Atlanta-based Jim O'Kon's, Corn, Cotton and Chocolate: How the Maya Changed the World, is far more than a history book. It is readable, stimulating and each page seems to spring surprises. O'Kon, a professional engineer with a developed specialty as an archaeoengineer has investigated over 50 Maya sites. Vanilla, chocolate, corn, peanuts, cotton and pineapples are just a few of the Maya contributions from what O'Kon calls "the greatest agronomists in world history."
The book reveals that the Maya were the longest-lived civilization in history, beginning in 2500 BC on a time-line with the ancient Sumerians and terminating in 900 AD during the reign of Charlemagne. Their histories did not converge because the Maya and other world civilizations did not know of each other’s existence. The author describes the Maya as "the phantoms of history. They were the greatest agronomists in world history. Their cultivars nourished the Maya culture and enabled their rapid growth into a society of profound thinkers. After European contact, the inventive products of Maya agronomy were disseminated around the world."
The integration of Maya cultivars into world cultures, observes the author, has changed the course of world history. "Maya science has changed the world. Maya Cultivars now feed and clothe the majority of the world’s population. They have increased the global population, started wars, overthrown monarchies, ignited the industrial revolution, initiated educational systems, started sports empires, changed the lifestyles of world cultures and have killed more people than all the wars in history. It will come as a surprise that history can be changed by a civilization that collapsed over a thousand years ago. Maya cultivars are living inventions that have become a part of the world's heritage and continue to make history."
Jim O'Kon is an optimist. His wonderful book is instructive and entertaining.
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