Food globalisation in prehistory: The agrarian foundations of an interconnected continent

by Martin Jones

31 Aug 2016
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Full text of article posted to Journal of the British Academy, volume 4, pp. 73-87.

Authorship: Martin Jones with Harriet Hunt, Catherine Kneale, Emma Lightfoot, Diane Lister, Xinyi Liu, and Giedre Motuzaite-Matuzeviciute

Abstract: This article explores grain crop movement across prehistoric Eurasia. It draws on evidence from archaeobotany, stable isotope studies, and archaeogenetics to date and map the process of food globalisation, and relate it to human consumption, culinary practice and crop ecology. It reviews the findings of a project funded by the European Research Council, Food Globalization in Prehistory, placed in the context of the expansion of research across Eurasia over the last two decades. This major episode of food globalisation has discernible roots in the third millennium BC, which during the second millennium BC fully crystallises into a contiguous network following foothills and mountain corridors with the Himalayan uplift at its heart. We infer a significant bottom-up component to the establishment of this pattern, which serves as a prelude for the top-down valley-bottom agrarian systems that recur from the second millennium BC onwards.

Keywords: Panicum, Setaria, Triticum, Hordeum, Neolithic, Bronze Age, Asia

Elsley Zeitlyn Lecture on Chinese Archaeology and Culture, read 17 February 2015 (video recording)

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