Zhou, Xinying, Jianjun Yu, Robert Nicholas Spengler, Hui Shen, Keliang Zhao, Junyi Ge, Yige Bao, Junchi Liu, Qingjiang Yang, Guanhan Chen, Peter Weiming Jia, and Xiaoqiang Li (2020) 5,200-year-old cereal grains from the eastern Altai Mountains redate the trans-Eurasian crop exchange, Nature Plants 6: 78–87.
Wheat and barley evolved from large-seeded annual grasses in the arid, low latitudes of Asia; their spread into higher elevations and northern latitudes involved corresponding evolutionary adaptations in these plants, including traits for frost tolerance and shifts in photoperiod sensitivity. Continue reading
Spengler, 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
Ren, 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
Spengler, Robert N., III (2019) Origins of the Apple: The Role of Megafaunal Mutualism in the Domestication of Malus and Rosaceous Trees. Frontiers in Plant Science. 10(617):1-18.
Available open access
The apple (Malus domestica [Suckow] Borkh.) is one of the most economically and culturally significant fruits Continue reading
Spengler, Robert N., III, Ilaria de Nigris, Barbara Cerasetti, Marialetizia Carra, Lynne M. Rouse (2018) The breadth of dietary economy in Bronze Age Central Asia: Case study from Adji Kui 1 in the Murghab region of Turkmenistan. Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports 22: 372-381.
Over the past decade research into the paleoeconomy of Bronze Age (3500-800 B.C.) peoples in Central Asia has shown how complex the productive economy was. The agropastoral system involved an array of crops and herd animals. In this article, we present a paleoethnobotanical study conducted on sediment samples from excavation units at the site of Adji Kui, Turkmenistan. Continue reading
Robert N. Spengler III, Naomi F. Miller, Reinder Neef, Perry A. Tourtellotte, Claudia Chang
Central Asia is commonly referred to as a pastoral realm, and the first millennium B.C. is often thought to mark a period of increased mobility and reliance on animal husbandry. The economic shift of the first millennium B.C. is usually interpreted as a transition toward specialized pastoralism in Central Asia, and the point in time when the Central Asian ‘nomads’ or Scythians appear. Continue reading
Paula N. Doumani Dupuy, Robert N. Spengler III, Michael D. Frachetti Quaternary International (2017) 1-12
In this article, we introduce a new line of evidence for the passage and consumption of one commodity – textiles – into the Dzhungar Mountains of southeastern Kazakhstan during the incipient (i.e., Bronze Age), and later (i.e., Iron Age and Medieval Period) Silk Road periods. Although woolen textiles are known for neighboring western China from several discoveries of clothing in its prehistoric cemeteries, Continue reading
Robert N. Spengler III, Natalia Ryabogina, Pavel Tarasov, and Mayke Wagner
2016. The spread of agriculture into northern Central Asia: Timing, pathways, and environmental feedbacks. The Holocene.
Over the past decade researchers have directed greater focus toward understanding Bronze (3200-800 BC) and Iron Age (800 BC-AD 400) economies of Central Asia. In this article, we synthesize paleobotanical data from across this broad region and discuss the piecemeal archaeological evidence for agriculture in relation to environmental records of vegetation and climate change. The synthesis shows that Continue reading