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The early adoption of East Asian crops in West Asia: rice and broomcorn millet in northern Iran

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  11 April 2023

Yunshi Huang
Centre for the study of Chinese Archaeology, Peking University, Beijing, P.R. China School of Archaeology and Museology, Peking University, Beijing, P.R. China
Zhenhua Deng*
Centre for the study of Chinese Archaeology, Peking University, Beijing, P.R. China School of Archaeology and Museology, Peking University, Beijing, P.R. China
Hassan Fazeli Nashli*
Department of Archaeology, University of Tehran, Iran
Dorian Q. Fuller
Institute of Archaeology, University College London, UK School of Archaeology and Museology, Northwest University, Xi'an, P.R. China
Xiaohong Wu
Centre for the study of Chinese Archaeology, Peking University, Beijing, P.R. China School of Archaeology and Museology, Peking University, Beijing, P.R. China
Mojtaba Safari
Department of Archaeology, Faculty of Art, Nima University, Mahmoudabad, Iran
*Authors for correspondence ✉ &
*Authors for correspondence ✉ &


Following their early domestication, broomcorn millet and rice (in East Asia) and wheat and barley (in South-west Asia) were subsequently adopted across Eurasia during the Bronze Age/early historic period. The precise timing and dispersal routes for this trans-Eurasian exchange, however, remain unclear. Here, the authors present archaeobotanical evidence from sites on the Caspian Sea's southern coast, demonstrating that broomcorn millet reached West Asia by c. 2050 BC and rice by c. 120 BC. These dispersals relate to two waves of globalisation and were based on two different mechanisms: an ‘infiltration’ model (broomcorn millet) and a ‘leapfrog’ model (rice). The results contribute to our understanding of the continental-scale connectivity of the late prehistoric/early historic periods.

Research Article
Copyright © The Author(s), 2023. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of Antiquity Publications Ltd.

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