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The trans-Eurasian crop exchange in prehistory: Discerning pathways from barley phylogeography

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Jones, H 
Lister, DL 
Cai, D 
Kneale, CJ 
Cockram, J 


A number of crops that are of global importance today, including wheat (Triticum spp) and barley (Hordeum vulgare), were domesticated in Southwest Asia between 10,000 and 11,000 years ago and subsequently spread through the Old World, into Europe, North Africa and eastwards across Eurasia. Their routes of expansion have been a focus of debate and are increasingly being revealed by widespread dating of archaeobotanical remains from across Eurasia. Of particular interest is work by Zhao (2009) who proposed three routes for the spread of wheat into China: firstly, across the Eurasian Steppe, second by sea from India to the east coast of Eurasia and third, along the Hexi Corridor, which forms part of the Silk Road in western China. Molecular genetic analysis of cereal landraces have also elucidated routes of expansion of cereal cultivation and, in addition, have revealed how crops adapted to changing environments as they moved away from their centres of domestication. Genes involved in flowering time genes have been a particular focus of these studies, including the photoperiod response gene Ppd-H1 in barley, which controls flowering in response to increasing day-lengths in the spring. In this paper we present a phylogeographic analysis of Old World landrace and wild barley, through the analysis of a portion of the Ppd-H1 DNA sequence. We discuss the geographic distribution of different haplotypes of this gene across Eurasia in the light of Zhao (2009)'s three routes and what it potentially reveals about trans-Eurasian pathways of contact between early farming communities.



barley, flowering time, photoperiod response, domestication, agricultural spread, phylogeography

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Quaternary International

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European Research Council (249642)
European Research Council (230561)
This research was conducted under the auspices of the ‘Food Globalization in Prehistory’ (FOGLIP, ERC grant number 249642) and ‘Origins and Spread of Agriculture in the South West Mediterranean Region’ (AgriWestMed, ERC Grant Number 230561) research projects, both funded by the European Research Council.