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Gourd Origins

Find my book (print or e-book) at:   

I have done extensive research on the history of the Bottle Gourd (Lagenaria siceraria).  What follows are excerpts from the book mentioned above:

Section 1 - Ancient Gourds

Section 2- Unique Stories About Gourds

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Section 1- Ancient Gourds

The Chronology of Indigenous People Groups in North America.

The earliest period of ancient Americans is called the Archaic Period and it has an early, middle, late subdivision.  The Archaic Period lasted from 8,000 BC to 1,000 BC.   The next large section of time is called the Woodland Period.  It also has an early, middle, and late subdivision as in:

Early Woodland          1,000 BC to 200 BC                 Adena cultures

Middle Woodland       200 BC to 500 AD                    Hopewell (OH, IL) cultures

Late Woodland           500 AD to 1,650 AD                Mississippian and pre-Columbian cultures

Archaic Period

During the last decades, archaeologists have uncovered some history-changing evidence that farming had become part of indigenous people’s activities much earlier than previously concluded. It is now theorized that during the Archaic Period, thousands of years ago, people were already involved in the domestication of such important New World plants as bottle gourd, maize and cassava, the plants which flourished in later periods.  The evidence for this culture comes from a handful of caves and open sites in the American Midwest that had conditions conducive to extraordinary preservation conditions.  Oldest gourd seed 28,000 years old, featured in National Geographic magazine

Windover – full ancient gourd bottle remains were discovered there

Among the ancient remains of a burial site from about 6,000 BC was a full bottle gourd that looked like it had been used as a container.  The site is the archaeological site called Windover in east-central Florida between Disney World and Cape Canaveral.  The artifacts are well preserved given this site is a peat bog.  Since its discovery in 1982, some 168 individual burials have be excavated.  With the skeleton remains are many artifacts from the hunter-gatherer community that lived there.  They found bone tools, woven fabric and bottle gourds that were radiocarbon dated to a period between 7,000 and 5,000 BC.  In addition to a variety of wooden artifacts, archaeologists recovered 119 objects made from animal parts, many of which would have been used as tools to fish, hunt, and butcher meat. Deer antler was used to make projectile points and barbed fishing hooks. Scrapers and other tools were made from the teeth of sharks, opossums, and canines. Containers made of turtle shell, for preparing medicines and gourds for storing many other items. Windover is a National Historic Landmark, since it is the largest collection of ancient skeletons in North America.  See

Section 2- Stories About Gourds of Yesteryear

Ancient Snake Gourd King

Yes, a king named after the snake gourd. At a Mayan site in northern Yucatan, they found the remains of a king, known as Ukit-Kan Lek or the “Snake Gourd King.” He ruled over the walled city of Ek Balam from 790 AD to 835 AD. No telling how he got the name, but gourds were “king.” (Sorry for the pun). The Mexico Instituto Nacional de Antropologia e Historia worked on the project. The tomb for the Snake Gourd King is in the shape of a pyramid and rises about 96 feet. The remains for what was once an entire city was found, comprising 100 structures, and calculated to have been settled over some 2000 years ago.

Gourd Paintings Presented to France’s King Louis XV

As the scientific method took hold of the world in the eighteenth century, plant investigators (botanists) took to cataloging, experimenting, and illustrating the many forms of plant life. As the taxonomy systems began to be worked out, scientists helped each other in detailing and analyzing how different plant Genus functioned. One of these scientists, Antoine Nicolas Duchesne (b 1747) did his work with gourds. His Genus Cucurbita drawings represent a milestone accomplishment in the field of botany given the extent of his effort and exhaustive findings. His work ended up including 258 color plates all drawn or painted by him. This work is named the Essai sur l’Histoire Naturelle des Courges or an Essay on the Natural History of Gourds. It resulted in an exhaustive catalog of what gourd species were grown in Europe at the time and can be used to see the long period of plant exchange between Old and New Worlds.  The results were so impressive Duchesne was asked to present his gourd paintings to King Louis XV at Versailles in 1772. Duchesne’s talk and the paintings were so striking, the King gave them royal sanction and had them brought to the Royal Library in Paris. Along with written results, Duchesne later gave a fuller presentation of his research to the prestigious Royal Academy of Sciences. The paintings have survived and are still preserved at the Central Library of the National Museum of Natural History in Paris.

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