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The early chronology of broomcorn millet (Panicum miliaceum) in Europe

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  22 November 2013

Giedre Motuzaite-Matuzeviciute
1McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, University of Cambridge, Downing Street, Cambridge CB2 3ER, UK (Email:;; 2History Faculty/Department of Archaeology, Vilnius University, Universiteto 7, 01513 Vilnius, Lithuania (Email:
Richard A. Staff
3Oxford Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit (ORAU), Research Laboratory for Archaeology and the History of Art (RLAHA), University of Oxford, Dyson Perrins Building, South Parks Road, Oxford OX1 3QY, UK (Email:
Harriet V. Hunt
1McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, University of Cambridge, Downing Street, Cambridge CB2 3ER, UK (Email:;;
Xinyi Liu
1McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, University of Cambridge, Downing Street, Cambridge CB2 3ER, UK (Email:;;
Martin K. Jones
4Department of Archaeology, University of Cambridge, Downing Street, Cambridge CB2 3DZ, UK (Email:


The majority of the early crops grown in Europe had their origins in south-west Asia, and were part of a package of domestic plants and animals that were introduced by the first farmers. Broomcorn millet, however, offers a very different narrative, being domesticated first in China, but present in Eastern Europe apparently as early as the sixth millennium BC. Might this be evidence of long-distance contact between east and west, long before there is any other evidence for such connections? Or is the existing chronology faulty in some way? To resolve that question, 10 grains of broomcorn millet were directly dated by AMS, taking advantage of the increasing ability to date smaller and smaller samples. These showed that the millet grains were significantly younger than the contexts in which they had been found, and that the hypothesis of an early transmission of the crop from east to west could not be sustained. The importance of direct dating of crop remains such as these is underlined.

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Copyright © Antiquity Publications Ltd. 2013

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