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Snapshots in time: MicroCT scanning of pottery sherds determines early domestication of sorghum (Sorghum bicolor) in East Africa

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Fuller,  Dorian Q.
Archaeology, Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Max Planck Society;

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Citation

Barron, A., Fuller, D. Q., Stevens, C., Champion, L., Winchell, F., & Denham, T. (2020). Snapshots in time: MicroCT scanning of pottery sherds determines early domestication of sorghum (Sorghum bicolor) in East Africa. Journal of Archaeological Science, 123: 105259, pp. 1-10. doi:10.1016/j.jas.2020.105259.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0007-550A-F
Abstract
MicroCT visualisations of organic inclusions within pottery sherds from Khashm el Girba 23 (KG23), Sudan, reveal domesticated sorghum (Sorghum bicolor subsp. bicolor) at c. 3700–2900 BCE. The percentage of non-shattering spikelet bases was c. 73% of identifiable visualizations, with c. 27% representing wild types. These analyses demonstrate the domestication of sorghum is significantly earlier than suggested by previous archaeological research. These results also demonstrate that microCT scanning is a major qualitative and quantitative advance on pre-existing methods for the investigation of crop remains in pottery sherds, which hitherto have been reliant on surface impressions; it is non-destructive, provides higher resolution 3D imaging of organic inclusions, and enables greater archaeobotanical recovery of inclusions within a sherd. MicroCT analysis of ceramics, mudbrick and other building materials has considerable potential for improving the chronologies and resolution for the domestication of other cereals in the past.