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Agricultural origins and the isotopic identity of domestication in northern China

By Loukas Barton, Seth D. Newsome, Fa-Hu Chen, Hui Wang, Thomas P. Guilderson and Robert L. Bettinger


Stable isotope biochemistry (δ13C and δ15N) and radiocarbon dating of ancient human and animal bone document 2 distinct phases of plant and animal domestication at the Dadiwan site in northwest China. The first was brief and nonintensive: at various times between 7900 and 7200 calendar years before present (calBP) people harvested and stored enough broomcorn millet (Panicum miliaceum) to provision themselves and their hunting dogs (Canis sp.) throughout the year. The second, much more intensive phase was in place by 5900 calBP: during this time both broomcorn and foxtail (Setaria viridis spp. italica) millets were cultivated and made significant contributions to the diets of people, dogs, and pigs (Sus sp.). The systems represented in both phases developed elsewhere: the earlier, low-intensity domestic relationship emerged with hunter–gatherers in the arid north, while the more intensive, later one evolved further east and arrived at Dadiwan with the Yangshao Neolithic. The stable isotope methodology used here is probably the best means of detecting the symbiotic human–plant–animal linkages that develop during the very earliest phases of domestication and is thus applicable to the areas where these connections first emerged and are critical to explaining how and why agriculture began in East Asia

Topics: Social Sciences
Publisher: National Academy of Sciences
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Provided by: PubMed Central
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