Dear all,
this discussion is really interesting! I did not know that identification at subspecies level was possible. We had some difficulties with our camera software, but I have now been able to put a scale on the photoes and enclose a photo of all three seeds on mm-paper. According to the size requirements, I then guess  that this is the cultivated subspecies (ssp somniferum).

All the best,

Fra: The archaeobotany mailing list [[log in to unmask]] på vegne av Bittmann, Felix [[log in to unmask]]
Sendt: 7. november 2014 15:05
Til: [log in to unmask]
Emne: AW: Papaver seeds

Dear all,

just to add, according to Fritsch 1979 it is not possible to distinguish both subspecies reliably - see attached article, in German, sorry (now Genetic Resources and Crop Evolution, Springer, formerly Die Kulturpflanze). However there is an English abstract: Length, width and seed coat structure of many different races of subsp, somniferum, of two diploid and several tetraploid races of subsp. segigerum were examined. Subsp. somniferum proved to be extremely variable and to cover also the variability of both chromosome races of subsp. Segigerum. By seed morphology, diploid races of subsp. setigerum were not to distinguish from most races of subsp. somuiferum, and tetraploid races of subsp. setigerum were difficult to distinguish from small-seeded races of subsp. somniferum. The importance of these findings for determination of archaeological remains of poppy seed is briefly discussed.

All the best,

-----Ursprüngliche Nachricht-----
Von: The archaeobotany mailing list [mailto:[log in to unmask]] Im Auftrag von Brinkkemper, Otto
Gesendet: Freitag, 7. November 2014 14:30
An: [log in to unmask]
Betreff: Re: Papaver seeds

Dear all,

I already replied to Christin off-list, but part if it might be more useful for a general discussion (and I include more info about subsp. setigerum versus somniferum here).
I checked the Dutch database RADAR for Papaver somniferum finds, and all prehistoric finds appear to be EITHER Neolithic (from the Early Neolithic Bandkeramik culture, 5300-4900 cal BC [three sites at Beek, Elsloo and Geleen] through Middle Neolithic [Brankwijk] to the Late Neolithic Vlaardingen-culture at the type site Vlaardingen-Ary Koplaan 3600-3000 cal BC), OR pre-Roman Iron Age (800 - 12 BC).

Although there are dozens of Bronze Age sites studied in the Netherlands (ranging 2000 - 800 cal BC here!), there are zero finds of Papaver somniferum.

Of further relevance is the distinction in size  between subsp. setigerum (occurring in prehistory here but also reported for several Roman sites) and subsp. somniferum which apparently is never explicitly mentioned in Dutch archaeobotanical publications (!), but is at least during medieval and later periods the usual subspecies. Most authors dealing with these subspecies refer to early research by Villaret-von Rochov (1967) for the distinction of these: subsp. somniferum (although apparently treated as species there) is reported to have 36-40 fields in between the ridges, and subsp. setigerum 17-22. Körber-Grohne & Piening 1983 have photographs of recent material of both in their Plate 9 (fig. 5 and 6).

The size of recent setigerum according to Knörzer 1967 is 0.75 - 1.0 mm (average 0.83), and he published several bandkeramik finds within this size range. Larger seeds should be somniferum. The photo's of the Norwegian material do not show complete cells of the mm-paper, so their size is difficult to judge from the photos! If they have the larger size, the risk of more recent intrusions is at hand and should be checked carefully. This distinction should, where possible, also be made for the finds that Radoslaw reported! Although the two subspecies are inter-fertile, I think that the body of prehistoric finds of small seeds does offer reliable grounds to distinguish a "prehistoric" poppy seed.

With kind regards,


Van: The archaeobotany mailing list [[log in to unmask]] namens Radoslaw Grabowski [[log in to unmask]]
Verzonden: vrijdag 7 november 2014 13:31
Aan: [log in to unmask]
Onderwerp: SV: Papaver seeds

Dear Christin,

How interesting to hear about your find.
I have myself found three Papaver somniferum seeds in a bronze age refuse(? - presumably) layer at  Gedved Vest in Jutland. I realise that this is some distance from Tromsö, but it may still be a useful reference for you. Unfortunately, since the layer turned out to be quite difficult to use for useful inferences, the find was never published in a peer-reviewed article, unlike most of the rest of the site. Because the layer was assumed to be representative of the earliest settlement phase on the site, however,  three barley grains from the same sample were dated, with a combined span of 808-539 BC (cal 2σ). The only reference I can give here is the excavation report, which I include with the mail (page 10).

This is the detailed 14C-data for the layer, only 1sigma dates are presented in the report:
Poz-44667       Hordeum vulgare 2515±30 BP
Poz-44668       Hordeum vulgare 2565±35 BP
Poz-44672       Hordeum vulgare 2565±35 BP

When I found these seeds I became interested in whether there were other early finds of Papaver somniferum in Scandinavia. This is what I managed to scrape together then... although there is probably more:

Early opium poppy finds in Denmark have been reported from Lodbjerg (Jensen 1985) and Smedegård (Sabine Karg, pers comm), both sites are situated in northern Jutland and dated to the Pre-Roman Iron Age.

From southern Sweden I managed to find two secure early finds, a house find from Skottorp in Halland (Artelius 1989; Viklund 1989) dated to 190 BC-AD 420 and a ritual deposition in a wetland at Sallerup in Skåne, dated to approximately 500 BC (Lindahl-Jensen et al 1995).

You can find the detailed references below the email.

I'm also attaching Lindahl-Jensens article with the email. I'm sure you have Jensen 1985 in your collections. The remaining two sources I got from Karin Viklund in Umeå, but apparently not in Pdf since I can't find them on my computer.

I hope this can be of some use to you.

All the best!
/Radoslaw Grabowski

Fil. Dr. i Mijöarkeologi/PhD in Environmental Archaeology Universitetslektor/Lecturer Umeå Universitet/Umeå University
Tel: +31615305342


ARTELIUS, T. 1989: Boplatslämning vid Skottorps Säteri. In: Artelius, T. & Lundqvist, L. (eds.): Bebyggelse – kronologi: boplatser från perioden 1800 f. Kr. – 500 e. Kr. i södra Halland. Nya bidrag till Hallands äldsta historia 2. Riksantikvarieämbetet, Undersökningsverksamheten, Stockholm, 7-17.

JENSEN, K. A. 1985: Catalogue of Late- and Post-glacial Macrofossils of Spermatophyta from Denmark, Schleswig, Scania, Halland and Blekinge Dated 13 000 BP to 1536 AD. Danmarks Geologiske Undersøgelse.

LINDAHL-JENSEN, B., LAGERÅS, P. & REGNELL, M. 1995: A deposition of Bark Vessels, Flax and Opium Poppy from 2500 BP in Sallerup, Southern Sweden. PACT 50, 305-318.

VIKLUND, K. 1989. Skottorp. Rapport från Miljöarkeologiska Laboratoriet, Institutionen för arkeologi, Umeå Universitet, Umeå.

-----Ursprungligt meddelande-----
Från: The archaeobotany mailing list [mailto:[log in to unmask]] För Christin Jensen
Skickat: 07 November 2014 10:51
Till: [log in to unmask]
Ämne: SV: Papaver seeds

Dear Mark, Jennifer and Angela,

Thank you so much for your help!
P. somniferum was the species that we also thought most likely when looking at our reference collection, but dared not quite believe it due to the northern location and old age of the context. Exciting!

If any of you have some literature references on Papaver somniferum finds in northern Europe, I will appreciate it very much.

Best regards,


-----Opprinnelig melding-----
Fra: The archaeobotany mailing list [mailto:[log in to unmask]] På vegne av Christin Jensen
Sendt: 6. november 2014 21:18
Til: [log in to unmask]
Emne: Papaver seeds

Dear colleagues,
I wonder whether these seeds of Papaver may be identified to species level? They are found in the floor layer of a Bronze age house near Tromsö, Northern Norway (69 degrees North). Hopefully the quality of the photoes is good enough to see the pattern of more or less rectangular stripes (ribs) within the cells. I am very grateful to you for help with the identification. The size of the seeds is 1-1,3 mm.

Best regards,

Christin Jensen
Assoc. prof. in botany
University of Stavanger
Museum of Archaeology