Stone Age rice field discovered in swamp in China
Washington | September 27, 2007 11:13:49 AM IST
Archaeologists have discovered a Stone Age rice field in a swamp in China.
The team led by Cheng Zong of Britain's Durham University found evidence of prehistoric rice cultivation, including flood and fire control on the site of Kuahuqiao in Zhejiang province near present-day Hangzhou.
The research follows previous excavations at the site that revealed a Stone Age community of wooden dwellings perched on stilts over the marshy wetlands.
Scientists say the discovery proves that rice growing began in the coastal wetlands of eastern China some 7,700 years ago.
According to a National Geographic report, Zong's team also found an 8,000-year-old dugout canoe, pottery made with wild rice as a bonding material, wood and bamboo tools, and the bones of dogs and pigs at the site.
Further analysis of the sediments of the ancient swamp revealed that the land was deliberately managed for rice growing.
Fire was used to clear scrub, while flood-prevention measures helped keep brackish water from getting into the fields, Zong said.
"The site provided us well-dated evidence for the earliest rice cultivation," he said.
According to Zong, Kuahuqiao supported rice farming until around 7,550 years ago, when rising sea levels suddenly deluged the area.
"Rice doesn't like saltwater. We think saltwater levels must have been managed. Otherwise you would see a gradual rise in the brackish water influence," he said.
Zong believes small earth dikes known as bunds must have held the water back.
He said team also detected increased levels of animal and human dung on the rice fields.
However, whether the dung was deliberately used as fertilizer, or whether it was just washed naturally into the paddy fields, is something very difficult to ascertain, he said.
He said though rice fragments found in the swamp belonged to wild strains, the discovery of unusually large rice pollen grains, signalled the beginning of domesticated varieties.
The team's findings are published in the latest issue of the journal Nature. (ANI)
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