New AMS 14C dates track the arrival and spread of broomcorn millet cultivation and agricultural change in prehistoric Europe

Dragana Filipović*, John Meadows*, Marta Dal Corso, Wiebke Kirleis, Almuth Alsleben, Örni Akeret, Felix Bittmann, Giovanna Bosi, Beatrice Ciută, Dagmar Dreslerová, Henrike Effenberger, Ferenc Gyulai, Andreas G. Heiss, Monika Hellmund, Susanne Jahns, Thorsten Jakobitsch, Magda Kapcia, Stefanie Klooß, Marianne Kohler-Schneider, Helmut KrollPrzemysław Makarowicz, Elena Marinova, Tanja Märkle, Aleksandar Medović, Anna Maria Mercuri, Aldona Mueller-Bieniek, Renato Nisbet, Galina Pashkevich, Renata Perego, Petr Pokorný, Łukasz Pospieszny, Marcin Przybyła, Kelly Reed, Joanna Rennwanz, Hans Peter Stika, Astrid Stobbe, Tjaša Tolar, Krystyna Wasylikowa, Julian Wiethold, Tanja Zerl

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

70 Citations (Scopus)
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Broomcorn millet (Panicum miliaceum L.) is not one of the founder crops domesticated in Southwest Asia in the early Holocene, but was domesticated in northeast China by 6000 BC. In Europe, millet was reported in Early Neolithic contexts formed by 6000 BC, but recent radiocarbon dating of a dozen 'early' grains cast doubt on these claims. Archaeobotanical evidence reveals that millet was common in Europe from the 2nd millennium BC, when major societal and economic transformations took place in the Bronze Age. We conducted an extensive programme of AMS-dating of charred broomcorn millet grains from 75 prehistoric sites in Europe. Our Bayesian model reveals that millet cultivation began in Europe at the earliest during the sixteenth century BC, and spread rapidly during the fifteenth/fourteenth centuries BC. Broomcorn millet succeeds in exceptionally wide range of growing conditions and completes its lifecycle in less than three summer months. Offering an additional harvest and thus surplus food/fodder, it likely was a transformative innovation in European prehistoric agriculture previously based mainly on (winter) cropping of wheat and barley. We provide a new, high-resolution chronological framework for this key agricultural development that likely contributed to far-reaching changes in lifestyle in late 2nd millennium BC Europe.

Original languageEnglish
Article number13698 (2020)
Number of pages18
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 13 Aug 2020


  • Environmental social sciences
  • Plant sciences


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