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Bronze Age herders spread farming around Asia

Livestock raisers took crops from two farming centers for a continent-wide ride

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2:22pm, April 2, 2014

Nomadic herding groups that inhabited Central Asia’s mountains and deserts more than 4,000 years ago spread crops across much of Asia and took up cultivation themselves surprisingly early, a new study suggests.

The findings fit with other emerging evidence that ancient Asians flexibly mixed herding and farming lifestyles. That type of adaptability enabled agriculture to initially spread via mainland herders and coastal seafarers, not migrating farmers or trading networks of urban civilizations as anthropologists had previously thought.

Seeds recovered at two herder campsites in Kazakhstan represent the earliest evidence of the combined use of bread wheat and broomcorn millet, say anthropologist Robert Spengler of Washington University in St. Louis and colleagues. Radiocarbon dates of charred wood and seeds at these sites, Tasbas and Begash, range between roughly 4,800 and 4,300 years ago.

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