.

    This is as early as I can think ofr right now, without positing some major changes. Ovviously, the Irish, the Vikings, the Central Africans and the Japanese could also act as middlemen at a later date.
     
  8. Dave Howery laughs at your pain

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    potatoes are the tough one, as they are native to the high Andes, one of the last places an ancient explorer would go. It'd almost be easier for the Incas to take them to someone else... maybe they make it down to the coast and Polynesians (who might have actually visited South America way back when and gotten the sweet potato) get it and take it with them, and it slowly makes it's way west. The only problem with that it that potatoes really need to have a fairly cool climate and probably won't grow across the south Pacific...
     
  9. Shadow Knight Grand Master of the BAM Order

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    What about some ancient Phoenicians make it to the New World (there is/was evidence that the Pharoahs of Egypt had some access to tobacco from the Americas) so have some Phoenicians who exploring the Iberian Peninsula/Coast of Africa get blown off coarse make their way to the Carribbean, basically fill in the middle with adventure, running for their lives, etc. in the end they return to the Old world with corn and a few other staples of the New World.
     
  10. MerryPrankster Gone Fishin'

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    Jan 10, 2004
    Carlton,

    Those are some good ideas.
     
  11. carlton_bach Member

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    There are strains of potatoes that will grow in hot, semiarid, and even tropical climates, but I don't know how recent they are. They might be modern varietals. However, yes, there is no way a random expedition is going to bring back potatoes from a coastal landing. This would require cultural contact.
     
  12. sunsurf Member

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    Jan 1, 2004
    Somebody found pottery in S. America which looks like Jomon pottery from Japan. They might have brought something back from Chile or Peru. Maybe the Jomon were related to the Polynesians?
    The Easter Islanders might have left and landed in Peru....