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