Vegetation History and Archaeobotany

, Volume 21, Issue 1, pp 69–77 | Cite as

Experimental approaches to understanding variation in grain size in Panicum miliaceum (broomcorn millet) and its relevance for interpreting archaeobotanical assemblages

  • Giedre Motuzaite-MatuzeviciuteEmail author
  • Harriet V. Hunt
  • Martin K. Jones
Original Article


The dimensions of archaeobotanical grains identified as Panicum miliaceum (broomcorn millet) vary greatly in size. This is illustrated by the remains from the archaeological site of Zanovskoe in eastern Ukraine (5th–1st centuries cal. b.c.). We carried out experimental work on broomcorn millet plants and grains, aiming at a comprehensive understanding of factors that may have contributed to variation in the grain size of broomcorn millet in archaeobotanical assemblages. We analyzed the dependence of grain size variation on selected environmental and taphonomic factors. Our results indicate that immaturity is more likely than environmental stress to account for small grain size in broomcorn millet plants. Depending on charring temperature and time, immature broomcorn millet grains can withstand charring and are potentially preserved in archaeological assemblages. Depending on maturity level, such grains vary in size and shape. These results are potentially important for accurate identification of archaeobotanical specimens.


Panicum miliaceum Grain size variation Grain immaturity 



This study was supported by the Gates Foundation and the Arts and Humanities Research Council. We are grateful to Sergey Telizhenko from the Institute of Archaeology in Crimea (Ukraine) for allowing access to sample archaeobotanical remains from the Zanovskoe archaeological site. We are grateful to Peter Michna and colleagues at the Cambridge University Botanical Gardens for providing experimental facilities and caring for plants.

Supplementary material

334_2011_322_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (542 kb)
Online Resource 1 Drawings of Panicum miliaceum panicles MIL-44 and MIL-66, showing the distribution of grain/scutellum size variation within each panicle (PDF 543 kb)
334_2011_322_MOESM2_ESM.doc (25 kb)
Online Resource 2 Data of all grain on panicle measurements from two broomcorn millet accessions (MIL-44 and MIL-66) (DOC 25 kb)
334_2011_322_MOESM3_ESM.doc (32 kb)
Online Resource 3 Measurements of broomcorn millet grains harvested at different stages after anthesis and exposed to different temperatures (DOC 32 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Giedre Motuzaite-Matuzeviciute
    • 1
    Email author
  • Harriet V. Hunt
    • 1
  • Martin K. Jones
    • 2
  1. 1.McDonald Institute for Archaeological ResearchUniversity of CambridgeCambridgeUK
  2. 2.Department of ArchaeologyUniversity of CambridgeCambridgeUK

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