Indus Valley civilisation used rice as summer crops 2500 years ago

Archaeologists discovered that the Indus Valley civilisation, that occupied the region of what is now Pakistan and North-west India during the Bronze Age domesticated rice farming far earlier than previously believed.

Excavations at  Masudpur I site (by Cameron Petrie via Live Science)
Excavations at Masudpur I site (by Cameron Petrie via Live Science)

The latest research confirms that Indus populations were the earliest people to use complex multi-cropping strategies across both seasons, growing foods during summer, such as rice, millets and beans, and winter, like wheat, barley and pulses, which required different watering regimes. Researchers from the University of Cambridge’s Division of Archaeology, in collaboration with colleagues at Banaras Hindu University and the University of Oxford believe they have found evidence for an entirely separate domestication process in ancient South Asia, likely based around the wild species Oryza nivara. This led to the local development of a mix of “wetland” and “dryland” agriculture of local Oryza sativa indica rice agriculture before the truly “wetland” Chinese rice, Oryza sativa japonica, arrived around 2000 BC. According to the archaeologists while wetland rice is more productive, and took over to a large extent when introduced from China, our findings appear to show there was already a long-held and sustainable culture of rice production in India as a widespread summer addition to the winter cropping during the Indus civilisation.

Archaeologists sifted for traces of ancient grains in the remains of several Indus villages within a few kilometres of the site called Rakhigari (including Masudpur I): the most recently excavated Indus civilisation city that may have maintained a population of some 40,000. They found winter staples of wheat and barley and winter pulses like peas and vetches, as well as evidence of summer crop, such as domesticated rice, but also millet and the tropical black lentil and horsegram. Radiocarbon dating provided absolute dates of 2890-2630 BC for millets and winter pulses, 2580-2460 BC for horsegram, and 2430-2140 BC for rice.

(after EurekAlert &  Cameron Petrie)

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