The earliest evidence of millet as a staple crop: New light on neolithic foodways in North China

Authors

  • Xinyi Liu,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Archaeology and Anthropology, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, CB2 3DZ, UK
    2. McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, CB2 3ER, UK
    • Department of Archaeology and Anthropology, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, CB2 3DZ, UK
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Martin K. Jones,

    1. Department of Archaeology and Anthropology, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, CB2 3DZ, UK
    2. McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, CB2 3ER, UK
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Zhijun Zhao,

    1. Institute of Archaeology, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Beijing 100710, China
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Guoxiang Liu,

    1. Institute of Archaeology, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Beijing 100710, China
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Tamsin C. O'Connell

    1. Department of Archaeology and Anthropology, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, CB2 3DZ, UK
    2. McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, CB2 3ER, UK
    Search for more papers by this author

Abstract

There is a growing body of archaeobotanical evidence for the harvesting of millet in Eurasia prior to 5,000 cal. BC. Yet direct evidence for the extent of millet consumption in this time period is rare. This contradiction may be due to millet crops making only a minor contribution to the diet before 5,000 BC. In this article, drawing from recent excavations in North China, we present evidence for millet crops making a substantial contribution to human and animal diets in periods, which correspond chronologically with the time depth of the archaeobotanical record. We infer that in eastern Inner Mongolia, human adoption of millets, which may or may be not related to substantial agriculture, happened at the Early Neolithic, with direct dates between 5,800 and 5,300 cal. BC. Am J Phys Anthropol 149:283–290, 2012. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

Ancillary