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Early millet use in West Liaohe area during early-middle Holocene

Authors
  • Ma, ZhiKun1, 2
  • Yang, XiaoYan2
  • Zhang, Chi1
  • Sun, YongGang3
  • Jia, Xin4
  • 1 Peking University, School of Archaeology and Museology, Beijing, 100871, China , Beijing (China)
  • 2 Chinese Academy of Sciences, Laboratory of Land Surface Pattern and Simulation, Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, Beijing, 100101, China , Beijing (China)
  • 3 Chifeng University, History and Culture Institute, Chifeng, 024000, China , Chifeng (China)
  • 4 Nanjing University, Laboratory of Earth Surface Process and Environment, School of Geographic and Oceanographic Sciences, Nanjing, 210023, China , Nanjing (China)
Type
Published Article
Journal
Science China Earth Sciences
Publisher
Science China Press
Publication Date
Jan 27, 2016
Volume
59
Issue
8
Pages
1554–1561
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1007/s11430-015-5257-5
Source
Springer Nature
Keywords
License
Yellow

Abstract

It is generally recognized that millet agriculture originated in northern China. However, the domestication process of foxtail millet (Setaria italica) and broomcorn millet (Panicum miliaceum) is still poorly understood. Based on statistical and morphological analyses of ancient millet starch grains, a tangible hypothesis has been proposed for the long-term domestication of green foxtail millet (S. viridis). However, the hypothesis requires validation by evidence from more regions and more archaeological finds. The West Liaohe region is one of the earliest regions of millet cultivation. Here, we report ancient starch grains recovered from 12 stone grinding tools from eight sites of the Xiaohexi culture (before 8.5 ka BP), Xinglongwa culture (8.2–7.4 ka BP), Zhaobaogou culture (7.0–6.4 ka BP), and Hongshan culture (6.5–5.0 ka BP) in the West Liaohe region of China. Our results indicate that the proportion of millet starch grains with wrinkled surfaces and rough edges, which are diagnostic of wild millet grasses, decreased from 13.0% to 3.4% from the Xiaohexi culture to the Hongshan culture. Millet starch grains measuring >16.8 μm, a size class recorded only in domesticated foxtail millet, increased from 55.0% to 62.1%. These millet data imply that the process of millet domestication in the West Liaohe region began in the Xiaohexi period and continued up to the Hongshan period.

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