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      Molecular and isotopic evidence for the processing of starchy plants in Early Neolithic pottery from China

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          Abstract

          Organic residue analysis of ancient ceramic vessels enables the investigation of natural resources that were used in daily cooking practices in different part of the world. Despite many methodological advances, the utilization of plants in pottery has been difficult to demonstrate chemically, hindering the study of their role in ancient society, a topic that is especially important to understanding early agricultural practices at the start of the Neolithic period. Here, we present the first lipid residue study on the Chinese Neolithic pottery dated to 5.0 k - 4.7 k cal BC from the Tianluoshan site, Zhejiang province, a key site with early evidence for rice domestication. Through the identification of novel molecular biomarkers and extensive stable isotope analysis, we suggest that the pottery in Tianluoshan were largely used for processing starchy plant foods. These results not only highlight the significance of starchy plants in Neolithic southern China but also show a clear difference with other contemporary sites in northern Eurasia, where pottery is clearly orientated to aquatic resource exploitation. These differences may be linked with the early development of rice agriculture in China compared to its much later adoption in adjacent northerly regions.

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          Most cited references 42

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          The domestication process and domestication rate in rice: spikelet bases from the Lower Yangtze.

          The process of rice domestication occurred in the Lower Yangtze region of Zhejiang, China, between 6900 and 6600 years ago. Archaeobotanical evidence from the site of Tianluoshan shows that the proportion of nonshattering domesticated rice (Oryza sativa) spikelet bases increased over this period from 27% to 39%. Over the same period, rice remains increased from 8% to 24% of all plant remains, which suggests an increased consumption relative to wild gathered foods. In addition, an assemblage of annual grasses, sedges, and other herbaceous plants indicates the presence of arable weeds, typical of cultivated rice, that also increased over this period.
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            Earliest date for milk use in the Near East and southeastern Europe linked to cattle herding.

            The domestication of cattle, sheep and goats had already taken place in the Near East by the eighth millennium bc. Although there would have been considerable economic and nutritional gains from using these animals for their milk and other products from living animals-that is, traction and wool-the first clear evidence for these appears much later, from the late fifth and fourth millennia bc. Hence, the timing and region in which milking was first practised remain unknown. Organic residues preserved in archaeological pottery have provided direct evidence for the use of milk in the fourth millennium in Britain, and in the sixth millennium in eastern Europe, based on the delta(13)C values of the major fatty acids of milk fat. Here we apply this approach to more than 2,200 pottery vessels from sites in the Near East and southeastern Europe dating from the fifth to the seventh millennia bc. We show that milk was in use by the seventh millennium; this is the earliest direct evidence to date. Milking was particularly important in northwestern Anatolia, pointing to regional differences linked with conditions more favourable to cattle compared to other regions, where sheep and goats were relatively common and milk use less important. The latter is supported by correlations between the fat type and animal bone evidence.
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              Processing of wild cereal grains in the Upper Palaeolithic revealed by starch grain analysis.

              Barley (Hordeum vulgare L.) and wheat (Triticum monococcum L. and Triticum turgidum L.) were among the principal 'founder crops' of southwest Asian agriculture. Two issues that were central to the cultural transition from foraging to food production are poorly understood. They are the dates at which human groups began to routinely exploit wild varieties of wheat and barley, and when foragers first utilized technologies to pound and grind the hard, fibrous seeds of these and other plants to turn them into easily digestible foodstuffs. Here we report the earliest direct evidence for human processing of grass seeds, including barley and possibly wheat, in the form of starch grains recovered from a ground stone artefact from the Upper Palaeolithic site of Ohalo II in Israel. Associated evidence for an oven-like hearth was also found at this site, suggesting that dough made from grain flour was baked. Our data indicate that routine processing of a selected group of wild cereals, combined with effective methods of cooking ground seeds, were practiced at least 12,000 years before their domestication in southwest Asia.
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                Author and article information

                Contributors
                shinya.shoda@york.ac.uk
                Journal
                Sci Rep
                Sci Rep
                Scientific Reports
                Nature Publishing Group UK (London )
                2045-2322
                19 November 2018
                19 November 2018
                2018
                : 8
                Affiliations
                [1 ]ISNI 0000 0004 1936 9668, GRID grid.5685.e, BioArCh, , University of York, Wentworth Way, ; Heslington York, YO10 5NG UK
                [2 ]ISNI 0000 0001 0618 9682, GRID grid.471847.9, Nara National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, Nijo 2-9-1, Nara, ; Nara, 630-8577 Japan
                [3 ]GRID grid.410812.e, Niigata Prefectural Museum of History, Sekihara 1, ; Nagaoka, Niigata 940-2035 Japan
                [4 ]Zhejiang Provincial Institute of Relics and Archaeology, 26 Jiashan Xincun, Juashan Road, Hangzhou, Zhejiang 310014 China
                [5 ]GRID grid.443190.b, Tohoku University of Art and Design, Kamisakurada 3-4-5, Yamagata, ; Yamagata, 990-9530 Japan
                [6 ]ISNI 0000 0001 0840 2678, GRID grid.222754.4, Korea University, 2511 Sechong-ro, ; Jochiweon-up, Sejong-si 339-700 South Korea
                [7 ]ISNI 0000 0001 2308 3329, GRID grid.9707.9, Kanazawa University, Kakuma, Kanazawa, Ishikawa, ; Ishikawa, 920-1192 Japan
                Article
                35227
                10.1038/s41598-018-35227-4
                6242940
                30451924
                © The Author(s) 2018

                Open Access This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article’s Creative Commons license and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/.

                Funding
                Funded by: FundRef https://doi.org/10.13039/501100001691, Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS);
                Award ID: 15H05969
                Award ID: 17H04777
                Award ID: 15H05969
                Award Recipient :
                Funded by: FundRef https://doi.org/10.13039/501100000781, EC | European Research Council (ERC);
                Award ID: FP7-PEOPLE-2013-IIF 624467: PONTE
                Award Recipient :
                Funded by: FundRef https://doi.org/10.13039/501100000267, Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC);
                Award ID: AH/L00691X/1
                Award ID: AH/L00691X/1
                Award Recipient :
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