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Early Rice Project
The development of rice agriculture is hypothesized to have caused massive demographic growth, followed by geographic population expansion. The present project is developing and applying new methods for identifying the earliest cultivation of rice (pre-domestication cultivation) and how later cultivation systems diversified, including the distinctive between irrigated ‘wet’ rice and rainfed ‘dry’ rice. The latter distinction in important, because it is wet rice that contributed substantially to greenhouse gases through the emission of methane. Our archaeobotanical results are providing the first archaeological test of the hypothesis that anthropogenic modification of global climate through methane emissions began in prehistory. This project includes the study of modern farming sites across Asia in order to develop a model of rice and associated plants for each site. This will make up a ‘modern analogue assemblage’ from which to examine archaeobotanical weeds assemblages in both the seed evidence and phytolith evidence. These weed assemblages include diagnostic factors attributed to the different methods of rice farming, and distinguishing wild from domesticated rice. These weed assemblage indices are being applied to archaeological sites in the Lower Yangzte region dating between ca. 5000 BC and 2000 BC, the site of Baligang in Central China, and to late prehistory and early historic sites in Orissa, India and Sri Lanka.
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