Plant exploitation of the first farmers in Northwest China: Microbotanical evidence from Dadiwan
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North China is regarded as a center of domestication for broomcorn millet (Panicum miliaceum) and foxtail millet (Setaria italica ssp. italica). The Dadiwan site in the Wei River valley has revealed the earliest evidence of domesticated broomcorn millet in the region, dating to 7800–7300 cal BP. Previous research indicates that the site inhabitants practiced low-intensity millet farming, but archaeobotanical records of other plant remains are poor due to the lack of systematic flotation on site. This study aims to reconstruct the dietary spectrum of Dadiwan inhabitants by examining the starch granules preserved in pottery residues. The starch granules are identifiable as broomcorn and foxtail millets, Job's tears (Coix Lacryma-jobi), Triticeae, beans (Phaseoleae), acorns (Quercus sp.), lily (Lilium sp.), ginger (Zingiber sp.), lotus root (Nelumbo nucifera), and yam. Notably, the finding of ginger represents the world's earliest known use of this food spice. Our results suggest that early farmers in Northwest China utilized a broad range of wild and domesticated plants, including cereals, nuts, legumes, and underground storage organs. The study supports the scenario that farming communities were first established in resource-rich environments.