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Direct dating reveals the early history of opium poppy in Western Europe

Abstract : This paper aims to define the first chrono‑cultural framework on the domestication and early diffusion of the opium poppy using small‑sized botanical remains from archaeological sites, opening the way to directly date minute short‑lived botanical samples. We produced the initial set of radiocarbon dates directly from the opium poppy remains of eleven Neolithic sites (5900–3500 cal BCE) in the central and western Mediterranean, northwestern temperate Europe, and the western Alps. When possible, we also dated the macrobotanical remains originating from the same sediment sample. In total, 22 samples were taken into account, including 12 dates directly obtained from opium poppy remains. The radiocarbon chronology ranges from 5622 to 4050 cal BCE. The results show that opium poppy is present from at least the middle of the sixth millennium in the Mediterranean, where it possibly grew naturally and was cultivated by pioneer Neolithic communities. Its dispersal outside of its native area was early, being found west of the Rhine in 5300–5200 cal BCE. It was introduced to the western Alps around 5000–4800 cal BCE, becoming widespread from the second half of the fifth millennium. This research evidences different rhythms in the introduction of opium poppy in western Europe.
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Contributor : Aurélie Salavert <>
Submitted on : Friday, December 18, 2020 - 8:19:26 AM
Last modification on : Friday, July 23, 2021 - 3:46:10 AM
Long-term archiving on: : Friday, March 19, 2021 - 6:29:35 PM


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Aurélie Salavert, Antoine Zazzo, Lucie Martin, Ferran Antolín, Caroline Gauthier, et al.. Direct dating reveals the early history of opium poppy in Western Europe. Scientific Reports, Nature Publishing Group, 2020, 10 (20263), ⟨10.1038/s41598-020-76924-3⟩. ⟨halshs-03021796⟩



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