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A morphometric approach to track opium poppy domestication

Abstract : Opium poppy (Papaver somniferum L. subsp. somniferum) was likely domesticated in the Western Mediterranean, where its putative wild ancestor is indigenous, and then spread to central and northern Europe. While opium poppy seeds are regularly identified in archaeobotanical studies, the absence of morphological criteria to distinguish the seeds of wild and domestic forms prevents the documentation of their respective historical and geographical occurrences and of the process of opium domestication as a whole. To fill this gap and better understand the status of this crop in the Neolithic, we combined seed outline analyses, namely elliptic Fourier transforms, with other morphometric descriptors to describe and identify Papaver setigerum, Papaver somniferum and other Papaver taxa. The combination of all measured parameters gives the most precise predictions for the identification of all seven taxa. We finally provide a case study on a Neolithic assemblage from a pile-dwelling site in Switzerland (Zurich-Parkhaus Opéra, ca. 3170 BC). Our results indicate the presence of mixed populations of domestic and wild seeds belonging to the P. somniferum group, suggesting that the plant was already in the process of domestication at the end of 4th millennium BC. Altogether, these results pave the way to understand the geography and history of the poppy domestication and its spread into Europe.
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Contributor : Aurélie Salavert <>
Submitted on : Friday, May 7, 2021 - 2:09:04 PM
Last modification on : Saturday, May 8, 2021 - 3:34:17 AM

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Ana Jesus, Vincent Bonhomme, Allowen Evin, Sarah Ivorra, Soteras Raül, et al.. A morphometric approach to track opium poppy domestication. Scientific Reports, Nature Publishing Group, 2021, pp.9778. ⟨10.1038/s41598-021-88964-4⟩. ⟨mnhn-03216512⟩

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