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Economic Botany

, Volume 46, Issue 2, pp 171–180 | Cite as

Representations on pre-columbian spindle whorls of the floral and fruit structure of economic plants

  • Dorothy McMeekin
Article

Abstract

A few of the numerous small clay discs from Pre-Columbian Mesoamerica and South America contain accurate illustrations of the reproductive structures of important economic plants. The arrangement of seeds in fruit sections, axial or parietal, is shown for the Solanaceae (tomato, pepper) and the Cucurbitaceae (squash). The number of locules in Gossypium (cotton) bolls and the external appearance of the boll including the precise arrangement of the gossypol glands are illustrated. What are probably floral diagrams of these plant families are represented. The bell-shaped spindle whorls from the Quimbaya culture of Colombia have varied designs that resemble the campanulate flowers o/Brugmansia (Datura, Solanaceae), which is known for its contorted flowers, and hallucinogenic effects. The native mythology and language, recorded in Mexico at the time of the conquest, indicates a pervasive interest in fruit and flower structure, which is reflected in the designs on the spindle whorls. These functional artifacts provide evidence of the accurate plant observation in the less well known cultures of Colombia and Ecuador.

Key Words

Gossypium Pre-Columbian botanical illustration spindle whorls Solanaceae 

Representaciones precolombinas de los husos o malacates de la estructura de la flor y el fruto de las plantas economicas

Resumen

Sólo unos pocos de los numerosos y pequeños discos de cerámica precolombina de Mesoamérica y America del Sur, contienen illustraciones correctas de las estructuras de reproducción déplantas económicas importantes. En ellas se muestra la distribución de las semillas dentro de las secciones axial or parietal de la fruta, como en las Solanaceae (tomate y pimiento) y en las Cucurbitaceae (calabacin). También se ilustra el numero de lóculos en la caúpsula de la Gossypium (algodón), al igual que su apariencia externa y la précisa distribution de las glándulas de gossypol. Además se représenta, lo que probablemente sea, un diagrama de laflor de estafamilia déplantas. En la cultura Quimbaya de Colombia, también se encuentran variados disenos de la forma de campana de los husos semejando las flores acampanadas de la Brugmansia (syn. Datura, Solanaceae). Estas flores han sido conocidaspor sus deformaciones, y sus efectos alutinógenos. Tanto la mitologia como la lengua indigena recogidas en México en la época de la conquista, indican un persistente interés en la estructura de laflor y del fruto de estas plantas, lo cual se ve reflejado en los disenos de los malacates. Estos artefactos tan funcionales, dan evidencia de una observation bastante acertada de las plantas economicas en otras culturas menas conotidas, como son las de Colombia y Ecuador.

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Copyright information

© The New York Botanical Garden 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dorothy McMeekin
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Botany and Plant PathologyMichigan State UniversityE. Lansing

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