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Indus populations were the earliest people to use complex, year-long multi-cropping strategies

last modified Nov 21, 2016 03:10 PM
Thought to have arrived from China in 2000 BC, latest research shows sustainable domesticated rice agriculture in India and Pakistan existed centuries earlier, and suggests systems of seasonal crop variation that would have provided a rich and diverse diet for the Bronze Age residents of the Indus valley.
Indus populations were the earliest people to use complex, year-long multi-cropping strategies

The Land, Water, Settlement project excavations in northwest India. Credit: C. Petrie

Latest research on archaeological sites of the ancient Indus Civilisation, which stretched across what is now Pakistan and northwest India during the Bronze Age, has revealed that domesticated rice farming in South Asia began far earlier than previously believed, and may have developed in tandem with – rather than as a result of – rice domestication in China.

The findings, published today in the journals Antiquity and Journal of Archaeological Science, are the latest from the Land, Water and Settlement Project by researchers from the University of Cambridge’s Division of Archaeology, in collaboration with colleagues at Banaras Hindu University and the University of Oxford.

Evidence for very early rice use has been known from the site of Lahuradewa in the central Ganges basin, but it has long been thought that domesticated rice agriculture didn’t reach South Asia until towards the end of the Indus era, when the wetland rice arrived from China around 2000 BC. Researchers found evidence of domesticated rice in South Asia as much as 430 years earlier. 

Dr Cameron Petrie, University of Cambridge, says that the location of the Indus in a part of the world that received both summer and winter rains may have encouraged the development of seasonal crop rotation before other major civilisations of the time, such as Ancient Egypt and China’s Shang Dynasty.

“Most contemporary civilisations initially utilised either winter crops, such as the Mesopotamian reliance on wheat and barley, or the summer crops of rice and millet in China – producing surplus with the aim of stockpiling,” says Petrie.

“However, the area inhabited by the Indus is at a meteorological crossroads, and we found evidence of year-long farming that predates its appearance in the other ancient river valley civilisations.”        

He added: “Such a diverse system was probably well suited to mitigating risk from shifts in climate,” adds Petrie. “It may be that some of today’s farming monocultures could learn from the local crop diversity of the Indus people 4,000 years ago.”

 

The original article appears here: Journal of Archaeological Science http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0305440316300322

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Posted 21/11/2016

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