[Sca-cooks] Chinese were growing rice 8000 years ago

Sharon Gordon gordonse at one.net
Fri Sep 28 08:48:30 PDT 2007

Chinese 'were growing rice 8,000 years ago'
By Clifford Coonan in Beijing
Published: 28 September 2007

The Chinese are the most famous rice-eaters in the world and it has been
China's national dish for thousands of years, but quite how long was never
apparent until now. Research shows that Stone Age man in eastern China
planted rice in paddyfields nearly eight millennia ago.

The discovery sheds valuable new light on how human beings made the change
from hunter- gatherers to farmers. It also shows how human beings have
wrestled with climate change throughout the centuries.

Dr Zong Yongqiang from Durham University, working with Chinese researchers
at the Neolithic site of Kuahuqiao near the eastern city of Hangzhou, has
discovered evidence of man growing rice in the coastal marshland some 7,700
years ago.

The revelations about rice cultivation come from Kuahuqiao in the eastern
coastal province of Zhejiang. The famous Neolithic site near Hangzhou has
yielded some of the most important discoveries about Stone Age life in

Digs unearthed the remains of a village of wooden dwellings which were
perched on stilts over marshy wetlands as well as discoveries which
included an 8,000-year-old drill used to make fire, a dugout pine canoe and
three paddles.

Dr Zong, who is from Guangdong province originally but has lived in Durham
for many years, said: "The site provided us with evidence for the earliest
rice cultivation. We found the level of human manipulation of the
environment was quite high."

After examining pollen, fungus and charcoal in which they found no sign of
sea salt, the researchers deduced that the inhabitants had probably erected
low, earthen dykes to protect the growing rice from rising sea levels. But
the village eventually succumbed to the rising sea.

Dr Zong said: "We know that at the time the sea level was rising - not
very fast, but rising - from post-glacial warming. If there had been no
humans at Kuahuqiao, the water in the marsh would have become more
brackish, but the brackish water was kept quite low."

High levels of animal and human dung on the rice fields may also indicate
the use of fertiliser.

Dr Zong said: "They had a lot of knowledge and skills, such as using
charcoal to make fire to clear and maintain the area."

The remains at Kuahuqiao were unearthed during the building of a brick
factory in the early 1970s. The site was waterlogged so much of the organic
artefacts were well preserved. It also yielded up the bones of dogs and
pigs - evidence of domestication.

Previously, the farmed rice in China had been dated to about 6,000 years
ago, but the new research shows that cultivating rice is much older -
human beings may ihave been farming rice for up to 10,000 years.

The findings of Dr Zong and his Chinese university colleagues are published
in this month's issue of Nature magazine.

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