A crossdisciplinary project on opium poppy

The project aims to define a chrono-cultural framework for the early domestication of the Opium Poppy and its dispersal from Prehistory to the end of the Iron Age (6000-50 cal BC) in Europe and Southwest Asia. This project began in 2018 with the obtaining of funding from the Fyssen Foundation (coord. A. Salavert, MNHN, France) and the Agrichange project (coord. F. Antolin, univ. Basel, Switzerland) has laid the foundation for a long-term collaborative project. Two grants have been obtained in 2022, ANR JCJC Poppy (France) and FTC DOPE (Portugal) to pursue this research. The project is based on archaeological material, as well as on a sampling of modern and historical biodiversity conserved in seed banks and herbaria. It uses multidisciplinary analyses – archaeobotany, dating techniques, genomics, geometric morphometrics (GMM), spatial analyses.

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Contribution of GMM to track domesticaiton process

A paper recently published in PlosOne showed the potential of GMM to address questions about poppy domestication, based on waterlogged archaeological poppy seeds. These seeds are the most direct and common evidence found on archaeological sites, unlike the capsules, which are rarely recovered. Seeds are therefore probably the only archaeological tool that can provide substantial, diachronic and geographically broad information on the domestication/cultivation process.

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“Cypriot juglet theory”: a review

Based on R.S. Merrillees (1962) paper, many researches have focused on the hypothesis that base-ring juglets produced in Cyprus and found in several location in Eastern Mediterranean at Late Bronze age (LBA, 1650-1350 BCE) would be used for the transport and the trade of the opium.

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The “joy plant”, a persistant factoïd

In spite of the doubt argued and presented since the mid-1970s, then 80’s, and even more recently, the idea that the poppy was widely used in the Mesopotamian world is still tenacious.

The opium poppy is of interest to several disciplines (medical, anthropology, geopolitics, etc.) and more particularly its use in medicinal or ritual recipes, since the ancient period in the Near East and in the Mediterranean area. It is precisely to illustrate the thousand-year-old narcotic use of the opium poppy that a factoid is still used today in scientific literature.

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The IWGP conference in South Bohemia

“The International Work Group for Palaeoethnobotany (IWGP) is the informal and decentral collective of all researchers working in the wide field of palaeoethnobotany”.

Since 1968, an international conference is organized every 3 years. It gives the occasion to keep up to date with the latest research in the field of archaeobotany, to maintain research networks and even to start new collaboration with colleagues coming mainly from Europe but also from all over the world.

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