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Human dispersal or environmental selection? Using genetics to decode diversity in millet landraces across Eurasia

Author(s): Natalia Przelomska ; James Cockram ; Harriet Hunt ; Martin Jones ; Frances Bligh

Year: 2015

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Eurasian millets (genera Panicum and Setaria) are amongst the world’s oldest cereal crops, with evidence of cultivation in China from 10,000 years cal BP. Archaeobotanical evidence also indicates the presence of domesticated millet in Europe as early as 7,000 years cal BP. New archaeological evidence coming to light suggests that these important staple food crops were part of a 'Trans-Eurasian exchange' during prehistory. Traditional cultivars, or 'landraces', of millet have been preserved in living seed collections from across their past cultivation ranges. Phenotypic analyses of these landraces have demonstrated high diversity in traits pertaining to plant architecture, grain quality and flowering time. Applying several different genetic techniques to DNA obtained from these landraces, we have been able to paint a picture of molecular diversity and population structuring across the millets’ geographic ranges.

Diversity in the environmentally significant adaptive trait of flowering time has a particularly interesting genetic basis in Setaria. This will be discussed in the context of human routes of migration and the effect that new climatic conditions would have exerted on the crop plant as it was transferred to different environments.

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Human dispersal or environmental selection? Using genetics to decode diversity in millet landraces across Eurasia. Natalia Przelomska, Harriet Hunt, James Cockram, Frances Bligh, Martin Jones. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 395869)


Genetics Millet

Arizona State University The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation National Science Foundation National Endowment for the Humanities Society for American Archaeology Archaeological Institute of America