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The transition to a barley-dominant cultivation system in Tibet: First millennium BC archaeobotanical evidence from Bangga

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Tang,  Li
Archaeology, Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Max Planck Society;

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Boivin,  Nicole
Archaeology, Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Max Planck Society;

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Spengler,  Robert N.
Archaeology, Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Max Planck Society;

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Citation

Tang, L., Lu, H., Song, J., Wangdue, S., Chen, X., Zhang, Z., et al. (2021). The transition to a barley-dominant cultivation system in Tibet: First millennium BC archaeobotanical evidence from Bangga. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology, 61: 101242. doi:10.1016/j.jaa.2020.101242.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0007-8297-B
Abstract
Historically, agricultural and culinary traditions on the Tibetan Plateau have centered on a specific variety of naked frost-tolerant barley. Single-crop-dominant cultivation systems were rare in the ancient world, and we know little about how, why, and exactly when and where this unique barley-dominant economy developed. Previous research has shown that early cultivation systems in Tibet relied on a mix of barley, wheat, and millets, and that a barley-dominant economy first formed around two millennia ago. However, systematically collected data from the transition period between a mixed-cropping and a barley-dominant system have been lacking. We present new archaeobotanical data from the Bangga site (ca. 1055-211BC) in central Tibet, and compare it with a growing corpus of data from other archaeological sites at high elevations across the plateau. We argue that a specialized barley-dominant farming system started to develop, due to a combination of ecological and social factors, at least a millennia earlier than previously recognized in central Tibet and this was eventually adopted across a large geographic area in high-altitude regions (3500 masl) of Tibet.