Origins of Rice: 10,000 years ago

The origins of rice domestication remains a hot button issue, with many countries wishing to claim to be the ‘birthplace of rice”

According to a new study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

“Rice remains retrieved from early stages of the Shangshan and Hehuashan sites have ages of approximately 9,400 and 9,000 calibrated years before the present, respectively”

The “rice remains” are phytoliths. Phytoliths are microscopic structures that are made up of silica and may be found after the decay of a plant. Plants take up silica from the soil and the silica is deposited within structures of the plant (both intracellular and extracellular).

There are issues with using phytolith remains as a method for dating (due to contamination with old carbon) but the researchers mitigate this bycomparing their data with material from the same excavated layer.

Schematic drawing of short cell phytoliths in anatomical position in the grass epidermis and isolated in soil after plant decomposition. *
​”The morphology of rice bulliform phytoliths indicates they are closer to modern domesticated species than to wild species, suggesting that rice domestication may have begun at Shangshan during the beginning of the Holocene**”

*Diagram credit: http://depts.washington.edu/strmbrgl/StrombergLab_website/Phytoliths.html​
**Holocene is roughly defined as approximately 11,700 years ago

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