Printer Friendly

Earliest direct evidence for broomcorn millet and wheat in the central Eurasian steppe region.



From the earliest archaeological preoccupation with the 'agricultural revolution', a major arena of scientific inquiry has revolved around the regional identities of people who spread domesticates and agricultural practices, those who acquired them, and the dynamics of interaction along the frontiers of different forms of food production. At its most essential, this line of study has been defined by two key requisites: finding direct evidence for domesticated plants and animals; and securely dating that evidence in comparison with neighbouring datasets. This has often led to arguments about the direct and indirect pathways toward food production that connect or differentiate the economic strategies of societies around the world. In some cases, however, vast gaps in evidence have left us with few data to work with, so determinations about the direction of diffusion, chronology, or even independent domestication of crops (and animals) in particular regions, cannot be made with confidence. For example, throughout the history of archaeological study in the central Eurasian steppe zone, a lack of reliable evidence for use of domesticated grains before the first millennium BC has constrained our understanding of the economies and realms of interaction that characterise Eurasian steppe communities and their neighbours before and during the Bronze Age (c. 3000-1000 BC).

Within the vast territory of the central Eurasian steppe (Figure 1), direct archaeological evidence of agricultural production, consumption, and regional diffusion of domesticated grains during the Neolithic and Bronze Age is concentrated only in the westernmost regions--essentially the territories north of the Black Sea and further west to central Europe. Yet for decades, archaeologists have argued for the use of domesticated grains in the subsistence economies of pastoralists living throughout the wider steppe region in the late third and second millennia BC (Kuz'mina 2007: 141). This argument has remained largely speculative due to the vast lacuna in directly dated evidence for crops before the first millennium BC outside the westernmost territories of the Eurasian steppe (Lebedeva 2005). To date, a chronological gap of more than 7000 years exists between the first regional domestications of wheat (Triticum spp.) in south-west Asia, broomcorn millet (Panicum miliaceurn) in China, and the earliest directly dated evidence of those grains in central Eurasian archaeological contexts. Both geographically and chronologically, the near void in archaeobotanical evidence across the steppe zone, from the Gansu (Hexi) Corridor to the Caucasus, has clouded archaeological models of diffusion of domesticated crops over an enormous territory of the world. However, recent archaeological research suggests that Eurasian mobile pastoralists were key agents for the transmission of numerous technologies and products across the steppe zone, promoting networks of interaction between economies and societies from eastern Asia to south-west Asia and Europe in the third and second millennia BC (Anthony 2007; Frachetti 2008).

The earliest cultivation and use of domesticated cereals in Neolithic economies are well documented from at least 8000 BC in south-west Asia (Willcox 2005; Weiss et al. 2006). By the sixth millennium BC, domestic varieties of wheat and barley (Hardeum vulgare) (among other crops) comprise staple foods for Neolithic agriculturalists from south-west Asia to Europe and south Asia (Colledge et al. 2004; Bellwood 2005). Recent studies in eastern Asia at the site of Cishan in north-eastern China document the cultivation of broomcorn millet as early as 8000 cal BC between the Loess Plateau and the North China Plain (Crawford 2009; Lu et al. 2009). Evidence for millets--broomcorn and foxtail (Setaria italica)--is more abundant in later Neolithic sites throughout the Yellow River valley and in more upland regions (i.e. elevated terraces) of central and eastern China by 6000 BC (Zhao 2005; Crawford et al. 2006; Liu et al. 2009). Interestingly, domesticated millet is also found before 5000 BC in western and central Europe, sparking debates about possible pathways across central Eurasia versus scenarios of independent domestication (Lisitsina 1984; Zohary & Hopf 2000). This issue will not be resolved until more is known about genetic relationships between domesticated broomcorn millet and the phytogeography of its wild ancestors.

Li et al. (2007) provide the earliest evidence of wheat in China around 2600 BC, at the site of Xishanping (Figure 1). Crawford et al. (2005) present evidence for wheat at the sites of Liangchengzhen and Zaojiaoshu in eastern China around 2000 BC. Flad et al. (2010) directly dated wheat remains from Donghuishan in the Hexi Corridor (western Gansu) to c. 1700 cal BC, demonstrating that by the second millennium BC wheat was widely distributed outside its concentrated region(s) of domestication. Yet, the long chronological hiatus between the earliest evidence of domesticated wheat and millet in regional Neolithic agricultural centres and corresponding archaeological evidence of these domesticates in the Late Bronze Age has left the trail cold beyond the borders of south-west and eastern Asia. Thus, new studies documenting domesticated crops from the third millennium BC in the vast intervening territory--the central Eurasian steppe--represent an essential focus for more complete comprehension of the vectors of transmission of domesticated grains between earlier agricultural centres in China, south-west Asia and Europe.


This article presents archaeobotanical evidence from the pastoralist campsite Begash (phase 1a, c. 2500-1950 cal BC), located in the piedmont steppes of the Dzhungar Mountains in south-eastern Kazakhstan (Figure 1). At Begash, carbonised seeds of broomcorn millet and wheat were recovered through systematic flotation of soils from a cremation burial cist and from an associated funerary fire-pit. A direct AMS date from the millet and wheat seeds yielded a 2-sigma range of 2460 to 2150 cal BC, while additional AMS dates of associated charcoal samples from the burial cist and related fire-pit fall between 2290 and 2020 cal BC (Table 1). Nearly all the domesticated seeds were recovered from the burial context; flotation samples from the domestic hearths of the same chronological period at Begash contained only two broomcorn millet grains. Currently, the remains from Begash predate by roughly 1500 years any other absolutely dated evidence of millet or wheat in the steppe zone and are the earliest reported anywhere in central Eurasia from the Don River to the Hexi Corridor (China) (cf. Kuz'mina 2007: 141). The documentation of domesticated grains at Begash establishes a key point of reference for the transmission of both wheat and millet along distinct routes--and possibly in different directions--through the mountains of central Asia and into the steppe territory by the late third millennium BC.

Archaeological context and methods

The prehistoric settlement of Begash, located in the Semirech'ye region of eastern Kazakhstan, was excavated in 2002, 2005 and 2006 as part of the joint Kazakh-American Dzhungar Mountains Archaeology Project (DMAP) (Frachetti & Mar'yashev 2007). From at least 2500 BC, Begash was occupied by small groups of mobile pastoralists, whose economy was based on vertically transhumant sheep/goat herding in the Dzhungar Mountains (Frachetti & Benecke 2009).

The broad chronology of occupation at Begash is derived from 34 AMS samples taken throughout the site's stratigraphic levels, which date the earliest occupation (phase 1a) to the Early/Middle Bronze Age (c. 2500 BC), with later construction phases in the Middle Iron Age (phase 3, c. 400 cal BC), medieval and historic periods (phase 5/6) (Frachetti & Mar'yashev 2007). The chronology of phase 1a, in particular, is derived from four AMS samples with overlapping 1-sigma ranges from 3100 to 1950 cal BC. However, given the wide error margin for the earliest AMS sample (4220 [+ or -] 220 yrs BP, uncalibrated), a more conservative calibrated range of 2460-1950 cal BC is preferred by the authors.

Excavations of the phase 1a occupation at Begash revealed a single domestic structure and an associated cremation burial c. 8m away (Figure 2). Excavators encountered the outer stone border of the burial cist along the north-west edge of the excavation balk wall and, thus, dug a 1m trench extension so as to stratigraphically approach the cist from above without disturbing or contaminating the burial. Located directly adjacent to the cist itself, the burial context also includes a circular ash and charcoal deposit, which is interpreted as a funerary pyre due to its proximity and stratigraphic relationship to the burial. In addition to their functional parity and proximity, the nearly identical AMS ranges of these two features further support this conclusion.

Two types of soil samples--bulk samples and feature samples--were collected during excavations at Begash for the purpose of flotation. Bulk samples were collected from all cultural layers throughout the site to assess baseline botanical data. Feature samples were taken from every distinct anthropogenic context, such as occupation floors, burials, hearths and middens. Sample sizes varied with feature size, but 10 litres was the target volume.

Eight flotation samples were taken from phase 1 a contexts, and five of these contained domesticated grains, resulting in a total of five classified as wheat or Cerealia (see below) and 28 classified as broomcorn millet grains (Tables 2 & 3). Ninety-four percent (93.9%) of the domestic seeds came from three samples all associated with the burial context (cist and funerary fire-pit). The cremation cist was devoid of ceramics or metals and contained only funerary ashes and small bone fragments. Half the volume of the ash in the cist, as well as soil samples from the funerary fire-pit alongside the cist were floated and sieved for macrobotanical remains. In the case of the phase 1a fire-pit, 9.5 litres of soil were taken from the upper level and 2 litres were taken from the lower level, while 30 litres of the soil and ash remains from inside the burial cist were collected and processed for flotation. Approximately 2-3 litres of soil were sampled from each of the domestic hearths in phase 1a (Figure 2). The samples were floated using a simple bucket method as described in Pearsall (2000). A total of 32 samples were floated from the Begash site representing all phases of occupation. A minimum sieve size of 0.355mm was used for light fraction samples and 1.00mm was used for heavy fraction. The high concentration of inorganic material, specifically clay clots, made it impractical to use a smaller sieve size for the heavy fraction.


The archaeobotanical evidence

Four large cereal fragments and one complete wheat grain were identified in the late third millennium BC samples from the burial cist. The Begash wheat is from a free-threshing variety (either Triticum aestivum or T. turgidum), measuring 5.2mm in length and 4.3mm in width; therefore, the length to width ratio (1.21) indicates a compact wheat form. The cereal grains from Begash have easily recognised ventral furrows, which tend to be deep, while the dorsal side is round and protruding with a sunken embryo notch (Figure 3). The dorsal side does not appear to be humped--a feature more common in barley grains. The ventral side on the whole grain is rather flat and only slightly rounded, a trait also common in the fragmented grains. Thus, we think all the cereal grains represent a similar form of wheat. The plump round seed shape of the Begash wheat generally conforms to hexaploid (2n=42) wheat species, T. aestivum, but short round forms of wheat have sometimes been placed into different taxa, including T. sphaerococcum and T. compactum. In fact, due to overlaps in size and morphological characteristics, most researchers no longer practice differentiation between varieties of free-threshing wheats when associated spikelet parts are not present. Given the limited sample size of the Begash assemblage, the authors acknowledge the possibility that the Begash wheats are from a flee-threshing tetraploid (2n=28), T. turgidum. Therefore, we conservatively lump them under the category T. aestivum/turgidum.


The identification of the Bronze Age wheat from Begash is important because compact wheat forms are known in the Indus Valley region at Mehrgarh by at least the mid fifth millennium BC (Costantini 1984; Zohary & Hopf 2000) and at later Harappan sites, c. 2500-2000 cal BC (Weber 1991). Compact T. aestivum is also identified at sites such as Anau South and Gonur Tepe, documenting that round, free-threshing wheat was already in use in southern central Asia by 3000-2000 BC, and likely earlier (Moore et aL 1994; Miller 1999, 2003). Further north along the western fringe of the Pamir Mountains, additional evidence of free-threshing wheat is documented in phase III levels (c. 2600-2000 BC) at the site of Sarazm in western Tajikistan (Willcox n.d.; Razzokov 2008).

Crawford (1992) notes that in eastern Asia, wheat forms are predominantly hexaploid and he suggests this is the case for the earliest wheat in China (c. 2600 cal BC) and for later archaeobotanical wheat from Korea (c. 1000 cal BC) and Japan (beginning of the first millennium AD) (see also Crawford & Lee 2003). Recently published wheat from Donghuishan (c. 1700-1500 cal BC) in the Hexi Corridor (Gansu) conforms to a compact morphotype similar to the wheat recovered from Begash (cf. Flad et al. 2010). Of course, more archaeobotanical evidence and more detailed comparisons are necessary before confident statements can be made about the possible spread of wheat from southern central Asia or the northern Indus Valley through Semirech'ye into China. Nonetheless, chronologically and geographically, the Begash wheat lends support to the hypothesis that a likely trajectory for wheat into China was north through the mountains from southern central Asia and east along the foothills of the Tian Shan and Dzhungar Mountains, spread by mountain pastoralists in the mid to late third millennium BC.

Carbonised remains of broomcorn millet exist throughout the 4000 year chronology of habitation at Begash (Table 2), whereas foxtail millet is recovered only in samples dating to the first millennium BC and later. Although the morphology of the third millennium BC broomcorn millet is consistent with that of later periods, the later millets are larger (Table 4). Nevertheless, the measurements of the earliest broomcorn millets (see Table 2) are well within the range of published sizes for domesticated Panicum miliaceum across Eurasia (Renfrew 1973; Fuller 2006). All of the caryopses are round to oval in broad view (Figure 4) and scutellum length is less than two-thirds total caryopsis length with broad width.


Since the earliest occupation phase at Begash predates any other pastoralist settlement in the region and archaeologically spans nearly 500 years, direct AMS dates were obtained for the domesticated seed remains and for their corresponding contexts. Three samples of wood charcoal--one from the burial cist and two from the associated fire-pit--were AMS dated at Beta Analytic, establishing that all came from undisturbed contexts of the late third millennium BC (Figure 5). Subsequently, seven fragmentary broomcorn millet seeds from the burial cist were submitted for direct AMS dating to more precisely date the plant evidence at Begash. Because these fragments yielded only 0.6mg of carbon (post-treatment) and after consultation with the AMS technicians at Beta Analytic, a fragmentary wheat grain from the same burial-cist flotation sample was added to the sample of millet seeds to produce the Beta-266458 AMS date. The grains are absolutely dated between 2460 and 2150 cal BC (95.4% confidence), with the most probable calibration intercept of 2290 cal BC (Table 1). Given the archaeological context, a weighted average of all the samples was used to yield a 2-sigma range between 2280 and 2060 cal BC with the highest probability density (79%) falling between 2230 and 2130 cal BC (see Figure 5).


Wild herbaceous seeds were the predominant plant remains recovered in the phase 1a assemblage and were prevalent throughout the assemblages from all phases at Begash (Table 3). The presence of wild herbaceous seeds at Begash could result from a number of taphonomic processes, including seed rain as well as human and animal foraging. Wild herbaceous seeds could also have been introduced in domestic contexts through the burning of dung laden with seeds, a practice prevalent among ethnographically documented pastoralist communities of the Eurasian steppe.

A variety of wild taxa were identified at Begash, with Chenopodium album, Hyoscyamus sp., Galium sp., and Stipa-type being most abundant from phase 1a. Chenopodium is the most common seed type documented throughout all occupation phases at Begash. The smooth testa and relatively large size of these seeds conforms to C. album, a species commonly found in archaeobotanical assemblages across Eurasia. Hyoscyamus seeds are also identified in many of the Begash samples. Only two species from this genus grow in this part of Eurasia, H. niger and H. pusillus (Wu et al. 2006: 306), with H. niger being the more common species found in the area today. The Galium seeds from Begash are large and were likely setose (bristly). A number of caryopsis fragments from a long-seeded species of grass were also identified; these caryopses are similar in morphology to those of Stipa. In addition, they are often associated with twisted awns in the assemblage. While a definitive identification as Stipa is not possible, this is one of the more prevalent grasses in the region today.


Across the steppe territory of central Eurasia and its periphery, archaeobotanical evidence for the use or production of domesticated grains before the second millennium BC has only been documented in two regions. In the western regions, north of the Black Sea, farming communities cultivated einkorn (T. monococcum ssp. monococcum) and emmer (T. turgidum ssp. dicoccum) wheat, barley and broomcorn millet as components of their sedentary village economies from at least the sixth millennium BC (Pashkevich 2003). In southern central Asia, Neolithic villages such as Jeitun, along the northern piedmont of the Kopet Dag range in present day Turkmenistan, also provide evidence for the cultivation of einkorn and emmer wheat and barley around 6000 BC (Harris & Gosden 1996: 377; Moore et al. 1994; Miller 1999; Hiebert 2003). In both regions, the presence of wheat and barley is commonly associated with distinct trajectories of slow diffusion of south-west Asian domesticates starting before the sixth millennium BC--west and north into Europe (Price 2000) and east across the Iranian Plateau to central Asia (Miller 1999). The occurrence of domesticated millet in central Europe is also documented before 5000 BC (Lisitsina 1984; Austin 2006), although the pathways of its diffusion have been far more difficult to explain. As noted by Hunt et al. (2008) and discussed above, the earliest evidence for broomcorn millet comes from north-eastern China, making the lacuna in the central Eurasian steppe a major impediment for understanding possible vectors of transmission, east to west or otherwise.

The only previous reports of archaeobotanical evidence for wheat and millet of the third millennium BC in the central Eurasian steppe comes from the Middle Bronze Age sites of Arkaim and Alandskoe (c. 2200-1800 BC), located in the trans-Ural region (Gadyuchenko 2002). However, the reported grains are not directly dated and the archaeobotanical details of the samples are not published in full: Gadyuchenko (2002) reports Panicum sp. and Triticum sp. from Arkaim and Alandskoe without species identification, direct chronology, or morphological information. Thus, we await the results of future research, such as that currently underway at nearby sites such as Stepnoe, to confirm the existence of a wider distribution of domesticated grains in the trans-Ural region (B. Hanks pers. comm.). Currently, well-dated evidence for domesticated plant use in the Eurasian steppe comes from only a few steppe settlements of the first millennium BC, such as Tuzusai, also located in the Semirech'ye region of south-eastern Kazakhstan (Chang et al. 2003). Sampling and soil analysis there yielded phytoliths of millet, wheat and barley, from Iron Age contexts AMS dated to around 700 cal BC (Rosen et al. 2000).

The near absence of domesticated plant evidence from anywhere in the central Eurasian steppe is partly an artefact of archaeological methodology. Only recently have flotation and archaeobotanical analysis become standard methods among archaeological projects in the steppe zone (Anthony et al. 2005). Yet, recent research using comprehensive flotation of soils from Bronze Age burials and settlements, such as Krasnosamarskoe in Russia's Samara Valley, illustrate that communities of the third to second millennia BC in the western forest-steppe region relied primarily on wild plants, rather than cultigens, to augment their pastoralist economies (Anthony et al. 2005). Likewise, only wild plants have been recorded from archaeobotanical studies of early third-millennium BC burial kurgans in the north Caspian steppe region (Shishlina et al. 2008). Although similar wild plant taxa were also prevalent in the phase la assemblages at Begash, the site provides a unique archaeological case for the use of domesticates among central Eurasian steppe pastoralists during the middle to late third millennium BC, especially in the eastern region.

The presence of both wheat and broomcorn millet at Begash highlights the challenges faced by researchers who seek to understand the role of pastoralists in the spread of crops across central Eurasia and the significance, if any, of crops in pastoralist economies at various places and times. At Begash, only two millet seeds were recovered from domestic hearths in phase 1a, while 26 millet seeds and five wheat/cereal specimens were recovered from the burial and associated funerary fire-pit. Given their overall low abundance across the site and increased concentration in ritual features, broomcorn millet and wheat do not appear to have been an everyday food source among pastoralists at this time. To the extent that Begash is representative of the earliest use of domesticated grains in the steppe region, broomcorn millet and wheat may have initially been sought by Eurasian pastoralists in this region as important ritual commodities for use in burial ceremonies during the late third millennium BC. Interment of wheat grains with the dead is further documented in later cemetery sites of the second millennium BC in Lop Nor (Xinjiang) (Flad et al. 2010). Meanwhile, the consumption or offering of other economically restricted resources, such as horses, has recently been documented through lipid analysis of ceramics from Late Bronze Age burials in the central steppe region (Outram et al. in press). These new data suggest that a complex array of ritual practices involving ideologically important commodities, such as domesticated grains and possibly horses, could have helped fuel the transmission of these innovations across Eurasia.

Given the isolation of Begash in relation to other known data, it is premature to specify the pathways or motivations that brought wheat and millet to these steppe pastoralists in the late third millennium BC. Several species of wheat--especially emmer and bread wheats--were widely grown in southern central Asia and along the piedmont of central Asian mountains by the third millennium BC (discussed above, also Moore et al. 1994). Begash's strategic location along a pass through the Dzhungar Mountains may have situated it along what Lu (quoted in Lawler 2009: 941) calls a 'wheat road'; part of a mountain corridor along which wheat (and other innovations) may have diffused into China in the third millennium BC. The small, roundish wheat grains from Begash conform to a morphotype some researchers have called 'Indian dwarf wheat' (T. aestivum ssp. sphaerococcum; Zohary & Hopf2000: 52), which is believed to have been common in the northern Indus Valley at the time in question (Weber 1991). Later wheat remains of the second millennium BC from western China share the plump, round morphology of the Begash wheats (Flad et al. 2010), suggesting that the central Asian mountains may have provided a key passage for wheat diffusion into western China in the Middle Bronze Age. Although this explanation provides a tantalising vector for regional interaction, complications in sub-specific identification and the need for more comparisons make direct regional associations premature at this time (cf. Fuller 2001).

How broomcorn millet spread into Kazakhstan is an even more difficult question given its earlier presence in both China and south-east Europe. Hunt et al. (2008) summarise the evidence for Old World millets predating 5000 BC, stressing the lack of unified identification criteria, wide regional gaps in archaeobotanical data, and the fact that the wild ancestor of P. miliaceum is not clearly identified. Due to broomcorn millet's short growing season (30-45 days), minimal sowing investment and low moisture requirements, it could have been produced on a small scale by dry-farmers and agro-pastoralists outside major agricultural areas, including rich ecological microenvironments of the Eurasian steppe. Recent reports from sites such as Yuezhuang and Xinglonggou (c. 6000 BC) show that broomcorn millet in China was grown effectively in elevated contexts as well as in river valleys, suggesting that--at least environmentally--upland valley/foothill settings like that around Begash could have supported limited millet cultivation (Zhao 2005; Crawford et al. 2006). However, there is little evidence to support this claim at present.


The archaeobotanical remains from Begash document a key node on the map of prehistoric economic transformation and significantly reorient our questions concerning the innovation of agricultural production and/or the diffusion of regional products along protracted networks of exchange, especially among pastoralists living throughout the steppes and mountains of central Eurasia. The current evidence is not indicative of an established productive agricultural economy at Begash in the mid to late third millennium BC, though more sites must be excavated and analysed. Instead, we propose that domesticated wheat and millet represent rare commodities in this region around 2200 BC, and that domesticated grains were a minor provision in what was predominantly a pastoralist economy at Begash (and regionally) well into the second millennium BC. The recovery of millet and wheat in burial and ritual contexts, rather than from domestic features (e.g. cooking hearths), suggest that domesticated plants held importance beyond subsistence in their earliest use by steppe pastoralists at Begash. A provocative synthesis of emerging facts about Bronze Age burial rituals among steppe communities suggests the possibility of broad ideological motivations behind the acquisition of grains for ritual consumption or veneration, perhaps to augment other consumptive offerings like horses. The nature of ritual exploitation of exotic, high-status, or scarce crops and animal resources is an exciting new direction for study in Eurasian archaeology, for which methods like archaeobotany and residue analysis are essential (cf. Outram et al. in press). By the middle of the first millennium BC, both wheat and millet production increasingly augmented the base economy for the region's pastoralists and fuelled clear changes in their social and political landscape (Chang et al. 2002).

In sum, Begash represents one of the earliest dated archaeological sites at the crossroads of western China, south-west Asia, and the Eurasian steppe and illustrates an early confluence of trajectories for diffusion of grain crops, such as wheat and broomcorn millet, during the late third millennium BC. The seed remains from Begash do not resolve questions concerning the earliest spread or regional domestications of wheat and broomcorn millet during the Neolithic. However, by extending the absolute chronology of domesticated plant use in central Eurasia more than 1500 years into the past, the archaeobotanical data from Begash significantly expand our geographic and chronological understanding of the diverse vectors of interaction, ritual exploitation, and diffusion among societies of eastern Asia, south and south-west Asia, and regions further west across the Eurasian landmass.


Funding for this research was provided by the National Science Foundation, grant # 0535341, the Mary MorrisStein Foundation, and by Washington University in St Louis. We are grateful to Dr Olga Pontes (Washington University in St Louis) for her help with seed imaging. Professors Gary Crawford and Philip Kohl contributed helpful comments and improvements to the final manuscript. Finally, we thank Professor Karl Baipakov, director of the Institute of Archaeology, Almaty Kazakhstan, for his support of continued international collaboration.

Received: 12 March 2010; Accepted: 16 May 2010; Revised: 28 May 2010


ANTHONY, D.W. 2007. The horse, the wheel, and language." how Bronze Age riders from the Eurasian steppes shaped the modern world. Princeton (NJ): Princeton University Press.

ANTHONY, D.W., D. BROWN, E. BROWN, A. GOODMAN, A. KOKHLOV, P. KOSINTSEV, P. KUZNETSOV & L. POPOVA. 2005. The Samara Valley Project: Late Bronze Age economy and ritual in the Russian steppes. Eurasia Antiqua 11 : 395-417.

AUSTIN, D.F. 2006. Fox-tail millets (Setaria: Poaceae)--abandoned food in two hemispheres. Economic Botany 60: 143-58.

BELLWOOD, P. 2005. First farmers: the origins of agricultural societies. Malden (MA): Blackwell.

CHANG, C., N. BENECKE, F.P. GRIGORIEV, A.M. ROSEN & P.A. TOURTELLOTTE. 2003. Iron Age society and chronology in south-east Kazakhstan. Antiquity 77: 298-312.

CHANG, C., P. TOURTELLOTTE, K.M. BAIPAKOV & F.P. GRIGORIEV. 2002. The evolution of steppe communities from Bronze Age through medieval periods in south-eastern Kazakhstan (Zhetysu). Sweet Briar (VA): Sweet Briar Press.

COLLEDGE, S., J. CONOLLY & S. SHENNAN. 2004. Archaeobotanical evidence for the spread of farming in the Eastern Mediterranean. Current Anthropology 45: S35-58.

COSTANTINI, L. 1981. Palaeothnobotany at Pirak: a contribution to the second millennium BC agriculture of the Sibi-Kacchi Plain, Pakistan, in H. Hartel (ed.) South Asian archaeology 1979:271-7. Berlin: Dietrich Reimer.

-- 1984. The beginning of agriculture in the Kachi Plain: the evidence from Mehrgarh, in B. Allchin (ed.) South Asian archaeology: 29-33. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

CRAWFORD, G.W. 1992. Prehistoric plant domestication in East Asia, in C.W. Cowan & P.J. Watson (ed.) The origins of agriculture: an international perspective: 7-38. Washington (DC): Smithsonian Institution.

-- 2009. Agricultural origins in North China pushed back to the Pleistocene-Holocene boundary. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 106: 7271-2.

CRAWFORD, G.W. & G.A. LEE. 2003. Agricultural origins in the Korean peninsula. Antiquity 77: 87-95.

CRAWFORD, G., A. UNDERHILL, ZH. ZHAO, G.A. LEE, G. FEINMAN, L. NICHOLAS, F. LUAN, H. YU, H. FANG & F. CAI. 2005. Late Neolithic plant remains from northern China: preliminary results from Liangchengzhen, Shandong. Current Anthropology 46: 309-327.

CRAWFORD, G.W., X. CHEN & J. WANG. 2006. Houli culture rice from the Yuezhuang site, Jinan. Dongfang Kapgu [East Asia Archaeology] 3:247-51.

FLAD, R., S. LI, X. Wu & ZH. ZHAO. 2010. Early wheat in China: results from new studies at Donghuishan in the Hexi Corridor. Holocene 17: 555-60.

FRACHETTI, M.D. 2008. Pastoralist landscapes and social interaction in Bronze Age Eurasia. Berkeley (CA): University of California Press.

FRACHETTI, M. & N. BENECKE. 2009. From sheep to (some) horses: 4500 years of herd structure at the pastoralist settlement of Begash (south-eastern Kazakhstan). Antiquity 83: 1023-37.

FRACHETTI, M.D. & A.N. MAR'YASHEV. 2007. Long-term occupation and seasonal settlement of eastern Eurasian pastoralists at Begash, Kazakhstan. Journal of Field Archaeology 32(3): 221-42.

FULLER, D.Q. 2001. Responses: Harappan seeds and agriculture: some considerations. Antiquity 75: 410-14.

-- 2006. A millet atlas: some identification guidance. Available at: (accessed 4 June 2010).

GADYUCHENKO, L.L. 2002. Organic remains from fortified settlements and necropoli of the 'Country of Towns' in K. Jones-Bley & D.G. Zdanovich (ed.) Regional specifics in light of global models BC complex societies of central Eurasia from the 3rd to the 1st millennium. Volume 2: the Iron Age; archaeoecology, geoarchaeology, and palaeogeography; beyond central Eurasia: 400-418. Washington (DC): Institute of Man.

HARRIS, D.R. & C. GOSDEN. 1996. The beginnings of agriculture in western central Asia, in Harris D.R. (ed.) The origins and spread of agriculture and pastoralism in Eurasia: 370-89. Washington (DC): Smithsonian Institution.

HUNT, H.V., M. VANDER LINDEN, X. LIU, G. MOTUZAITE-MATUZEVICIUTE, S. COLLEDGE & M.K. JONES. 2008. Millets across Eurasia: chronology and context of early records of the genera Panicum and Setaria from archaeological sites in the Old World. Vegetation History and Archaeobotany 17: S5-18.

HIEBERT, F.T. 2003. A central Asian village at the dawn of civilization, excavations at Anau, Turkmenistan. Philadelphia (PA): University of Pennsylvania Museum Press.

KUZ'MINA, E. 2007. The origin of the Indo-Iranians. Leiden: Brill.

LAWLER, A. 2009. Millet on the move. Science 325: 942-3.

LEBEDEVA, E. 2005. Archaeobotany and studies of Bronze Age agriculture in Eastern Europe. Opus: Mezhdistsiplinarnye Issledovaniya v Arkheoligii 4: 50-68 (in Russian).

LI, X., J. DODSON, X. ZHOU, H. ZHANG & R. MASUTOMOTO. 2007. Early cultivated wheat and broadening of agriculture in Neolithic China. Holocene 17: 555-60.

LISITSINA, G.N. 1984. The Caucasus: a centre of ancient farming in Eurasia, in W. van Zeist & W.A. Casparie (ed.) Plants and ancient man: 285-92. Rotterdam: Balkema.

LIU, X., H.V. HUNT, & M.K. JONES. 2009. River valleys and foothills: changing archaeological perceptions of North Chinas earliest farms. Antiquity 83: 82-95.

Lu, H., J. ZHANG, K. LIU, N. WU, Y. LI, ET AL. 2009. Earliest domestication of common millet (Panicum miliaceum) in East Asia extended to 10,000 years ago. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science of the United States of America 106: 7367-72.

MILLER, N.E 1999. Agricultural development in western central Asia in the Chalcolithic and Bronze Ages. Vegetation History and Archaeabotany 8: 13-19.

-- 2003. The use of plants at Anau North, in F. Hiebert & K. Kurbansakhatov (ed.) A central Asian village at the dawn of civilization, excavations at Anau, Turkmenistan: 127-38. Philadelphia (PA) : University of Pennsylvania Museum Press.

MOORE, K, N. MILLER, F. HIEBERT & R. MEADOW. 1994. Agriculture and herding in early oasis settlements of the Oxus civilization. Antiquity 68: 418-27.

OUTRAM, A.K., N.A. STEAR, A. KASPAROV, E. USMANOVA, V. VARFOLOMEEV & R.P. EVERSHED. In press. Horses for the dead: funerary foodways in Bronze Age Kazakhstan. Antiquity.

PASHKEVICH, G. 2003. Palaeoethnobotanical evidence of agriculture in the steppe and forest steppe of East Europe in the Late Neolithic and Bronze Age, in M. Levine, C. Renfrew & K. Boyle (ed.) Prehistoric steppe adaptation and the horse: 287-97. Cambridge: McDonald Institute of Archaeology.

PEARSALL, D.M. 2000. Paleoethnobotany: a handbook of procedures. San Diego (CA): Academic Press.

PRICE, T.D. 2000. Europe's first farmers. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

RAZZOKOV, A. 2008. Sarazm. Dushanbe: Institut istorii, arekheologii I emografiiim. A. Donnsha Akademii nauk Respubliki Tadzhikistan.

RENFREW, J.M. 1973. Palaeoethnobotany: the prehistoric food plants of the Near East and Europe. New York: Columbia University Press.

ROSEN, A.M., C. CHANG & F. P. GRIGORIEV. 2000. Paleoenvironments and economy of Iron Age Saka-Wusun agro-pastoralists in south-eastern Kazakhstan. Antiquity 74:611-23.

SHISHLINA, N.I., E.I. GAK & A.V. BORISOV. 2008. Nomadic sites of the South Yerugueni Hills on the Eurasian steppe: models of seasonal occupation and production, in H. Barnard & W. Wendrich (ed.) The archaeology of mobility: Old World and New World nomadism: 230-49. Los Angeles (CA): Cotsen Institute of Archaeology, University of California Los Angeles.

WEBER, S.A. 1991. Plants and Harappan subsistence: an example of stability and change from Rojdi. Boulder (CO): Westview Press.

WEISS, E., M.E. KISLEV & A. HARTMANN. 2006. Autonomous cultivation before domestication. Science 312: 1608-10.

WILLCOX, G. n.d. Unpublished Sarazm paleoethnobotanical report, Institut de Prehistoire Orientale, CNRS.

--1991. Carbonised plant remains from Shortuga'i, in J. Renfrew (ed.) New light on early farming. 139-54. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

--2005. The distribution, natural habits and availability of wild cereals in relation to their domestication in the Near East: multiple events, multiple centers. Vegetation History and Archaeobotany 14: 534-41.

Wu, Z., P. RAVEN & Missouri Botanical Gardens. 2006. Flora of China. St Louis (MO): Missouri Botanical Gardens.

ZHAO, ZH. 2005. Flotation results from the Xinglonggou site, North China and the problem of dryland agricultural origins. Antiquities of Eastern Asia A: 188-99.

ZOHARY, D. & M. HOPF. 2000. Domestication of plants in the Old WorM: the origin and spread of cultivated plants in west Asia, Europe and the Nile Valley. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Michael D. Frachetti (1) *, Robert N. Spengler (1), Gayle J. Fritz (1) & Alexei N. Mar'yashev (2)

(1) Department of Anthropology, Washington University in St Louis, 1 Brookings Drive-CB 1114, St Louis, MO 63130, USA

(2) Institute of Archaeology, 44 y. Dostyk, Almaty, 050010, Republic of Kazakhstan

* Author for correspondence (Email:
Table 1. Calibrated AMS chronology of seeds and organic samples
from phase la burial context at Begash.

 Sample # & Calendar age
 archaeological uncalibrated
Lab sample # context Material yrs BP

Beta-266458 FS47a Carbonised 3840 [+ or -] 40
 Burial cist millet and
 wheat grains

Beta-266459 FS476 Wood charcoal 3760 [+ or -] 40
 Burial cist

Beta-266460 FS50 Ritual Wood charcoal 3740 [+ or -] 40
 (lower level)

Beta-266457 FS44 Ritual Wood charcoal 3720 [+ or -] 40
 fire pit
 (upper level)

 Calibration 2-sigma
 intercept(s) calibrated
Lab sample # cal BC results: (95%
 prob.) cal BC

Beta-266458 2290 2460-2190

Beta-266459 2190 2290-2110
 2170 2100-2040

Beta-266460 2140 2280-2240

Beta-266457 2130 2260-2260

Table 2. Flotation samples from Begash with Panicum miliaceum.

Sample # (litres # of # of frag.
& age floated L) Total whole or puffed

FS2 AD Domestic 45 8 37
1220- hearth (6L)

FS6 390-50 Domestic 24 11 13
cal BC hearth

FS 19 1950- Domestic 1 1
1700 cal hearth (5L)

FS47 2460- Burial cist, 12 2 10
2040 cal ash from
BC human

FS44 2260- Funerary 10 4 6
2020 cal fire-pit
BC (upper

FS50 2280- Funerary 4 1 3
2030 cal fire-pit
BC (lower

FS48 2460- Domestic 1 1
1950 cal hearth
BC (3.OL)

FS45 2460- Domestic 1 1
1950 cal hearth
BC (3.1L)

 Measurements of whole seeds

Sample # Length Width Scutellum seed length
& age (mm) (mm) height (mm) ratio

FS2 AD (See Table 4 for measurements of later samples)

FS6 390-50
cal BC

FS 19 1950-
1700 cal

FS47 2460- 1.6 1.4 0.6 0.40
2040 cal 1.5 1.5 0.6 0.60

FS44 2260- 1.6 1.5 0.5 0.31
2020 cal 1.9 1.6 0.9 0.47
BC 2.2 2.1 1.1 0.50
 1.8 1.5 1.0 0.56

FS50 2280- 1.6 1.5 1.0 0.63
2030 cal

FS48 2460- 1.5 1.4 0.9 0.60
1950 cal

FS45 2460- 1.7 1.6 0.5 0.38
1950 cal

Table 3. Prevalent taxa recovered at Begash in Brone Age contexts
(2460-1000 cal BC).

 Wood Wood Triticum
Flotation Date range Vol. (>2.oomm) (>2.oomm) aestivum/
sample # cal BC litres Ct. Wt. turigidum

12 1625-1000 9.5 67 0.48
10 1950-1700 9 144 1.2
19 1950-1700 5 11 0.03
36 1950-1700 0.4 4 0.03
37 1950-1700 1 6 1.03
38 1950-1700 9 15 1.06
39 1950-1700 0.7 59 0.23
40 1950-1700 3.1 NC 13.55
41 1950-1700 0.85 4 0.02
43 1950-1700 1.8 19 0.08
42 2460-1950 6.2 688 7.13
44 2260-2020 9.5 NC 14.77
45 2460-1950 3.1 50 0.43
46 2450-1950 1.25 425 2.61
47 2460-2040 30.8 NC 16.59 1
48 2460-1950 3 256 2.02
49 2450-1950 9 NC 6.13
50 2280-2030 2 NC 9.23
 Totals 105.2 NC 76.62 1

Flotation Panicum Stipa Panicoid Chenopodium
sample # Cerealia miliaceum type type spp.

12 10 1 40
10 2 65
19 1 11 48
36 1
37 1
38 9 112
39 1 3
40 30 9
43 1 9
42 5
44 10 2 1 21
45 1 1 1 7
46 8 2
47 4 12 11 3 57
48 1 2 4
49 2 138
50 4 4 8
 4 29 92 9 529

 Malva sp.
Flotation Galium Hyoscyamus (c.f.
sample # Cheno-ams sp. niger sylvestris)

12 32 28 11 39
10 72 4 2 1
19 122 125
36 1 5
37 1
38 116 4 55
39 7
40 4
41 4 6 2
43 7 8 3
42 15 78
44 21 121 1
45 13 18 4
46 15
47 50 79 9
48 24 13 2
49 24 32
50 2 24 1
 514 560 91 40

Flotation Polygonum Tribulus
sample # Polygonaceae sp. Brassicaceae type

12 2 12 2 4
10 2
19 1
40 5
43 1
44 6
45 1
47 1
48 2
49 1
 2 32 2 4

Flotation Nepata Hypericum Lithospermum Asteraceae
sample # type sp. arvense type

12 2 4
10 1
19 34
38 1
40 1
43 2
44 1 1
47 1 1
48 6
50 2
 2 1 3 51

Flotation Unidentified Unidentifiable fibres
sample # seed seed frags. Awn (unidentifed)

12 9 85 1
10 58
19 6 116 5
36 1
37 1 1
38 16
39 3
40 1 17
43 11
42 8
44 41
45 2 14
46 6
47 1 49
48 34
49 2 1
50 11 3
 31 465 2 5

Table 4. Measurements of whole seeds of P. miliaceum from Begash,
post-1000 BC.

Sample # Length Width Scutellum Scutellum/
& age (mm) (mm) (mm) length ratio

FS2 AD 2.2 2.1 1.2 0.55
1220-1420 2.3 2.2 1.3 0.57
 2.1 2.0 0.9 0.43
 2.0 1.8 0.9 0.45
 2.3 2.2 1.0 0.43
 2.2 2.1 1.0 0.45
 2.0 1.8 0.9 0.45
 2.3 2.3 1.1 0.48

FS6 390-50 2.4 2.4 0.9 0.38
cal BC 2.3 2.3 0.7 0.30
 2.3 2.3 0.8 0.35
 2.4 2.3 1.0 0.42
 2.5 2.3 0.6 0.24
 2.0 1.9 0.7 0.35
 2.0 2.0 0.7 0.35
 1.9 2.0 1.0 0.53
 2.1 2.1 0.7 0.33
 2.2 2.0 0.6 0.27
 2.3 2.2 1.0 0.43
COPYRIGHT 2010 Antiquity Publications, Ltd.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2010 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:Research
Author:Frachetti, Michael D.; Spengler, Robert N.; Fritz, Gayle J.; Mar'yashev, Alexei N.
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:9KAZA
Date:Dec 1, 2010
Previous Article:Walls, ramps and pits: the construction of the Samar Desert kites, southern Negev, Israel.
Next Article:Co Loa: an investigation of Vietnam's ancient capital.

Terms of use | Copyright © 2017 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters