In the search of first millet-eaters: tracking changes in Bronze Age diets by combining stable isotope analyses and high-resolution radiocarbon dating - Dr Lukasz Pospieszny
Dr Lukasz Pospieszny, University of Bristol
In the search of first millet-eaters: tracking changes in Bronze Age diets by combining stable isotope analyses and high-resolution radiocarbon dating
Recent years have witnessed a growing interest of archaeologists and palaeobotanists in millet species, their domestication and spread across the Old World. Broomcorn millet (Panicum miliaceum) is especially intriguing as direct radiocarbon dating of its charred grains has first questioned its long-assumed presence in Europe since the Early Neolithic, and next moved its arrival into the Bronze Age.
Millet was the only C4 plant cultivated in prehistoric Europe. Such plants are typical for dry and arid climates, and exhibit elevated carbon isotope ratios (δ13C) in their tissues. Such a clear isotopic signature is transferred in the bodies of its consumers. This allows for application of combined radiocarbon dating and stable isotope analyses of bone collagen to trace the appearance of millet in human diets, to estimate its contribution to daily consumption and its changes over time.
In this seminar the new isotopic evidence (δ13C, δ15N) for earliest consumption of millet in East-Central Europe will be presented. Moreover, the possible routes and pace of its spread will be discussed, basing on large sets of AMS 14C dates received recently for both charred millet grains and isotopically-analysed skeletal remains of millet-eaters. Finally, possible reason of millet’s success will be addressed, as well as its impact on development of Bronze Age societies.