Oldest millet found in Slovenia more than 3,000 years old

Ravne na Koroškem, 20 March - The oldest grains of millet found in Slovenia date back to between 1300 to 1200 BC and were discovered in Ravne na Koroškem in the north-eastern Koroška region. The millet is kept at the Archaeology Institute, which hopes to mount an exhibition in the future.

Finding the millet "was like winning the lottery," Saša Djura Jelenko, the archaeologist who led the excavations at the Ravne na Koroškem site, told the press on Tuesday.

The grains were found during a laboratory analysis of sediment samples from the excavation site in Ravne na Koroškem, where archaeologists were working from 2021 to 2023.

Two samples of millet were sent to the Poznan Radiocarbon Laboratory in Poland for dating. One was dated to around 800 to 700 BC, while the other was shown to be from around 1300 or 1200 BC, said archaeobotanist Tjaša Tolar.

Until now the oldest grains of millet discovered in Slovenia only dated back to around 900 to 1000 years BC.

The new finding, which amounts to ten charred grains, is kept at the Archaeology Institute, which also keeps the records on oldest discovered grains.

"For now the millet from Javornik is the oldest in Slovenia. But we have to know that in the past samples were not always taken from archaeological sites, or at least not as often as today," the archaeologists said.

Neighbouring countries have found grains of millet dating back to the 15th and 16th century BC, said Tolar, who expects that in Slovenia too older grains will be discovered.

Further analyses showed that in addition to millet, the settlers in the region also cultivated wheat and barley.

The area where the millet was found was first settled in the early Bronze Age but then abandoned for some 2,500 years. It was settled again from around the 15th and 14th century BC in the middle Bronze Age until the late Bronze Age.

In a nearby cave, dating to the early Bronze Age, the archaeologists also discovered a ceramic bottle with traces of lead. "This could mean that the production or use of lead in the Mežica valley could be much older than we believed," said Djura Jelenko. Further research is needed to verify that the bottle was not brought to the cave more recently.