Brief Communications

Nature 437, 967-968 (13 October 2005) | doi:10.1038/437967a; Published online 12 October 2005

Culinary archaeology: Millet noodles in Late Neolithic China

Houyuan Lu1,2, Xiaoyan Yang1, Maolin Ye3, Kam-Biu Liu4, Zhengkai Xia5, Xiaoyan Ren6, Linhai Cai6, Naiqin Wu1 & Tung-Sheng Liu1

Noodles have been a popular staple food in many parts of the world for at least 2,000 years1, although it is debatable whether the Chinese, the Italians or the Arabs invented them first. Here we analyse a prehistoric sample of noodles contained in a well preserved, sealed earthenware bowl discovered in the Late Neolithic2, 3, 4 archaeological site of Lajia in northwestern China. We identify millet as the source of the abundant seed-husk phytoliths and starch grains present in the vessel. This shows that the conversion of ground millet flour into dough that could be repeatedly stretched into long, thin strands for the preparation of boiled noodles was already established in this region 4,000 years ago.

  1. Institute of Geology and Geophysics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100029, China
  2. Institute of Tibetan Plateau Research, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100085, China
  3. Institute of Archaeology, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Beijing 100710, China
  4. Department of Geography and Anthropology, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, Louisiana 70803, USA
  5. College of Environmental Science, Peking University, Beijing 100871, China
  6. Qinghai Provincial Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology, Sining 810007, China

Correspondence to: Houyuan Lu1,2 Email:

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