First intensive investigation of early agriculture in Liangchengzhen suggests rice was prevalent

04/06/05

Archaeologists from the University of Toronto, the Field Museum, and Shandong University announce the results of the first intensive investigation of early agriculture in Liangchengzhen, Shandong in Northern China. The results are published in the April 2005 issue of Current Anthropology. Several thousand crop and weed seeds were recovered by the team at the 4000 year-old Liangchengzhen site, a regional political center in Shandong.

Prior to the investigation, Longshan agriculture was thought to have been millet-based, with rice having little importance. However, nearly half the grains collected in the study were from rice while the remainder was from fox-tail millet. According to radiocarbon dating, the grains removed from the pit date to 2000 B.C.

Modern grain agriculture in China is a successful combination of local rice and Near Eastern wheat. Several wheat grains were found at the site, indicating that the crop had come across Asia to eastern China prior to any other evidence of western contact in that region. The Liangchengzhen research shows that the rice-wheat complex developed even before the emergence of writing.

"Not only does rice appear to have been more significant for eastern Longshan people than previously suspected but the presence of wheat foreshadows more modern agriculture based on both rice and wheat. Wheat is rare at Liangchengzhen and was likely just being introduced to the region," the researchers contend.

A significant study of this kind has been needed. "Understanding of Late Neolithic food production in China has been hampered by a lack of palaeoethnobotanical research, "attest the scholars. "Setting such studies in an interdisciplinary framework is essential if we are to understand not only Late Neolithic agriculture but the origins of food production in China as well."

Source: Eurekalert & others

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