The story of sugar contains some terrifically tall stories.
In The Beginning
Finding the start of the story of sugar is a surprisingly slippery operation.
Some imply “sweet cane” in the Old Testament refers to sugar cane.
Sugar is supposed to have been known at a very early period to the inhabitants of India and China ; probably it was also known to the ancient Jews.
In several parts of the Old Testament the “sweet cane” is referred to, and it was apparently an article of merchandise coming from a far country.
The History of Sugar – William Reed – 1866
Some state sugar is not referenced in the Old Testament.
Nothing concerning it is found in the Old Testament, the Talmud or in the oldest Hindu literature; and even in Buddha’s time (500 B. C.) it was little known.
Something About Sugar – George M Rolph – 1917
Others say Old Testament “sweet cane” was an aromatic grass.
The European sugar story starts in 9th century Arabia.
A sugarloaf was the usual form in which refined sugar was produced and sold until the late 19th century, when granulated and cube sugars were introduced.
The earliest record to date appears to be 12th century in Jordan, though reference to a cone of sugar is found in al-Zubayr ibn Bakkar’s 9th century Arabic Al-Akhbar al-Muwaffaqiyyat.
In Europe, they were made in Italy from 1470, Belgium 1508, England 1544, Holland 1566, Germany 1573 and France 1613.
And The Word Was
Even the origins of the word sugar are subject to spin.
Some say sugar derives from Sanskrit.
The derivation of the word “sugar” is thought to be from Sanskrit śarkarā, meaning “ground or candied sugar,” originally “grit, gravel”.
Sanskrit literature from ancient India, written between 1500 – 500 BC provides the first documentation of the cultivation of sugar cane and of the manufacture of sugar in the Bengal region of the Indian subcontinent.
The Sanskrit name for a crudely made sugar substance was guda, meaning “to make into a ball or to conglomerate.”
Some prefer to say “modern” sugar derives from Persian via Arabic.
A number of classical writers of the first century allude to the sweet sap of the Indian reed and to the granulated, salt-like product imported from India under the name of saccharum … from the Sanskrit çarkara, gravel, sugar.
The names of sugar in modern European languages are derived through the Arabic from the Persian shakar.
Something About Sugar – George M Rolph – 1917
The Greek Indian Salt ended in etymological extinction.
Paul Egineta, a physician, 625 a.d., describes sugar as the “Indian Salt” and recommends that a piece be kept in the mouth during fevers.
It was also called “Indian Salt” by the Greeks and Romans who obtained it in small quantities at an enormous cost from India.
The History of Sugar – William Reed – 1866
Paul of Aegina or Paulus Aegineta (c. 625 – c. 690) was a 7th-century Byzantine Greek physician best known for writing the medical encyclopedia Medical Compendium in Seven Books.
“He is the father of early medical books”.
For many years in the Byzantine Empire, this work contained the sum of all Western medical knowledge and was unrivaled in its accuracy and completeness[according to whom?].
The sixth book on surgery in particular was referenced in Europe and the Arab world throughout the Middle Ages, and is of special interest for surgical history.
The whole work in the original Greek was published in Venice in 1528, and another edition appeared in Basel in 1538.
Several Latin translations were published.
Its first full translation into English, was by Francis Adams in 1834.
This etymological extinction is not entirely surprising as the term Indian Salt and it’s source Paul of Aegina were fabricated in the 16th century.
In other words:
Indian Salt looks like another embarrassing continuity problem:
a) The European crystallised sugar story tracks back to 9th century Arabia
b) The Greeks traded and consumed “honey from the cane called fugar”.
The Periplus of the Erythraean Sea … describes navigation and trading opportunities from Roman Egyptian ports like Berenice Troglodytica along the coast of the Red Sea, and others along Horn of Africa, the Persian Gulf, Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean … a mid-first century date is now the most commonly accepted.
The modern gradualist storylines for sugar are imaginatively “linked to the migrations of the Austronesian peoples” because the catastrophic migration of landmasses [in recent times] is a totally unthinkable heresy.
The spread of both S. officinarum and S. sinense is closely linked to the migrations of the Austronesian peoples.
Saccharum officinarum was first domesticated in New Guinea and the islands east of the Wallace Line by Papuans, where it is the modern center of diversity. Beginning at around 6,000 BP they were selectively bred from the native Saccharum robustum.
It was one of the original major crops of the Austronesian peoples from at least 5,500 BP.
Map showing centers of origin of Saccharum officinarum in New Guinea, S. sinensis in China, and S. barberi in India. per: Daniels, Christian; Menzies, Nicholas K. (1996).
Needham, Joseph, ed. Science and Civilisation in China: Volume 6, Biology and Biological Technology, Part 3, Agro-Industries and Forestry. Cambridge University Press. pp. 177–185
Chronological dispersal of Austronesian peoples across the Indo-Pacific per: Chambers, Geoff (2013). “Genetics and the Origins of the Polynesians”. John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
The real mystery surrounding these make-believe storylines is:
Why is academia wasting everyone’s time with incredible, incoherent, unsupported, and unnecessary migration narratives for a few sugar cane species when the Saccharum genus is perfectly capable of spreading itself around the globe?
Numerous species are now considered better suited in other genera:
Andropogon, Chloris, Digitaria, Eriochrysis, Eulalia, Gynerium, Hemarthria, Imperata, Lophopogon, Melinis, Miscanthus, Panicum, Pappophorum, Paspalum, Perotis, Pogonatherum, Pseudopogonatherum, Spodiopogon, and Tricholaena.
One of the more ambitious Austronesian adventure stories involves “successive waves” of migrants surviving the [at a minimum] 6,000 kilometre journey across the Indian Ocean in “outrigger canoes” with sufficient supplies and shelter for themselves and a cargo of sugar cane.
Traditionally, archaeologists have estimated that the earliest settlers arrived in successive waves in outrigger canoes from the Sunda islands (Malay Archipelago) throughout the period between 350 BC and 550 AD, while others are cautious about dates earlier than 250 AD.
After their long journey the migrants were in for some big surprises.
The first settlers encountered Madagascar’s abundance of megafauna, including giant lemurs, elephant birds, giant fossa and the Malagasy hippopotamus, which have since become extinct because of hunting and habitat destruction.
By 600 AD, groups of these early settlers had begun clearing the forests of the central highlands.
Arab traders first reached the island between the 7th and 9th centuries.
A wave of Bantu-speaking migrants from southeastern Africa arrived around 1000 AD. South Indian Tamil merchants arrived around 11th century.
Although not well-studied, there is growing acceptance of three species of Malagasy hippopotamus.
It is not known when or exactly how these hippos arrived on the island of Madagascar.
Aepyornis maximus, the “elephant bird” of Madagascar, was the heaviest bird ever known. Although shorter than the tallest moa, a large A. maximus could weigh over 400 kilograms (880 lb) and stand up to 3 metres (9.8 ft) tall.
All these species went into decline following the arrival of humans on Madagascar around 2,000 years ago, and were gone by the 17th or 18th century if not earlier.
Elephant birds are members of the extinct ratite family Aepyornithidae, made up of large to enormous flightless birds that once lived on the island of Madagascar.
More recently, it has been deduced from DNA sequence comparisons that the closest living relatives of elephant birds are New Zealand kiwi.
And some big surprises may have drifted back across the ocean to Australia.
The discovery of the Scott River egg caused quite a stir. Doubt was immediately cast on its authenticity. After all, how could a large egg float across the Indian Ocean and be washed up on a beach intact?
However, most convincing evidence comes from the recovery of two fresh King Penguin (Aptenodytes patagonicus) eggs on Western Australian beaches, which must have come from one of the subantarctic islands such as the Kerguelen Islands, some 2000 km away from Australia.
The first of the penguin eggs was found about 2 miles south of Augusta, close to the site of the original Scott River Aepyornis egg, on January 10th 1974.
The Cervantes Egg: An Early Malagasy Tourist to Australia
J A Long, P Vickers-Rich, K Hirsch, E Bray, and C Tuniz
Records of the Western Australian Museum 19: 39-46 – 1998
Two whole eggs have been found in dune deposits in southern Western Australia, one in the 1930s (the Scott River egg) and one in 1992 (the Cervantes egg); both have been identified as Aepyornis maximus rather than Genyornis.
It is hypothesized that the eggs floated from Madagascar to Australia on the Antarctic Circumpolar Current.
On the other hand:
Perhaps it’s the land masses that migrated…
Unravelling the history of the Southern Hemisphere still has a longggggggg way to go.
The realisation that something isn’t quite right with the mainstream geological timeline is further reinforced by the curious 1st millennium history of Madagascar that spans the Indian Ocean – just like the red sand band that spans the Indian Ocean.
In 2018 the realm of Geomagnetism was disturbed by results showing Southern Africa performed a “coherent loop” of 360 degrees between [about] 425 and 1370 CE.
The 1389 CE dating of the Late Paleocene Event coincides with the extinction of the Moa.