via Nature: Scientific Reports, 03 July 2020: An exciting new paper in Nature: Scientific Reports providing archaeological evidence for rice agriculture in interior Sulawesi from at least 3,500 years ago, providing support for the idea that Taiwan was the source of Austronesian-speaking rice farmers who subsequently migrated into Island Southeast Asia by sea around 4,000 years ago.
Preserved ancient botanical evidence in the form of rice phytoliths has confirmed that people farmed domesticated rice (Oryza sativa) in the interior of Sulawesi Island, Indonesia, by at least 3,500 years ago. This discovery helps to resolve a mystery about one of the region’s major events in natural and cultural history, by documenting when rice farming spread into Indonesia, ultimately from a source in mainland China. At the Minanga Sipakko site in Sulawesi, preserved leaf and husk phytoliths of rice show the diagnostic morphology of domesticated varieties, and the discarded husks indicate on-site processing of the crops. The phytoliths were contained within an undisturbed, subsurface archaeological layer of red-slipped pottery, a marker for an evidently sudden cultural change in the region that multiple radiocarbon results extend back to 3,500 years ago. The results from Minanga Sipakko allow factual evaluation of previously untested hypotheses about the timing, geographic pattern, and cultural context of the spread of rice farming into Indonesia, as well as the contribution of external immigrants in this process.