(Sweet) corn from America...???

So corn clearly is from America…(http://www.straightdope.com/classics/a1_102.html). What is the story behind the Rosslyn Chapel, outside of Edinburgh, supposedly with a carving of corn from the 1460’s or so? I’m not interested in whether the Holy Grail is inside the column (probably just a rumor started by those nuts who dug up the Bruton Parish cemetery in Williamsburg looking for Francis Bacon)…just the corn.

In the UK, “corn” means any old grain – typically wheat (in England) or oats (in Scotland). Colonists called the new plant “Indian corn”, and it eventually wore down to just “corn”, until Americans no longer remembered that the word ever meant anything else.

John W. Kennedy
“Compact is becoming contract; man only earns and pays.”
– Charles Williams

You mean my barleycorn soup isn’t the frightening, miscegenous product I always half-hoped it was?

I guess my original posting wasn’t clear…the carvings on the column are sweet corn…American corn (not the British corn of the corn laws and all that)…30 years before Columbus reached the New World (though I would guess there was no sweet corn in Hispanola). Hence the mystery…

I find it very hard to believe that 15th-century carvings on a column are unambiguously maize, especially since, at the time, it looked a good deal more like other grains than it does today.

John W. Kennedy
“Compact is becoming contract; man only earns and pays.”
– Charles Williams

Yeah, without knowing anything about this column myself, it sure sounds like yet another case of its supposed age being way off or of it being so worn that imaginative viewers are seeing something which isn’t there. Maybe the original columns were recarved later or replaced, which fact has escaped the notice of some writers. That certainly wouldn’t be the first time.

Ancestral maize, or teosinte, began to be cultivated approximately 7,000 years ago, and looked a bit like this:

I don’t know how it would have looked four hundred years ago.


And there’s a little bit of confusion about the Corn Laws - they did, in fact, refer primarily to wheat. They were responsible for wheat being exported from Ireland to Britain during the early part of the Famine (although no-one could have afforded it anyway), and repealed in 1846. But at the same time, maize was imported from America to Ireland as famine relief (go figure) … and was also called corn, and, by its recipients, “Peel’s Poison” for the then PM, Sir Robert Peel.

But don’t get me started with the whole nomenclature thing or we’ll be talking about the Buffalo, Bison & Aurochs until they come home.


[[Ancestral maize, or teosinte, began to be cultivated approximately 7,000
years ago, and looked a bit like this: http://farma.qfb.umich.mx/images/cu2005.jpg
I don’t know how it would have looked four hundred years ago.]]

Dried corn in pretty good shape has been found in Anasazi Indian ruins around the southwest, and it looks like a smaller version of modern corn. About 4 - 6 inches long, I’d say.

Certainly not too much like barley or wheat.


From what I understand, sweet corn as we know it today did not actually exist four hundred years ago. The sweet corn of today is actually a hybrid. The original “maize” was actually much smaller and darker in color. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find my original reference, but here is a link that lends a little credence to the idea:

Funky Seeds History

And for something a little different, here’s the actual origins of corn ;}

Corn Origins

Yes, it is very difficult to believe…that’s why I posted the question.

A little research (boy, the Internet a great research tool, isn’t it?) turns up the fact that Henry Sinclair, of the Sinclairs that founded the chapel (or maybe it was he), visited Nova Scotia in 1398 or thereabouts…there are apparently ruins there that haven’t been fully explained. The mystery deepens…

I just love posts that cite source material for wild imaginative stories…

< eyeroll >

OK, this deserves an answer about the Rosslyn Chapel itself, rather than what we have been doing, which is talking about the origins of maize.

The Rosslyn Chapel is:

  • Very old
  • Very weird

The former because it was built in the 15th century, the latter because it was built by Freemasons.

Freemasons are weird people. Sorry to offend any Freemasons on this board. No, wait a minute, I’m not. You’re bloody weird. Grow up.

They love their little codes and rituals and all sorts of puerile in-jokes, much like Calvin and Hobbes’ Get Rid Of Slimy girlS club, only with more technical ability and more voodoo. Therefore, one should expect to see eyes in pyramids and set squares and Stars of David and the like. So seeing odd things should be no surprise.

Now, I’ve had a look at pictures of the carvings at www.rosslynchapel.org.uk, and I don’t see anything that looks like maize. I keep on hearing that there are things that look like maize or cactii, but that’s it.

The theory is that Henry St Clair travelled to America well before Columbus, and his grandson William included bits and pieces inspired by his ancestor’s travelogue in the chapel. Oh, yes, and that Sinclair took the Holy Grail with him and left it in a pit in Nova Scotia.

There’s no doubt that the Vikings got to Vinland before Cristobel Colon did, and there’s speculation that others may have, too, so the idea that a knight and crusader did so isn’t unimaginable. However, the story is a bust. It’s based on a convenient narrative supposedly written by a Venetian named Carlo “The Lion” Zeno, which was conveniently lost and conveniently found again in 1588. It talks about some mythical islands and voyages and conveniently enough its accounts seem to me to jibe rather nicely with what a Venetian fraud would have heard about the New World at the time, rather than what someone who had actually spent a few years there.

includes the full transcript.

I don’t know. It’s all new to me. It looks to be more gibberish about the Knights Templar, who have a starring role in every crazy theory you care to mention.

I keep seeing illustrations, rubbings and so forth of the supposed New England Knight, the inscriptions in Oak Island and stories about maize and “cactus” in the Rosslyn Chapel, but no photographs, oddly enough. Furthermore, everyone pushing the theory seems to be either a Freemason or a Sinclair.

I would allow that it’s quite possible that a Scotsman voyaged to what is now Nova Scotia in the late 14th Century. Don’t see why not. However, to imagine that such a voyage would have included a trip to the Caribbean, a chat with the Aztecs and the rest of it just doesn’t wash. As for the “corn” - show me a picture of a Rosslyn carving that is unambiguously maize, and we’ll go from there. The “cactus” they mention is aloe, a succulent and member of the lily family, which has over 240 species growing on every continent except Australia and Antarctica - not your big western movie style cactus. And I’ve yet to see a picture of that, either.

I’m beginning to think that this could be a real job for Cecil.


heretic refers to a:

You mean Italians had cool Mafia nicknames way back when? Wow!

Leonardo “Lenny smiles” Da Vinci
Buonarroti “Benny small-dick” Michelangelo

I like it!

Livin’ on Tums, Vitamin E and Rogaine

Didn’t realize Internet searches were so difficult for childish (childlike?) lawyers…


Heretic, don’t let it bother you. Take a look at the ‘profile’ for ‘johnson’ and I suspect your conclusion will be same as mine… someone has some resemblance to a large monster that turns to stone upon having the light of day shined on it… :wink:

I thought we were just having a chat about maize and corn and Rosslyn Chapel and that sort of thing, you know, putting the world to rights.