Economic Botany Section
Bussmann, Rainer W , Sharon, Douglas .
Naming a phantom – the quest to find the identity of “Ulluchu.”.
The identity of Ulluchu, an iconic fruit frequently depicted in the iconography of the Moche culture which thrived on the north coast of Peru from A.D. 100 to 700, has eluded scientists since the discovery of the first paintings in the 1930s, making it the last unidentified “magic” plant of the continent. The first Moche researcher, Larco-Hoyle, had labeled a drawing of the plant Phaseolus sp. (bean), and later speculated that Ulluchu was “a yellow, edible, comma shaped fruit he found in the highlands.” Based upon review of the Moche archive, UCLA researcher Donna D. McClelland demonstrated that “the leaves of the Phaseolus do not resemble the Ulluchu leaf depictions.” Other suggested options, especially Pepino (Solanum muricatum Aiton), and aji (Capsicum annuum L.), which are clearly depicted in Moche art were also eliminated. Henry Wassen of the Gothenburg Ethnographical Museum, eliminated Persea americana Miller, and concluded that Ulluchu was Carica candicans A. Gray. McClelland, in the light of a vastly expanded Moche Archive and archaeological discoveries of real Ulluchu, refuted the papaya hypothesis, stating that the largest remaining challenge in Latin American Archae-ethnobotany was an identification of Ulluchu.
We conclude from archaeological and botanical evidence that Ulluchu is a term coined by Rafael Larco Hoyle from Quechua roots, and identify the plant as a group of species of the genus Guarea, Meliaceae.
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1 - Missouri Botanical Garden, William L. Brown Center, P.O. Box 299, Saint Louis, MO, 63166, USA
Presentation Type: Oral Paper:Papers for BSA Sections
Location: Magpie B/Cliff Lodge - Level B
Date: Tuesday, July 28th, 2009
Time: 10:15 AM