Re: Amerindian navigators and Eurocentrism in scholarship

From (J.R. Pelmont)
Date Fri, 19 Sep 1997 21:30:10 +0000
Newsgroups sci.archaeology.mesoamerican, sci.archaeology, sci.anthropology,
Organization Université Joseph Fourier, Grenoble, Fr
References <5uvasm$n7p$ > <5v2kfb$gde$ > < > <5v90tb$b83$ > < > <5vflsa$6gk$ > <5vhmdf$ddl$ > <01bcc1a8$45538820$ > <> < >

Hugh Gibbons <> wrote (écrivait) :

> Every couple days, they'd make a sortie and raid a village or two for 
> more cows, so there was no need to water or feed them.

In this case you are probably right, but the main interest in this
thread was long distance trips across the oceans.

> People can't get enough vitamin C from fish.  I doubt there's an appreciable
> amount in it.  As for algae, most people don't eat it, and nobody eats
> plankton.

Vitamin C exists in any animal, this is a question of level, but I have
no quantitative data yet. It is present in raw fish. The human diet
needs about 300-700 mg per day. Contrary to the vast majority of
animals, human beings are unable to synthesize their own vitamin C. I
remember that guinea pigs do not make it either. The absolute need for
vitamin C, i.e. ascorbate, is likely to vary with the physiological
conditions, because this compound is involved as an antioxidant and a
protecting agent against free radicals. It may act in synergy
with other factors, such as tocopherol, and we can expect that scurvy
appears sooner or later after depletion according to various conditions.
There is a lot of litterature but clear-cut conclusions are scarce and
more time is needed for a good approach.
The problem here was beyond ordinary diet, looking at food in survival
conditions. This was examined by Alain Bombard on himself as a voluntary
castaway. Eating algae or plankton (such as krill) is not common of
course, but you cannot dismiss entirely the case. We just do not know !

At least one edible species is Ulva lactuca (sea lettuce), a very common
alga in intercostidal zones along european shores. Certainly it is a
very poor source of protein. Spirulina platensis is an other species.
Yet these are not algae, but cyanobacteria (so-called blue-green algae,
but this is an incorrect name). They have been reported long ago to be
excellent food for human and animals, but we cannot consider this
example in the discussion here, since they grow on the continent in
alkaline ponds, lakes and arid regions. However this is a very valuable
food. Because they are easily collected and dessicated in various warm
areas such as Mexico and tropical Africa, could have been taken aboard
on some ships as dry mats rich in vitamins. Of course this is pure
speculation from mine.
> So since they had bad nutrition from a young age, they were *less* likely
> to suffer from scurvy?

Nobody here said that all peaple trained to undergo rough conditions of
living since their young age had experienced bad nutrition. This is not
true. Maybe they had no opportunity to eat hamburgers. :-p  . Anyway all
human beings can probably suffer from scurvy, but I just wondered if
some kind of adaptation could exist, allowing a better resistance to the
shortage of vitamin C.

Have you met touaregs, or people living in Andes, Himalaya or just in
the depth of a jungle ?  See how smart they very often are, what they
are able to do, and compare their resistance with ours ! We should not
forget mentionning the people in Vietnam, and how they were standing
tough despite electronics, modern war machines and chemicals ! ;-)
Tremendous differences are seen between human performances after
adaptation and training. But I have no definite data about resistance to
scurvey, if any : it was just a guess.

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