Paper: Dating rice remains through phytolith carbon-14 study reveals domestication at the beginning of the Holocene

New paper in PNAS about the earliest domestication of rice in China.

Dating rice remains through phytolith carbon-14 study reveals domestication at the beginning of the Holocene

Phytolith remains of rice (Oryza sativa L.) recovered from the Shangshan site in the Lower Yangtze of China have previously been recognized as the earliest examples of rice cultivation. However, because of the poor preservation of macroplant fossils, many radiocarbon dates were derived from undifferentiated organic materials in pottery sherds. These materials remain a source of debate because of potential contamination by old carbon. Direct dating of the rice remains might serve to clarify their age. Here, we first validate the reliability of phytolith dating in the study region through a comparison with dates obtained from other material from the same layer or context. Our phytolith data indicate that rice remains retrieved from early stages of the Shangshan and Hehuashan sites have ages of approximately 9,400 and 9,000 calibrated years before the present, respectively. The morphology of rice bulliform phytoliths indicates they are closer to modern domesticated species than to wild species, suggesting that rice domestication may have begun at Shangshan during the beginning of the Holocene.

Source: Dating rice remains through phytolith carbon-14 study reveals domestication at the beginning of the Holocene

See also: Radiocarbon dating of phytolith traces rice domestication to 10,000 years ago (CHINESE ACADEMY OF SCIENCES HEADQUARTERS, 02 June 2017)

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Author: Noel Tan

Dr Noel Hidalgo Tan is the Senior Specialist in Archaeology at SEAMEO-SPAFA, the Southeast Asian Regional Centre for Archaelogy and Fine Arts.

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