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Department of Archaeology



I am interested in genetic diversity in plants and what this can reveal about their evolution and population history. I am working on several projects using a range of genetic markers, including microsatellites (SSRs), chloroplast and nuclear DNA sequence data and isozymes, to explore phylogeographic patterns in domesticated and wild plant species.

A theme that links several of these projects is the process of plant speciation by polyploidy, and the use of genetic markers to track this process.

I am currently funded by the ERC-funded project Food Globalisation in Prehistory (FOGLIP). In the framework of this project, I am researching the pathways of spread of two of the species of small-grained cereals known as millets: broomcorn millet (Panicum miliaceum) and foxtail millet (Setaria italica).

We are using polymorphic genetic markers to track the spread of these crops across Eurasia.I am also interested in the evolution of these crops from related wild species, and their adaptation to the varied environmental conditions across the Eurasian continent.

There is evidence in several cereals for human selection on genes that control starch quality. Different starch qualities behave differently when cooked, affecting the texture of the resulting food products. I am working on mutations in the GBSSI gene in broomcorn millet, and selection of the resulting waxy-textured grain by societies in East Asia.

Our work on millets has also been supported by the Leverhulme Trust and the Wellcome Trust.

I have recently been working with research students from the Department of Archaeology on projects investigating genetic diversity in other less-well-studied crop species whose routes of spread among human societies remain to be discovered, including the pseudocereal buckwheat (Fagopyrum esculentum) and the Indo-Pacific tuber crop taro (Colocasia esculenta).

I am also interested in evolution and historical population processes in the rock fern genus Asplenium, continuing a project I worked on in the Botany Department at the Natural History Museum, London.


Key publications: 

Articles & Chapters

[1] Hunt H.V., Badakshi F., Romanova O., Howe C.J., Jones M.K. and Heslop-Harrison J.S. (2014). Reticulate evolution in Panicum (Poaceae): the origin of tetraploid broomcorn millet, P. miliaceum.. J Exp Bot, 65(12), 3165-3175. DOI: 10.1093/jxb/eru161.
[2] Hunt H.V., Moots H.M., Graybosch R.A., Jones H., Parker M., Romanova O., Jones M.K., Howe C.J. and Trafford K. (2013). Waxy phenotype evolution in the allotetraploid cereal broomcorn millet: mutations at the GBSSI locus in their functional and phylogenetic context.. Mol Biol Evol, 30(1), 109-122. DOI: 10.1093/molbev/mss209.
[3] Hunt H.V., Moots H.M. and Matthews P.J. (2013). Genetic data confirms field evidence for natural breeding in a wild taro population (Colocasia esculenta) in northern Queensland, Australia. Genetic Resources and Crop Evolution, 60(5), 1695-1707. DOI: 10.1007/s10722-012-9952-1.
[4] Motuzaite-Matuzeviciute G., Staff R.A., Hunt H.V., Liu X. and Jones M.K. (2013). The early chronology of broomcorn millet (Panicum miliaceum) in Europe. Antiquity, 87(338), 1073-1085.
[5] Wang N., Thomson M., Bodles W.J.A., Crawford R.M.M., Hunt H.V., Featherstone A.W., Pellicer J. and Buggs R.J.A. (2013). Genome sequence of dwarf birch (Betula nana) and cross-species RAD markers. Molecular Ecology, 22(11), 3098-3111. DOI: 10.1111/mec.12131.
[6] Motuzaite-Matuzeviciute G., Hunt H.V. and Jones M.K. (2012). Experimental approaches to understanding variation in grain size in Panicum miliaceum (broomcorn millet) and its relevance for interpreting archaeobotanical assemblages. Vegetation History and Archaeobotany, 21(1), 69-77. DOI: 10.1007/s00334-011-0322-2.
[7] Oliveira H.R., Campana M.G., Jones H., Hunt H.V., Leigh F., Redhouse D.I., Lister D.L. and Jones M.K. (2012). Tetraploid wheat landraces in the Mediterranean basin: taxonomy, evolution and genetic diversity.. PLoS One DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0037063.
[8] Wang P., Dong Q., Zhang C., Kuan P-F., Liu Y., Jeck W.R., Andersen J.B., Jiang W., Savich G.L., Tan T-X., Auman J.T., Hoskins J.M., Misher A.D., Moser C.D., Yourstone S.M., Kim J.W., Cibulskis K., Getz G., Hunt H.V., Thorgeirsson S.S., Roberts L.R., Ye D., Guan K-L., Xiong Y., Qin L-X. and Chiang D.Y. (2012). Mutations in isocitrate dehydrogenase 1 and 2 occur frequently in intrahepatic cholangiocarcinomas and share hypermethylation targets with glioblastomas. Oncogene
[9] Campana M.G., Hunt H.V., Jones H. and White J. (2011). CorrSieve: software for summarizing and evaluating Structure output.. Mol Ecol Resour, 11(2), 349-352. DOI: 10.1111/j.1755-0998.2010.02917.x.
[10] Hunt H.V., Ansell S.W., Russell S.J., Schneider H. and Vogel J.C. (2011). Dynamics of polyploid formation and establishment in the allotetraploid rock fern Asplenium majoricum. ANN BOT-LONDON, 108(1), 143-157. DOI: 10.1093/aob/mcr118.
[11] Hunt H.V., Campana M.G., Lawes M.C., Park Y.J., Bower M.A., Howe C.J. and Jones M.K. (2011). Genetic diversity and phylogeography of broomcorn millet (Panicum miliaceum L.) across Eurasia.. Mol Ecol, 20(22), 4756-4771. DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-294X.2011.05318.x.
[12] Jones M., Hunt H., Lightfoot E., Lister D., Liu X. and Motuzaite-Matuzeviciute G. (2011). Food globalization in prehistory. World Archaeology, 43(4), 665-675.
[13] Phillips C.A., Hunt H., Knapp L.A., Dickens S., Lester J. and Jones M. (2011). Molecular Analysis of Chimpanzee Diet: Pyrosequencing DNA in Faeces. FOLIA PRIMATOLOGICA, 82(6), 365-366.
[14] Warmuth V., Eriksson A., Bower M.A., Cañon J., Cothran G., Distl O., Glowatzki-Mullis M.L., Hunt H., Luís C., do Mar Oom M., Yupanqui I.T., Ząbek T. and Manica A. (2011). European domestic horses originated in two holocene refugia.. PLoS One DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0018194.
[15] Hunt H.V., Denyer K., Packman L.C., Jones M.K. and Howe C.J. (2010). Molecular basis of the waxy endosperm starch phenotype in broomcorn millet (Panicum miliaceum L.).. Mol Biol Evol, 27(7), 1478-1494. DOI: 10.1093/molbev/msq040.
[16] Hunt H.V., Lawes M.C., Bower M.A., Haeger J.W. and Howe C.J. (2010). A banned variety was the mother of several major wine grapes.. Biol Lett, 6(3), 367-369. DOI: 10.1098/rsbl.2009.0810.
[17] Hunt H.V., Ansell S.W., Russell S.J., Schneider H. and Vogel J.C. (2009). Genetic diversity and phylogeography in two diploid ferns, Asplenium fontanum subsp fontanum and A-petrarchae subsp bivalens, in the western Mediterranean. MOL ECOL, 18(23), 4940-4954. DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-294X.2009.04402.x.
[18] Liu X., Hunt H.V. and Jones M.K. (2009). River valleys and foothills: Changing archaeological perceptions of north China's earliest farms. Antiquity, 83(319), 82-95.
[19] Hunt H.V., Vander Linden M., Liu X., Motuzaite-Matuzeviciute G., Colledge S. and Jones M.K. (2008). Millets across Eurasia: Chronology and context of early records of the genera Panicum and Setaria from archaeological sites in the Old World. Vegetation History and Archaeobotany DOI: 10.1007/s00334-008-0187-1

Job Titles

Research Associate, McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research
Harriet Hunt

General Info

Not available for consultancy
Research Expertise / Fields of study: 

Contact Details

McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research
Downing Street
01223 (3)39330