From ecological opportunism to multi-cropping: mapping food globalisation in prehistory

Xinyi Liu, Giedre Motuzaite Matuzeviciute, Harriet V. Hunt, Diane L. Lister, Ting An, Natalia Przelomska, Catherine J. Kneale, Zhijun Zhao, Martin K. Jones

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Many of today's major food crops are distributed worldwide. While much of this ‘food globalisation’ has resulted from modern trade networks, it has its roots in prehistory. In this paper, we examine cereal crops that moved long distances across the Old World between 5000 and 1500 BC. Drawing together recent archaeological evidence, we are now able to construct a new chronology and biogeography of prehistoric food globalisation. Here we rationalize the evidence for this process within three successive episodes: pre-5000 BC, between 5000 and 2500 BC, and between 2500 and 1500 BC. Each episode can be characterized by distinct biogeographical patterns, social drivers of the crop movements, and ecological constraints upon the crop plants. By 1500 BC, this process of food globalisation had brought together previously isolated agricultural systems, to constitute a new kind of agriculture in which the bringing together of local and exotic crops enables a new form of intensification.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)21-28
JournalQuaternary Science Reviews
Early online date3 Jan 2019
Publication statusPublished - 15 Feb 2019


  • anthropocene
  • paleogeography
  • global
  • archaeobotany
  • food globalisation in prehistory
  • millet
  • wheat and barley
  • rice
  • sorghum

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