The impact of evolving of rice systems from China to Southeast Asia

Lead Research Organisation: University College London
Department Name: Institute of Archaeology

Abstract

As the world's most productive crop, the history and potential of rice is of great interest to crop scientists and archaeologists, and as a greenhouse gas producer its history is important to climatic modelling. Understanding the development, diversification and spread of rice agriculture is central not only to our understanding of the processes of human population growth, dispersal and formation of civi-lizations in Asia, it is also central to reconstructing how past agricultural activities might have im-pacted global climate through methane emissions and deforestation. Archaeobotanical evidence offers a powerful set of tools for not only documenting where and when rice was cultivated in the past, but how it was cultivated through the analysis of ecology of associated weed flora in macro-remains assemblages and phytolith assemblages. We have pio-neered the study archaeological rice weed flora and the combination of archaeological plant macro-remains and phytoliths in our recent NERC-supported research in parts of India, Sri Lanka and China (NE/G005540/1). We propose to roll out this method over a wider geographical and cultural area, as well refining the approach through some additional modern analogues. we propose to focus our work on the less known parts of Asia, especially mainland Southeast Asia and the southern parts of China, as well as further work in the eastern parts of India. These regions are central to hypotheses on the dispersal of rice cultivation, including models linking the spread of rice to major language families such as Austroasiatic and Austronesian, and yet a lack systematically-studied evidence for rice cultivation itself, or evidence as to whether early rice represented an extension of the alluvial wetland cultivation systems like those of the Neolithic Yangtze (early subspecies japonica, typical of many modern temperate japonica) or the develop-ment of upland rainfed systems (the latter typical of many modern tropical japonica rices), with a secondary later parallel evolution of irrigated wet rice systems amongst indica rices. Therefore we will use a combination of archaeobotanical seed remains, including weed flora, and phytoliths to reconstruct the earliest rice cultivation systems (Neolithic-Bronze Age) along the three hypothesized trajectories of rice diffusion southwards from the Yangtze basin towards south-east Asia, namely in Yunnan, Guangdong, and Fujian, as well as across a range of subregions, environments and periods in mainland Southeast Asia (mainly in Thailand and Vietnam) to assess the extent to which rainfed and wet irrigated systems were practiced, and whether different regional patterns or a single evolutionary trajectory can be reconstructed.On the basis of our reconstructed rice arable systems and weed flora assemblages to as-sess the likelihood of single or multiple pathways for the spread of rice into Southeast Asia, by analysing the geographical and chronological patterns of weed flora. We will then use our improved understanding of how rice was cultivated in different times and periods of southern China and Southeastern Asia to produce improved models of past wetland rice area and linked methane emissions over time, grounded in the empirical evidence for past rice cultivation. Results will be of direct relevance to prehistorians and quaternary scientists interested in Holocene Asia and rice agriculture, but such results will have a wider impact in terms of assessing the regional and global impact, and sustainability, of different traditions of rice agriculture, and its contribution to ancient anthropogenic methane emissions.

Planned Impact

Beyond academia this research will impact on a broad demographic of potential users both locally and internationally by forging new links and building on existing partnerships developed in our previous grant.

- We have an established partnership with a local secondary school, the Hungerford School, and plan to extend this. Group visits to the archaeobotany laboratory at UCL and school visits with archaeobotanical and environmental activities where students can engage with archaeobotanical work first hand will enrich science education and encourage potential future researchers to consider a scientific path.

- Our continued presence at The Bloomsbury Festival http://www.bloomsburyfestival.org.uk/ will further engage the local community in Bloomsbury as well as the wider University community and general public. As in our current project, our archaeology student volunteers will benefit from the experience of presenting archaeobotanical related activities in a public context, while the local community will have the opportunity to participate in rice related activities, raising awareness of some of the impacts agriculture and sustainable foods can have on the environment.

- The local Bangladeshi community will benefit from events organized in collaboration with this project and the Wellcome Trust and we hope their experiences and knowledge will feed back into our project and the wider community.

- Our exhibitions at UCL and Kew Gardens will engage the UCL community and the wider public, including international visitors.

- The reconstructed ancient rice paddy at Kew Gardens will bring the project to a wide audience and raise awareness of the continuing development of farming from prehistory to the present.

International knowledge exchange through partnerships between local schools and schools in the regions we are studying will benefit all participants.

- The international exchange with schools in our research areas will provide long term benefit after the project has finished. This is also the potential basis for a wider academic network between the schools, Deccan College and UCL.

- There will be international engagement through the collaboration with our project partner's institutions. This is an opportunity for a wider international archaeological and archaeobotanical network in areas where little archaeobotanical work has taken place. There is vast and exciting potential for knowledge exchange between students and academics within our research areas.

- The website and social media feeds, along with the project blog, will provide local and international forums linking all strands of the project benefitting both academic and outreach. These will also play a part in documenting the activity and impacts of the project.

Social and economic impacts of this project arise from the development of communication and collaboration between the variety of groups and individuals within the local, university and international communities facilitated by our project. It is hoped the international exchange will provide long lasting ties between the schools and students involved and promote archaeobotany as a discipline in places where, up until now, it has been rarely practiced. This project has great potential to serve as an educational vehicle for schools, local communities and the broader general public and as a meeting point for home and international students and researchers through the creation of international networks.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description We have developed a method for distinguished wet versus dry rice on the basis of phytolith assemblages.

We have discovered that the early development of rice cultivation in the Lower Yangtze went from wet, wild-type ecology, to drier conditions, then back to wetter ecology with subsequent intensification (after 4500 BP).

When rice spread to northern China (Yellow river), by 6000 BP and up the Yangtze to Yunnan, by 3500 BP, cultivation was focused on wet types of cultivation.

We have found that the earliest rice cultivation in Southeast Was dry and that a shift towards drier conditions took place in the Iron Age around 2000-2500 BP.

We have found that early rice cultivation in India was at the drier end of the spectrum but became wetter in some areas after around 3000 BP.

Bangladeshi rice cultivation remained less intensive, with a mixed wet-dry signal upto at least ca. 1000 BP.

The overall archaeological record of rice indicates major expansion of the land area under rice between 5000 and 3000 BP, but much of the expansion methane producing wet-rice was delayed, and took place especially in the past 3000 years in South Asia and 2000 years in Southeast Asia. This suggests that while rice agriculture probably did contribute to later prehistoric methane rises it is unlikley to account for the entire methane anomally of the past 5000-4000 years.
Exploitation Route The methods we have developed can be applied more widely in science-based archaeology in Asia, and to African rice as well.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Environment,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

URL http://www.ucl.ac.uk/rice
 
Description Our findings have been used to inform the public as well as academic across other disciplines about the early history of rice and its impact on the global environment. Our archaeobotanical research findings have been of interest in palaeoclimate studies and in rice genetics and breeding, as indicated by plenary lecture and media interview invitations. For example, Our preliminary results on this have already been cited in the Fifth Assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (Stocker et al eds. (2013) Climate Change 2013: the physical science basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fifth Assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Cambridge University Press. pp. 465-470; citing Fuller et al 2011 DOI: 10.1177/0959683611398052).
First Year Of Impact 2013
Sector Agriculture, Food and Drink,Education,Environment,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural

 
Description Citation of results by Working Group I to the Fifth Assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
Geographic Reach Multiple continents/international 
Policy Influence Type Citation in other policy documents
URL http://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/assessment-report/ar5/wg1/WG1AR5_Chapter06_FINAL.pdf
 
Description Leverhulme Visiting Professorship
Amount £56,000 (GBP)
Funding ID VP2-2013-035 
Organisation The Leverhulme Trust 
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country United Kingdom
Start 09/2014 
End 08/2015
 
Description The impact of intensification and deintensification of Asian rice production: transitions between wet and dry ecologies
Amount £628,202 (GBP)
Funding ID NE/N010957/1 
Organisation Natural Environment Research Council 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 05/2016 
End 04/2019
 
Title Wet:Dry Poaceae Phytolith Ratio 
Description This method Uses ratios of Poaceae phytolith morphotypes, related cell types that are fixed in silicification or sensitive (to high evapotranspiration) as an indication of water levels to which the assemblage was exposed. This allows the separation of wet (iirigated) versus dry (rainfed/drained) conditions of ancient rice cropping. 
Type Of Material Biological samples 
Year Produced 2015 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact This allows a semi-quantitative separation of wet versus dry rice systems in antiquity, and therefore an estimate of water table level. We expect to be able to use this to better predict past methane emission levels from rice agriculture 
 
Title Rice Archaeobotanical Database (RAD), version 2.0 
Description This database is a comprehensive georeferenced collection of archaeological sites with evidence for rice, including evidence where available for wet versus dry ecologies. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2015 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact This has contributed to debates on the Early Anthropocene. The current version RAD 2.0 has been published in KML format with a PLOSone article. We plan to make improved version available in future. 
URL http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article/asset?unique&id=info:doi/10.1371/journal.pone.0137024.s001
 
Description Archaeological Fieldwork Partners 
Organisation Australian National University (ANU)
Country Australia 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We provide expertise in archaeobotanical sampling, and laboratory analysis.
Collaborator Contribution These partnerships are with archaeologists working on archaeological excavations in various countries, which are providing archaeobotanical data for our analysis. These provide the stratigraphic context for systematic archaeobotanical sampling which is filling out our archaeological record of rice.
Impact Multi-disciplinary, including various aspects of archaeology, archaeological sciences, and chronometric dating.
Start Year 2013
 
Description Archaeological Fieldwork Partners 
Organisation Deccan College Post-Graduate and Research Institute
Country India 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We provide expertise in archaeobotanical sampling, and laboratory analysis.
Collaborator Contribution These partnerships are with archaeologists working on archaeological excavations in various countries, which are providing archaeobotanical data for our analysis. These provide the stratigraphic context for systematic archaeobotanical sampling which is filling out our archaeological record of rice.
Impact Multi-disciplinary, including various aspects of archaeology, archaeological sciences, and chronometric dating.
Start Year 2013
 
Description Archaeological Fieldwork Partners 
Organisation Jahangirnagar University
Country Bangladesh 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We provide expertise in archaeobotanical sampling, and laboratory analysis.
Collaborator Contribution These partnerships are with archaeologists working on archaeological excavations in various countries, which are providing archaeobotanical data for our analysis. These provide the stratigraphic context for systematic archaeobotanical sampling which is filling out our archaeological record of rice.
Impact Multi-disciplinary, including various aspects of archaeology, archaeological sciences, and chronometric dating.
Start Year 2013
 
Description Archaeological Fieldwork Partners 
Organisation National Museum of Myanmar
Department Department of Archaeology, National Museum and Library
Country Myanmar 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution We provide expertise in archaeobotanical sampling, and laboratory analysis.
Collaborator Contribution These partnerships are with archaeologists working on archaeological excavations in various countries, which are providing archaeobotanical data for our analysis. These provide the stratigraphic context for systematic archaeobotanical sampling which is filling out our archaeological record of rice.
Impact Multi-disciplinary, including various aspects of archaeology, archaeological sciences, and chronometric dating.
Start Year 2013
 
Description Archaeological Fieldwork Partners 
Organisation North Eastern Hill University
Country India 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We provide expertise in archaeobotanical sampling, and laboratory analysis.
Collaborator Contribution These partnerships are with archaeologists working on archaeological excavations in various countries, which are providing archaeobotanical data for our analysis. These provide the stratigraphic context for systematic archaeobotanical sampling which is filling out our archaeological record of rice.
Impact Multi-disciplinary, including various aspects of archaeology, archaeological sciences, and chronometric dating.
Start Year 2013
 
Description Archaeological Fieldwork Partners 
Organisation Peking University
Country China 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We provide expertise in archaeobotanical sampling, and laboratory analysis.
Collaborator Contribution These partnerships are with archaeologists working on archaeological excavations in various countries, which are providing archaeobotanical data for our analysis. These provide the stratigraphic context for systematic archaeobotanical sampling which is filling out our archaeological record of rice.
Impact Multi-disciplinary, including various aspects of archaeology, archaeological sciences, and chronometric dating.
Start Year 2013
 
Description Archaeological Fieldwork Partners 
Organisation University of Otago
Country New Zealand 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We provide expertise in archaeobotanical sampling, and laboratory analysis.
Collaborator Contribution These partnerships are with archaeologists working on archaeological excavations in various countries, which are providing archaeobotanical data for our analysis. These provide the stratigraphic context for systematic archaeobotanical sampling which is filling out our archaeological record of rice.
Impact Multi-disciplinary, including various aspects of archaeology, archaeological sciences, and chronometric dating.
Start Year 2013
 
Description Archaeological Fieldwork Partners 
Organisation Yunnan Province Institute of Archaeology
Country China 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We provide expertise in archaeobotanical sampling, and laboratory analysis.
Collaborator Contribution These partnerships are with archaeologists working on archaeological excavations in various countries, which are providing archaeobotanical data for our analysis. These provide the stratigraphic context for systematic archaeobotanical sampling which is filling out our archaeological record of rice.
Impact Multi-disciplinary, including various aspects of archaeology, archaeological sciences, and chronometric dating.
Start Year 2013
 
Description "Seeds of Civilization" lecture on the origins of agriculture, including rice, as part of the New Scientist live event 2016 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Delivered a lecture at New Scientist Live at the ExCel London as part of the "Earth Stage" events, on 22 Sept. 2016.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL https://issuu.com/zestmedialondon/docs/new_scientist_september_2016
 
Description Domestication and archaeobotany lecture, Institute of Archaeology, Archaeological Survey of India, Delhi 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact "Comparing plant domestication: advances in method, theory and data collection", Lecturer and seminar delivered at the Institute of Archaeology, Archaeological Survey of India, the Red Fort, Delhi
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Lecture and seminar of rice project delivered at University of Hyderabad, India 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact "Rice domestication and the early Anthropocene", Lecture and Seminar delivered at University of Hyderabad, Dept of History, Hyderabad, Telengana, India. 11 Sept. 2017
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Lecture on archaeobotany of rice and the rice project, Bontany Dept., University of Baroda, Gujarat India 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact "The Origins and Archaeobotany of Rice", Lecture and Research seminar, Botany Department, M. S. University of Baroda, Gujarat, India. 1 Sept. 2017
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Nature feature, The birth of rice 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Quoted as a participating expert on an article on rice in a special supplement issue to the journal Nature on Rice.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v514/n7524_supp/full/514S58a.html
 
Description New Scientist article 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Interviewed contributor to New Scientist magazine article/cover story, 31 October 2015 issue.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg22830450-700-the-real-first-farmers-how-agriculture-was-a-glo...
 
Description Radio interview on the disapperance of "virgin" landscapes 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Was interviewed by Colombia W Radio (with translation into Spanish) on the issue of past human impacts on "virgin" landscapes. This followed on from my interview with the BBC 4 The Forum program.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://www.wradio.com.co/escucha/archivo_de_audio/la-desaparicion-de-los-paisajes-virgenes/20160611/...
 
Description Rice in Southeast Asia - Past and Present (Workshop 2018) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The purpose of the workshop was to bring together researchers and students from various Southeast Asian countries in order to discuss issues relating to rice, agriculture, human-plant interactions and climate. The Early Rice Project group will disseminate results from previous years, but would also want to engage with local researchers from Southeast Asia or working in Southeast Asia. Their expertise will enhance the knowledge base of all those working in Southeast Asia which will lead to an exchange of ideas and know-how, as well as future collaborations. The workshop also included practical courses aimed at local field archaeologists and students. This workshop was held in Bangkok, Thailand at the Princess Siridhorn Anthropology Centre and co-organized with colleagues from the Dept. of Archaeology, Silpakorn University, Bangkok. This event included participants from National Institutes of Vietnam and Indonesia, as well as universities across Thailand, Philippines and Taiwan. It's main beneficiaries were therefore users from ODA countries.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL http://www.ucl.ac.uk/rice/Conference_2018Jan
 
Description Rice project lecture, Birbal Sahni Institute, Lucknow, India 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact "Rice domestication and the early Anthropocene", Lecturer and discussion delivered at Birbal Sahni Institute of Palaeo-Sciences, Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, India. 11 Sept. 2017
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description TV Documentary interview 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Provides an interview for documentary on origins of rice and Chinese civilization being produced for Chinese Central Television by a Bristol-based production company, Five Films, 5 Kingsweston Road, Bristol, BS11 0UW

We expect to garner interest from a wider, non-academic public
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Taming Nature, BBC Radio 4 Forum program 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Was part of panel of 4 on a BBC Radio 4 program The Forum. Also aired on BBC world service.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b07nmqts?imz_s=3jucj2vr5ov4agip0nhh9obn04
 
Description The Origin of Rice (internet radio) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Talked sparked informative discussion with geneticist Prof. Susan McCouch.

Reached a wider audience of rice researchers and enthusiasts
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
URL https://soundcloud.com/irri-radio/the-origin-of-rice