A model for the domestication of Panicum miliaceum (common, proso or broomcorn millet) in China

Chris J. Stevens, Gideon Shelach-Lavi, Hai Zhang, Mingyu Teng, Dorian Q. Fuller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper outlines a model for the domestication of Panicum miliaceum (broomcorn millet) in Northern China. Data from 43 archaeological sites indicate a continuous increase in average grain size between 6000 and 3300 bc. After this date there is a divergence, with grain size continuing to increase in some populations, while others show no further size increase. The initial increase in grain size is attributed to selection during domestication, while later divergence after 3300 bc is interpreted as resulting from post-domestication selection. Measurements of grains from two archaeological populations of P. ruderale, showed grains were longer in length by 3300 bc than the earliest grains of P. miliaceum. This suggests this sub-species includes many feral, weedy and/or introgressed forms of P. miliaceum and therefore is probably not entirely representative of the true wild ancestor. It is argued that changes from shattering to non-shattering are contemporary with increasing grain size and the commencement of cultivation. The window of P. miliaceum domestication is therefore likely to lie between 7000 and 3300 bc. However, it is probable that a lengthy period of millet harvesting and small-scale management preceded its domestication.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)21-33
Number of pages13
JournalVegetation History and Archaeobotany
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2021


  • Cultivation
  • Grain size
  • Neolithic
  • Origins of agriculture
  • Palaeoethnobotany
  • Shattering

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Archaeology
  • Plant Science
  • Palaeontology


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