Original Article

Vegetation History and Archaeobotany

, Volume 22, Issue 2, pp 129-140

Ancient plant use at the site of Yuergou, Xinjiang, China: implications from desiccated and charred plant remains

  • Hongen JiangAffiliated withDepartment of Scientific History and Archaeometry, Graduate University of Chinese Academy of SciencesThe Lab of Human Evolution, Institute of Vertebrate Palaeontology and Palaeoanthropology, Chinese Academy of Sciences
  • , Yong WuAffiliated withXinjiang Institute of Archaeology, Urumchi
  • , Huanhuan WangAffiliated withDepartment of Scientific History and Archaeometry, Graduate University of Chinese Academy of SciencesThe Lab of Human Evolution, Institute of Vertebrate Palaeontology and Palaeoanthropology, Chinese Academy of Sciences
  • , David K. FergusonAffiliated withInstitute of Palaeontology, University of Vienna
  • , Cheng-Sen LiAffiliated withState Key Laboratory of Systematic and Evolutionary Botany, Institute of Botany, Chinese Academy of Sciences Email author 

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Abstract

Archaeobotanical studies were undertaken at the Yuergou site, which is located in the Turpan basin in Xinjiang, China, and which has been dated to around 2300–2400 years b.p. Altogether 21 taxa were identified. Four cereal remains were identified, Triticum aestivum, Hordeum vulgare var. coeleste, Panicum miliaceum and Setaria italica. The first three were probably cultivated while the last one may not have been grown deliberately, but probably grew together with plants of P. miliaceum. A fruit stone of Ziziphus jujuba (Chinese date) was discovered, which showed that this may have been cultivated around the site during that time. Charcoal of Picea sp. was found, from wood which must have been used as fuel by the indigenous people. Fifteen taxa of wild plants were also identified, most of which can be considered as weeds, and which grew near the site. Burs of Xanthium strumarium were discovered. As nearly all of them were broken, the seeds may have been used by the ancient inhabitants. Since most of the cereal remains consisted of chaff, they must represent by-products. Furthermore, grains of Echinochloa crus-galli may also have been exploited as complementary food resources. All the above indicate that both cultivated and wild plants were used for cereals, fuel, or other purposes, and plant resources played important roles in the daily life of the ancient inhabitants of the Yuergou site.

Keywords

Ancient agriculture Central Asia Cereals Millet Wood charcoal Crop processing