Economic Diversification Supported the Growth of Mongolia’s Nomadic Empires


Wilkin, Shevan Alicia Ventresca Miller, Bryan K. Miller, Robert N. Spengler III, William T. T. Taylor, Ricardo Fernandes, Richard W. Hagan, Madeleine Bleasdale, Jana Zech, S. Ulziibayar, Erdene Myagmar, Nicole Boivin, and Patrick Roberts (2020) Economic Diversification Supported the Growth of Mongolia’s Nomadic Empires, Scientific Reports. 10: 3916.

Populations in Mongolia from the late second millennium B.C.E. through the Mongol Empire are traditionally assumed, by archaeologists and historians, to have maintained a highly specialized horse-facilitated form of mobile pastoralism. Continue reading

5,200-year-old cereal grains from the eastern Altai Mountains redate the trans-Eurasian crop exchange


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

Rethinking the Origins of Plant Domestication


Spengler, Robert N., III (2020) Anthropogenic Seed Dispersal: Rethinking the Origins of Plant Domestication. Trends in Plant Science. Online First.

It is well documented that ancient sickle harvesting led to tough rachises, but the other seed dispersal properties in crop progenitors are rarely discussed. 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.


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.

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Agricultural Origins from the Ground Up

Langlie, BrieAnna S., Natalie G. Mueller, Robert N. Spengler, and Gayle J. Fritz
2014. Agricultural Origins from the Ground Up: Archaeological Perspectives on Plant Domestication. American Journal of Botany 101(10): 000–000. Peer-reviewed.

Special Issue: Speaking of Food: Connecting basic and applied science.
Available open access through AJB.


American Journal of BotanyThe timing, geographical locations, causes, and consequences of crop domestication have long been major concerns of archaeologists, and agricultural origins and dispersals are currently more relevant than ever to scientists seeking solutions to elusive problems involving food insecurity and global health disparities. Perennial research issues that archaeologists continue to tackle include Continue reading