Fruit from the Sands: The Silk Road Origins of the Foods We Eat



Fruit from the SandsSpengler, Robert N., III (2019) Fruit from the Sands: The Silk Road Origins of the Foods We Eat, University of California Press: Berkeley.

The foods we eat have a deep and often surprising past. From almonds and apples to tea and rice, many foods that we consume today have histories that can be traced out of prehistoric Central Asia along the tracks of the Silk Road to kitchens in Europe, America, China, and elsewhere in East Asia. Continue reading

Fruits of the Silk Roads


Spengler, Robert N. III (2019) Fruits of the Silk Roads, In Silk Roads: Peoples, Cultures, Landscapes Susan Whitfield (Ed.) Thames and Hudson: London.

As world powers realign their cultural, economic and political outlooks, there is no better time to consider how Afro-Eurasia’s complex network of ancient trade routes – which spanned the vastness of the steppe, vertiginous mountain ranges, fertile river plains and forbidding deserts across the continents and on to the seas beyond – fostered economic activity and cultural, political and technological communication. From silk to slaves, fashion to music, religion to science the movement of interaction of goods, people and ideas was crucial to the flourishing of peoples and their cultures across this vast region. Continue reading

Archaeological assessment reveals Earth’s early transformation through land use


Stephens, L. D. Fuller, N. Boivin, T. Rick, N. Gauthier, A. Kay, B. Marwick, C. Geralda, D. Armstrong, C. M. Barton, T. Denham, K. Douglass, J. Driver, L. Janz, P. Roberts, J. D. Rogers, H. Thakar, M. Altaweel, A. L. Johnson, M. M. Sampietro Vattuone, M. Aldenderfer, S. Archila, G. Artioli, M. T. Bale, T. Beach, F. Borrell, T. Braje, P. I. Buckland, N. G. Jiménez Cano, J. M. Capriles, A. Diez Castillo, Ç. Çilingiroğlu, M. Negus Cleary, J. Conolly, P. R. Coutros, R. A. Covey, M. Cremaschi, A. Crowther, L. Der, S. di Lernia, J. F. Doershuk, W. E. Doolittle, K. J. Edwards, J. M. Erlandson, D. Evans, A. Fairbairn, P. Faulkner, G. Feinman, R. Fernandes, S. M. Fitzpatrick, R. Fyfe, E. Garcea, S. Goldstein, R. Goodman, J. Dalpoim Guedes, J. Herrmann, P. Hiscock, P. Hommel, K. A. Horsburgh, C. Hritz, J. W. Ives, A. Junno, J. G. Kahn, B. Kaufman, C. Kearns, T. R. Kidder, F. Lanoë, D. Lawrence, G. Lee, Maureece J. Levin, H. B. Lindskoug, J. A. López-Sáez, S. Macrae, R. Marchant, J. M. Marston, S. McClure, M. D. McCoy, A. Ventresca Miller, M. Morrison, G. Motuzaite Matuzeviciute, J. Müller, A. Nayak, S. Noerwidi, T. M. Peres, C. E. Peterson, L. Proctor, A. Randall, S. Renette, G. Robbins Schug, K. Ryzewski, R. Saini, V. Scheinsohn, P. Schmidt, P. Sebillaud, O. Seitsonen, I. A. Simpson, A. Sołtysiak, R. J. Speakman, R. N. Spengler, M. L. Steffen, M. J. Storozum, K. M. Strickland, J. Thompson, T. L. Thurston, S. Ulm, M. C. Ustunkaya, M. H. Welker, C. West, P. R. Williams, D. K. Wright, N. Wright, M. Zahir, A. Zerboni, E. Beaudoin, S. Munevar Garcia, J. Powell, A. Thornton, J. O. Kaplan, M. J. Gaillard, K. K.Goldewijk, E. Ellis. “Archaeological assessment reveals Earth’s early transformation through land use.” Science Vol. 365, Issue 6456, pp. 897-902.

Humans began to leave lasting impacts on Earth’s surface starting 10,000 to 8000 years ago. Through a synthetic collaboration with archaeologists around the globe, Stephens et al. compiled a comprehensive picture of the trajectory of human land use worldwide during the Holocene (see the Perspective by Roberts). Hunter-gatherers, farmers, and pastoralists transformed the face of Earth earlier and to a greater extent than has been widely appreciated, a transformation that was essentially global by 3000 years before the present.


Grazing Animals Drove Domestication in Grain Crops


Spengler, Robert N., III and Natalie Mueller (2019) Grazing Animals Drove Domestication in Grain Crops. Nature Plants. 5: 656–662.

In addition to large-seeded cereals, humans around the world during the mid-Holocene started to cultivate small-seeded species of herbaceous annuals for grain, including quinoa, amaranth, buckwheat, the millets and several lost crops domesticated in North America. Continue reading

Bronze and Iron Age urbanization in Turkmenistan: Preliminary results from the excavation of Togolok 1 on the Murghab alluvial fan


Cerasetti, Barbara, Roberto Arciero, Marialetizia Carra, Antonio Curci, Jacopo De Grossi Mazzorin, Luca Forni, Elise Luneau, Lynne M. Rouse, and Robert N. Spengler III (2019) Bronze and Iron Age urbanization in Turkmenistan: Preliminary results from the excavation of Togolok 1 on the Murghab alluvial fan. In: Christoph Baumer and Mirko Novak (Eds.) Urban Cultures of Central Asia from the Bronze Age to the Karakhanids: Learnings and conclusions from new archaeological investigations and discoveries. Proceedings of the First International Congress on Central Asian Archaeology held at the University of Bern, 4-6 February 2016. pp. 63-72 Harressowitz Verdog: Bern, Switzerland.

Click here for the book’s complete table of contents

Click here for the book chapter

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The origins of cannabis smoking: Chemical residue evidence from the first millennium BCE in the Pamirs


Science AdvancesRen, Meng, Zihua Tang, Xinhua Wu, Robert N. Spengler III, Hongen Jiang, Yimin Yang, and Nicole Boivin (2019) The origins of cannabis smoking: Chemical residue evidence from the first millennium BCE in the Pamirs. Science Advances. 5(6): eaaw1391.

Available open access

Cannabis is one of the oldest cultivated plants in East Asia Continue reading