Vegetation History and Archaeobotany

, Volume 24, Issue 1, pp 165–177 | Cite as

Archaeobotanical evidence of plant utilization in the ancient Turpan of Xinjiang, China: a case study at the Shengjindian cemetery

  • Hongen Jiang
  • Yongbing Zhang
  • Enguo Lü
  • Changsui Wang
Original Article


The Shengjindian cemeteries, Xinjiang, China, were discovered during the construction of a road in 2007, following which a salvage archaeological excavation was performed. Systemic archaeobotanical studies were applied to the plant remains, which were radiocarbon dated to 2,400–2,000 bp (about 500 bc–1 bc/ad). Altogether 33 taxa were identified. Five species of cereal remains were discovered, viz. Triticum aestivum, Panicum miliaceum, Hordeum vulgare, H. vulgare var. coeleste, as well as Setaria italica. The extent of the finds suggested that all of them were cultivated locally at that time. There were 38 fragments of grape seeds discovered within three tombs, which suggested occasional fruit cultivation by the indigenous people. Wild plants like reed and bulrush were also utilized by the ancient people in mat and thread making. The seed of Capparis spinosa may have been utilized for its medicinal and/or oil value. All of the above suggested that plants played important roles in the daily life of the ancient people buried in the Shengjindian cemetery.


Ancient agriculture Central Asia Grape cultivation Plant utilization Subeixi culture 



We thank Josh Rizak for English correction. We thank Prof. Gelin Chu for his identification of the nutlet of Lindelofia stylosa. This study was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (41102114), the ‘‘Strategic Priority Research Program–Climate Change: Carbon Budget and Relevant Issues’’ of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (Grant No. XDA05130501), as well as the Gerda Henkel Foundation Scholarship (AZ 05/ZA/12).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hongen Jiang
    • 1
    • 2
  • Yongbing Zhang
    • 3
  • Enguo Lü
    • 4
  • Changsui Wang
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Key Laboratory of Vertebrate Evolution and Human Origins of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and PaleoanthropologyChinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  2. 2.Department of Scientific History and ArchaeometryUniversity of Chinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  3. 3.Turpania AcademiaTurpanChina
  4. 4.Xinjiang Institute of ArchaeologyÜrūmchiChina

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