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China’s First Farmers

Friday, May 17, 2013


BEIJING, CHINA—An analysis of 5,000-year-old grinding stones suggests that agriculture may have begun in southern China before the arrival of domesticated rice. Huw Barton of the University of Leicester and Xiaoyan Yang of the Chinese Academy of Sciences found that the preserved starch granules represented freshwater chestnuts, lotus root, fern root, and palms. “The presence of at least two, possibly three species of starch producing palms, bananas, and various roots, raises the intriguing possibility that these plants may have been planted nearby the settlement,” said Barton. The presence of palm could explain the slow transition to rice as a staple food in the region.