Cheraw Chronicle

Complete News World

The domestication of rice was very slow, just like wheat

The domestication of rice was very slow, just like wheat

24,000 years ago, in the middle of the last Ice Age, hunter-gatherers in southeastern China ate wild rice. When the Ice Age ended, about 13,000 years ago, rice consumption increased dramatically. Then the first signs appear that the rice plants are being intensively cared for, a kind of foreshadowing of “real” agriculture. Domesticated rice has been cultivated in southeastern China for about 11,000 years.

This is evidenced by excavations at Changshan and Huashan, south of the lower Yangtze River, not very far from Shanghai. A large team of Chinese researchers, led by Huiyuan Lu (Beijing Geological Institute), describes their meticulous investigations this week in Sciences.

With these conclusions, it appears that rice in China has followed a slow domestication path similar to wheat in the Middle East. Wild wheat was also eaten about 23,000 years ago. Before true domestication (about 11 thousand years ago), wheat was widely eaten by hunters and gatherers in the Levant for thousands of years. They even baked bread.

Grain processing tools

At the two excavation sites of Chinese researchers, traces of the oldest true Chinese agriculture, which is called the Shangshan culture after one of the places, were previously found: remains of houses, pottery and grain processing tools. It’s about really early agriculture – whether those farming villages were actually inhabited permanently or only during certain seasons, e.g. Not clear.

Archaeologists and geologists have now begun to dig deeper in these places, reaching depths of three and a half meters and one and a half meters, respectively, and dating back 100 thousand years. A large number of soil layers have been dated using different techniques (Optically stimulated luminescence The date is C14). So-called wild rice phytoliths have already been found in the oldest layers, an unexpected indication that rice varieties of the time were more resistant to cold than previously thought.

Phytoliths are small, indigestible silicon structures of the plant. In rice there are “typical two-end membrane phytoliths” and “typical drop-shaped phytoliths” (Poliform) of leaves, both species are only a few tens of micrometers in size. Teardrop-shaped phytoliths are of particular interest because the scaly-shaped sides can be seen on domesticated rice, a result of the ability farmers like to curl the leaves during drought to prevent moisture loss. Rice is considered domesticated if 50 percent of these plant stones have scale-shaped sides. The ratio of membrane phytoliths to foliar phytoliths is also important. According to researchers, the increase in the number of membranes is an indication of active collection of rice by people. This phenomenon was also seen about 24,000 years ago in Changshan and Huashan, in addition to the increase in all rice galls.