Rice Domestication and the Origins of Agriculture

A new Nature study will report on the earliest known evidence of rice paddies in China. We’re talking almost 8,000 years ago.

Cheng Zong of Durham University lead the excavation at the Kuahuqiao site in the Zhejiang province. After analyzing sediments of ancient swamp beds at the site the team found signs that the dirt was managed for rice growing. Specifically, the sediments showed that fire was used to clear scrub and modifications to the earth were made to prevent brackish water flooding. By about 7,550 years ago the sea level rose and broke the levies that held back water.

Here’s the kicker for anyone into rice domestication and the origins of agriculture, the team also unearthed unusually large rice pollen grains which indicates people at Kuahuqiao were beginning to domesticate a variety of rice. It is kinda uncertain whether or not the rice was really cultivated. But since these pollen grains have been found out of the normal range where seen wild rice grows, and found in areas where salt water damages fields and preventative measures had to be taken… then it’s pretty conclusive. If this is really the case, then it pushes back the date of rice domestication in Stone Age China almost 2,000 years!

Dorian Fuller of University College London has researched rice domestication before, specifically genetic diversity of rice. She commented on a National Geographic News article covering the new study on how,

“…the genetics of modern rice [show that it] has multiple origins from the wild gene pool right across southern China and northern and eastern India.”

Perhaps one of the centers of rice domestication was at Kuahuqiao?

In other China related archaeology news, the Fars News Agency reported on unearthing more of an ancient wall in the Golestan Province of Iran that stands second to the Great Wall of China in size. It is a 124-mile-long wall, the second longest such structure in Asia and was made in the 5th and 6th centuries to prevent the Ephthalites from pressing into Persia. It is call the Gorgan Wall.

I wish I had really nice photos or a scholarly article to point you too, but I’ll I got is this rather sparse press release and this really dated set of photos. I guess I could fire up Google Earth and scour the Golestan area for a large wall but I don’t have time right now. Maybe some other time?

P.S. Anyone else see Nature‘s new homepage? Very web 2.0!

One thought on “Rice Domestication and the Origins of Agriculture

  1. Interesting post. Students of Chinese culture might find my blog postings on the legend of the “Yellow Bell” of interest as well. I suggest you begin at the beginning, with the very last section of post 46 (http://music000001.blogspot.com/2007_07_01_archive.html), and work your way up the page to the climax, on post 50 — and beyond, if you also happen to be interested in the history of tuned pipes generally. I’ve woven a myth of my own here, admittedly, but it’s a serious myth, which I hope will be taken as such by anyone who cares to comment.

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