Economic Botany

, Volume 49, Issue 2, pp 183–196 | Cite as

Distinguishing rice (Oryza sativa Poaceae) from wild Oryza species through Phytolith analysis: Results of preliminary research

  • Deborah M. Pearsall
  • Dolores R. Piperno
  • Elizabeth H. Dinan
  • Marcelle Umlauf
  • Zhuun Zhao
  • Robert A. BenferJr.


Asian rice is an important grain, not only in its homeland but in many areas of the world. Identifying rice in the archaeological record is a challenge, especially in the moist tropics, where organic materials preserve only when charred. Phytolith analysis, the identification of opaline silica bodies, provides an alternative method for identifying this important crop. Results of our research suggest thatOryza contributes phytoliths that are genus-specific, that bulliform characteristics alone do not permit separation of wild and domesticatedOryza in regions where species overlap, and that a number of phytolith types, especially silicified glumes, show promise for separating wild from domesticated forms. With further research it should be possible to identify rice through its phytolith assemblage in archaeological soils in the heartland of its domestication and use.

Key Words

Oryza sativa Asia China Phytolith 

Discemer entre le riz (Oryza sativa Poaceae;) et les espèces sauvages D’Oryza par l’analyze phytolithique: Résultats de recherches préliminaries


Le riz d’Asie est une céréale importante, non seulement dans son pays d’origine, mais à travers le monde. L’identification du riz dand les donnees archéologiques présente des problémes, surtout dans les tropiques humides où les restes organiques ne se conservent qu’à I’état brulé. L’analyzephytolitique-identification departicules de silica opalisé-fournit une methode alternative qui permet I’étude de cette céréale importante. Nos recherches suggèrent queOryza produit des phytolithes qui sont identifiables au niveau du genre, que les characteristiques bulliformes seules ne permettent pas defaire la distinction entrel’Oryza sauvage et domestiqué dans les régions où les espèces se chevauchent, et que plusieurs sortes de phytolithes, surtout les glumes silicifiées promettent de pouvoir séparer les formes sauvages des formes domestiques. Avec des recherches supplémentaires, il devrait etre possible d’identifier le riz grâce à son assemblage phytolithique obtenu de sols archaéologiques provenant du centre de sa domestication et de son usage.


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Copyright information

© New York Botanical Garden, Bronx, NY 10458 U.S.A 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • Deborah M. Pearsall
    • 1
  • Dolores R. Piperno
    • 2
    • 3
  • Elizabeth H. Dinan
    • 4
  • Marcelle Umlauf
    • 5
  • Zhuun Zhao
    • 6
  • Robert A. BenferJr.
    • 6
  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of MissouriColumbia
  2. 2.Smithsonian Tropical Research InstituteA.P.O Miami
  3. 3.MASCAUniversity of Pennsylvania MuseumPhiladelphia
  4. 4.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of IllinoisUrbana
  5. 5.Bilby Research CenterNorthern Arizona UniversityFlagstaff
  6. 6.University of MissouriColumbia

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