The emergence of rice agriculture in Korea: archaeobotanical perspectives

  • Sung-Mo AhnEmail author
Original Paper


This paper reviews archaeobotanical records on the beginning and spread of rice agriculture in the Korean peninsula. Argument for the earliest evidence of domesticated rice at the Sorori site, 15,000 years ago, is invalid. The evidence for rice cultivation in the Neolithic (Chulmun) is still insufficient although rice remains have been reported from a few late Neolithic sites in central-western Korea which dated to about 3000 BC. The existence of rice agriculture in the Bronze Age (Early and Middle Mumun: c.1300 ∼ 300 BC), on the other hand, is demonstrated by the high percentage and/or frequency of rice remains among crops recovered from various sites, as well as through the numerous findings of paddy fields. Rice appears to have been introduced from the Liaodong region, China, while so called 'southern diffusion route' that the beginning of rice cultivation was first stimulated by influences from Southeast Asia or South China is no more valid. Charred rice remains recovered from the Bronze Age dwellings consist of dehusked clean grains and weedy seeds are very rare among samples containing rice grains, which could be related with the harvesting and processing methods of rice. Measurements of charred rice grains also will be reported in this paper. Agricultural villages disappear from the archaeological records from the third century BC, which corresponds to the beginning of the Early Iron Age (Late Mumun), and reappear from the late first century with the emergence of urban societies.


Rice remains Archaeobotany Prehistoric Korea Origin of rice agriculture 



I would like to thank Sato Yo-Ichiro, who gave chance to participate the 2009 International Archaeobotany Symposium at RIHN. I have also benefited from discussions and advices from Dorian Fuller. This paper was supported by Wonkwang Univerisity in 2009.


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© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Wonkwang UniversityIksanKorea

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