Speedy acceptance of overseas meals custom in Bronze Age Europe

Rapid acceptance of foreign food tradition in Bronze Age Europe

Not simply metals, hierarchical societies and fortified settlements: a brand new meals additionally influenced financial transformations within the Bronze Age round 3,500 years in the past. That is evidenced by frequent archeological discoveries of stays of broomcorn millet (Panicum miliaceum L.), a cereal with small, roundish grains. A serious research by the Collaborative Analysis Heart 1266 at Kiel College (CAU) was revealed this week within the journal Scientific Studies. It reveals how frequent millet bought onto the menu in Bronze Age Europe. Intensive commerce and communication networks facilitated the extremely fast unfold of this new crop originating from the Far East.

Rapid acceptance of foreign food tradition in Bronze Age Europe
Widespread millet Panicum miliaceum within the open air museum Archäologisch-Ökologisches
Zentrum Albersdorf (AÖZA), northern Germany [Credit: Wiebke Kirleis, UFG Kiel]

“Wheat, maize and rice now dominate our cereal farming. Millet is considered a distinct segment crop appropriate primarily for birdseed,” defined Professor Wiebke Kirleis from CRC 1266. As this cereal is as soon as extra experiencing rising consideration as a gluten-free meals, nevertheless, it makes the outcomes of the research much more thrilling, she added.

Millet was domesticated in north-east China in about 6000 BC and rapidly turned a staple crop. It’s a drought-tolerant, fast-growing cereal that’s wealthy in minerals and nutritional vitamins. With a rising time of simply 60 to 90 days from sowing to reap, it was grown by each farmers and pastoralists, and was consumed by each people and home animals. Over hundreds of years, pastoral teams unfold millet westward from East Asia. The earliest millet in Central Asia comes from archeological websites in Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and the Kashmir Valley, and is dated to about 2500 BC.

“In Europe, curiously, broomcorn millet has been discovered at many Neolithic websites, which date from between 6500 and 2000 BC, relying on the area,” mentioned Kirleis. Is it potential that millet was domesticated in China at across the identical time? Wheat, barley and our home animals had been solely launched to Europe hundreds of years after they had been domesticated within the “Fertile Crescent”—a area extending from the Persian Gulf via northern Syria to Jordan. Was there a particular relationship with China? Doubts about this speculation arose following the radiocarbon-dating (14C) of some grains of millet in 2013. These tiny grains had infiltrated older archeological layers via root channels and earthworm exercise. When millet first appeared and was cultivated in Europe remained unknown.

Rapid acceptance of foreign food tradition in Bronze Age Europe
Wiebke Kirleis harvesting frequent millet Panicum miliaceum within the open air museum Archäologisch-Ökologisches
Zentrum Albersdorf (AÖZA), northern Germany [Credit: Angelika Hoffmann, UFG Kiel]

A bunch of researchers on the Collaborative Analysis Heart “Scales of Transformation” (CRC 1266), led by Wiebke Kirleis, got down to reply this query. They researched not solely the unfold of millet cultivation in Europe, but in addition centered their consideration on the prehistoric inhabitants’s acceptance of this unique cereal and examined which agricultural and social phenomena had been related to this innovation.


As millet ripens inside three months after sowing, it may be grown as a catch crop between the summer time harvest and winter sowing of wheat or barley in central and southern Europe. Additional north, it in all probability served as a reserve crop if late frost had destroyed spring-sown crops. Surplus grain from the additional harvest elevated meals safety and supported a steadily rising inhabitants.

Working with nearly thirty analysis establishments throughout Europe, the archaeobotanists Dragana Filipović and Marta Dal Corso from the crew led by Wiebke Kirleis, along with John Meadows from the Leibniz Laboratory for Radiometric Relationship and Steady Isotope Analysis at Kiel College and the Heart for Baltic and Scandinavian Archeology (ZBSA) in Schleswig, radiocarbon-dated millet from 75 prehistoric websites (Sixth-1st century BC).

Rapid acceptance of foreign food tradition in Bronze Age Europe
Spreading like wildfire: earliest finds and unfold of frequent millet in Europe
[Credit: Carsten Reckweg, Janine Cordts & Dragana Filipović, UFG Kiel]

The outcomes present that millet cultivation didn’t start within the Early Stone Age, however was first launched round 1500 BC, and that the brand new crop unfold extremely quickly throughout a lot of Central Europe 3500 years in the past. “This means that there have been intensive commerce and communication networks through the Bronze Age. However the research additionally reveals that millet was rapidly and well known as a flexible addition to the then emmer- and barley-dominated delicacies,” concluded Kirleis.

Millet evidently unfold alongside established commerce routes for bronze objects (together with weapons), gold and amber. These transformation processes of meals methods and their social dimensions are a key challenge for CRC 1266. Future analysis in CRC 1266 will look at what social dynamics had been related to the introduction of this new meals on this distinct interval of upheaval in European prehistory, because the extremely productive and related world of Bronze Age Europe was additionally a stage for battle. Proof of battles and quite a few fortifications are testimony of this.

Creator: Claudia Eulitz | Supply: Kiel College [August 15, 2020]

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