Archaeobotanical data from Central Eurasian pastoralist campsites have major implications for our understanding of late prehistoric agriculture across Asia. Sites like Tasbas and Begash illustrate the earliest acquisition of domesticated crops by mobile pastoralists and illustrate their capacity to participate in exchanges that bridged East Asian and Central Asian farming cultures by the early third millennium BC. Mobile pastoralists living in (southern) Central Asian alluvial fans and along the mountainous spine of Central Eurasia also integrated farming into their own domestic strategies (at least) by the mid second millenniumBC. Their pastoral mobility and the formation of extensive networks throughout the IAMC helped spread particular grain morphotypes and a mixed plant cohort of wheat, barley, millet and green peas through the mountains between Xinjiang, China and southwest Asia in the second millennium BC. The seasonal campsites of Begash, Tasbas, Ojakly and Site 1211/1219 are the earliest sites thus far reported to break down the strict polarization between nomads and farmers in prehistoric Central Eurasia. They also transform our comprehension of the vast arena of interaction that defines this region in ancient times.Related:
- Frachetti on the multiregional emergence of mobile pastoralism
- Horse not important for the emergence of steppe pastoralism
- Michael Frachetti on the Inner Asian Mountain Corridor
Early agriculture and crop transmission among Bronze Age mobile pastoralists of Central Eurasia
Robert Spengler et al.
Archaeological research in Central Eurasia is exposing unprecedented scales of trans-regional interaction and technology transfer between East Asia and southwest Asia deep into the prehistoric past. This article presents a new archaeobotanical analysis from pastoralist campsites in the mountain and desert regions of Central Eurasia that documents the oldest known evidence for domesticated grains and farming among seasonally mobile herders. Carbonized grains from the sites of Tasbas and Begash illustrate the first transmission of southwest Asian and East Asian domesticated grains into the mountains of Inner Asia in the early third millennium BC. By the middle second millennium BC, seasonal camps in the mountains and deserts illustrate that Eurasian herders incorporated the cultivation of millet, wheat, barley and legumes into their subsistence strategy. These findings push back the chronology for domesticated plant use among Central Eurasian pastoralists by approximately 2000 years. Given the geography, chronology and seed morphology of these data, we argue that mobile pastoralists were key agents in the spread of crop repertoires and the transformation of agricultural economies across Asia from the third to the second millennium BC.