First rice crop was harvested 10,000 years ago

(ORDO NEWS) — To collect rice grains, the ancient inhabitants of Southeast Asia needed special tools.

It was samples of such tools that Chinese scientists discovered in the Yangtze River valley, which can be considered the first reliable evidence of rice harvesting about 10 thousand years ago.

Wild rice differs from domesticated rice in that it drops ripe seeds to the ground, facilitating their dispersal.

Gathering the first crops of grains, the ancient farmers probably selected the purest seeds left on the ear, and gradually contributed to the development of cultivated rice.

For a long time, archaeologists did not find any tools for harvesting rice, although they knew for sure that as early as 9,000 years ago, rice began to be grown in southern China.

All that the researchers found at the early Neolithic human sites were tiny fragments of stones with sharp edges. Now they decided to check if these fragments were used for harvesting.

Researchers from Dartmouth College (USA) studied 52 samples of stone tools from two ancient sites in the Yangtze River valley. All of them were rather rough flakes with sharp edges about five centimeters long.

To find out if these tools were used for harvesting rice, the scientists analyzed the micro-scratches on the surface of the tools and the composition of the petrified plant remains adhering to the stones.

It turned out that the pattern of scratches on 30 tools corresponded to that formed when collecting coarse vegetation rich in silica , and rice belongs to this type of plant.

At the same time, fossilized remains of rice were found on 28 tools – both leaves and grains.

Scientists suggest that there were two harvesting methods still used in Asia: people either harvested only the ears, leaving the stem intact, or cut the plant completely to later use it for grains and rice straw.

First rice crop was harvested 10 000 years ago 2
Samples of ancient tools: red dots indicate the cutting edge

Gradually, the second method began to dominate in Ancient China: for about 8000 years, farmers began to use stone flakes mainly as sickles, which is probably associated with the final formation of a cultural form of rice that does not drop ripe grains to the ground.


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