3. The Tibetan Millet Mystery
A new agricultural study from Washington State University seeks to provide an answer for the apparent mass exodus seen on the fringes of the Tibetan Plateau roughly 4,000 years ago.
According to a team led by archaeologist Jade D’Alpoim Guedes, climate change could have driven away the ancient people of the Eastern Tibetan Highlands by making it impossible for them to grow millet, their primary food source.
Archaeological evidence shows us that millet was the main crop cultivated in the area toward the end of the warm period known as the Holocene Climatic Optimum. Afterward, global temperatures cooled down, which had an adverse impact on Tibetan agriculture. Millet became very difficult to cultivate due to its high heat demands. The food shortage caused more and more people to leave seeking greener pastures. It wasn’t until 300 years later that the region began to bounce back due to the introduction of wheat and barley, which fared much better in cold weather and almost immediately became the new preferred crops.
Curiously enough, the ancient millet seeds could make a comeback in the near future as the Tibetan Plateau is now one of the areas with the fastest-rising temperatures on the planet.