The millet group of plants, like rice and wheat, are grasses that produce small, edible seeds. Archaeologists have long known that they were domesticated very early in China and India; the earliest known noodles, which are 4000 years old and were reported by a Chinese team in 2005, were made of millet.
A Chinese-American team led by Loukas Barton, an archaeologist at the University of California, Davis, and Seth Newsome, an ecologist at the Carnegie Institution of Washington in Washington, D.C., tackled the debate at the early farming village of Dadiwan in northwest China. Dadiwan, which was first settled about 8000 years ago and produced China’s earliest known painted pottery, was excavated in the 1970s and again in 2006. The site contains some fossilized fragments of millet, which is the main plant found there, but not enough to elucidate its domestication.