Dry, rainfed or irrigated? Reevaluating the role and development of rice agriculture in Iron Age-Early Historic South India using archaeobotanical approaches
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Domestic rice agriculture had spread across the mainland Indian subcontinent by c.500 BC. The initial spread of rice outside the core zone of the central Gangetic Plains is thought to have been limited by climatic constraints, particularly seasonal rainfall levels, and so the later spread of rice into the dry regions of South India is largely supposed to have relied on irrigation. This has been associated with the development of ritual water features in the Iron Age (c.1000–500 BC), and to the subsequent development of tanks (reservoirs) during the period of Early Historic state development (c.500 BC–500 AD). The identification of early irrigation systems within South Asia has largely relied on early historical texts, and not on direct archaeological evidence. This initial investigation attempts to identify irrigated rice cultivation in the Indian subcontinent by directly examining rice crop remains (phytolith and macrobotanical data) from four sites. The evidence presented here shows that, contrary to accepted narratives, rice agriculture in the Iron Age-Early Historic South India may not have been supported by irrigated paddy fields, but may have relied on seasonal rainfall as elsewhere in the subcontinent. More caution is urged, therefore, when using terms related to ‘irrigation’ and ‘agricultural intensification’ in discussions of the Iron Age and Early Historic South Asia and the related developments of urbanism and state polities.
KeywordsOryza sativa Intensification Urbanisation South Asia Phytoliths
Within South Asia, the prehistory and history of rice has to be picked out using data points that are very few and far between (Bates et al. 2017; Fuller et al. 2010, 2016). Archaeology has now reached a stage where it is possible to detail where rice was first used as a major food resource (c.6400 BC in Uttar Pradesh; Tewari et al. 2008), to outline when it became a domestic crop in India (c.2500 BC; Bates et al. 2017; Murphy and Fuller 2016) and, roughly, when it spread across South India to reach Sri Lanka by c.500 BC (Fuller et al. 2010, 2016). However, we do not know how rice was grown in many areas of South Asia, when deep-water irrigation systems were developed or how the spread of rice outside of its natural zone was facilitated by human intervention and invention. By examining these questions, it is also possible to inform the development of state polities in South India, which is argued to have coincided with the introduction of deep-water irrigation and rice crops in these regions (Shaw and Sutcliffe 2003; Morrison 2015). Agricultural intensification in the form of irrigated rice has often been given a causal role in the development of urbanism (cf. Fuller and Qin 2009; Stargardt 2019; Wittfogel 1957). Across South Asia, and particularly Sri Lanka, irrigation tanks (artificial reservoirs of any size) form significant parts of the landscape, as well as cultural, agricultural and religious life (Shaw 2005; Sengupta 2000). The construction and maintenance of tanks (as well as other irrigation infrastructure such as canals and dams) requires community management, demands a high labour cost (Mosse 1999) and so their development and spread has been associated with the Early Historic development and spread of urbanism and Buddhism c.500 BC–500 AD (Shaw and Sutcliffe 2003; Morrison 2015; Morrison 2019). This theory, however, neglects other important factors in the development of states and urbanism, especially trade and economic specialisation (Allchin 1995; Johansen 2010; Moorti 1994; Smith 2006; Thakur 2002) and the autonomous agency of ‘ruled’ state subjects (cf. Hall 2001; Morrison and Junker 2002; Scott 2017). It also neglects alternative agricultural strategies such as diversification (Marston 2011; Petrie and Bates 2018; Weber et al. 2010a) and extensification (Porter et al. 2014; Strying et al. 2017).
This paper presents archaeobotanical data from four sites separated by up to 3000 km and 3000 years, from the north to the south of India: Tokwa, Gopalpur, Perur and Kodumanal. This analysis aims to directly investigate the ecology of the rice crops cultivated at each site, via archaeological phytolith samples (silica bodies which form within and between plant cells), in order to confirm the emergence of irrigated cultivation systems in the Early Historic South India.
Rice, rain and reservoirs
Rice agriculture is intrinsically coupled to the monsoons in South Asia, which provides the bulk of water used in agriculture. The southwest summer monsoon begins in June, reaching Sri Lanka and the south of India first and ending in the northwest of India in September. Caused by low pressure over the subcontinent and the high wall of the Himalayas, winds bring moisture from the Indian Ocean in huge amounts, leading to rainfalls of up to 2500 mm in just 2 months on the southwest coast and northeast India. The northeast monsoons take place between October and February and are the result of the Indian subcontinent cooling after the summer months. This monsoon brings water to the east coast, areas of Central India and Sri Lanka, and accounts for around 50% of Tamil Nadu’s annual rainfall (Fick and Hijmans 2017). The period between the two monsoons, summer, sees very high temperatures and little to no rainfall in India. There are, therefore, three seasons across most of India: monsoon, summer and winter (during the northwest monsoon). Some coastal parts of southern India have a different pattern of four seasons, with the southwest monsoon from June to October, the northeast monsoon from December to March, and two intermonsoonal periods. This causes a different pattern of vegetative growth from the rest of India, with flowering occurring in the winter, rather than the monsoon season (Asouti and Fuller 2007). The scheduling of crop growing seasons is, naturally, heavily influenced by the monsoons (see discussion in Morrison, in press). In India, there are two growing seasons: kharif (coinciding with the summer monsoon) and rabi (coinciding with the northeast monsoon). Both are timed so that planting coincides with the beginning of the rains, and harvesting occurs several weeks after they have ended. Traditionally, across most of India, the kharif crop is characterised by rice, millets and Vigna pulses, whereas wheats, barley and peas are grown as the rabi crop. Not all areas can produce a double crop; today, the rabi crop is largely found in the states of Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, as well as across soils of Indus-Ganges alluvium, and is facilitated by the use of irrigation technologies. The production of kharif and rabi crops is not solely dependent on the monsoon rains however. Irrigation technologies allow for the production of multiple crops (including double or even triple rice cropping (Petrie and Bates 2017)) in areas that would not necessarily receive enough rainfall (for example, by pumping ground water). Local environments and geographies also play a role, such as in the Kaveri delta in Tamil Nadu where multiple cropping is supported by the waters of the delta.
Of particular importance around the early first millennium AD were tanks and canals. References to such irrigation works are frequently recorded in Sangam texts of South India and it is clear that undertaking irrigation projects was a noble and lofty scheme for kings to undertake (Ramaswamy 2008; Raman 2008). Dating these texts, particularly the earliest, remains problematic, however, with a reasonable estimate of 300 BC–300 AD proposed by Abraham (2003 p. 214) and Thapar 2004 p. 231) for the Early Sangam period. Direct dates on tank construction are so far unavailable in South India, but the initial construction phase for a tank in the Anuradhapura region of Sri Lanka has been placed at c.400–200 BC using Optically stimulated luminescence dating (Gilliland et al. 2013). It is suggested that this tank was used for small-scale agriculture within the developing urban hinterland of Anuradhapura City (ibid.). The earliest direct dates for rice from Sri Lanka come from Kantharodai c.300 BC and Mantai at 74–241 cal AD (Kingwell-Banham et al. in press).
Whilst irrigation technologies allow for a degree of mitigation against both drought and flooding, the quantity, intensity and availability of rainfall were of greater importance in pre-irrigation technology agriculture than they are today. The earliest rice-producing societies all occur within areas that receive substantial monsoon rainfall and seasonal flooding: the Indo-Gangetic basin and East India (Kingwell-Banham et al. 2015). Across the semi-arid areas of South Asia agricultural production focused on drought tolerant millets and pulses as well as wheat and barley, which formed the basis of crop production in Neolithic South India c.2800–1000 BC (Fuller 2006; Kingwell-Banham et al. 2015). Wheat and barley, whilst needing more water than millets, still require less water than rice in predominant cultivation systems. This pattern suggests that a change must have occurred to either the environment, agricultural systems (including through technological innovation) or to the rice crop itself, before rice agriculture could move from within its restricted environmental sphere into the drier areas of South Asia around 500 BC.
Unfortunately, palaeoecological studies for the Deccan and central South India are rare. What little data that exists suggests that monsoon variability increased in the Late Holocene, but that this had different regional expressions (Patnaik et al. 2012; Ponton et al. 2012; e.g. compare Prasad et al. 2014 to Tripathi et al. 2014). Roberts et al. (2016) have examined changes in settlement patterns, subsistence and demographics in relation to environmental change during the Late Neolithic-Megalithic transition in Bellary, Karnataka. This study has suggested that fluctuations in rainfall levels would have made access to reliable watercourses, such as the Krishna and Tugabhadra rivers, of great importance. This is demonstrated by the increase in settlement size and density along such watercourses within the Southern Deccan and the abandonment of settlements located away from rivers, such as Sanganakallu and Hiregudda Area A (Roberts et al. 2016 pp.596–5). Similar shifts in settlements in the Vijayanagara region have been reported by Morrison (2015 p. 12) for the Late Iron Age-Early Historic period, although she did not identify such change during the Neolithic-Iron Age period. It is unlikely that monsoon variability would have caused a large enough increase in rainfall to allow for significant non-irrigated wet-rice agriculture in central South India c.1000 BC onwards. It appears, however, that human response to this variability included concentrating settlements along larger rivers and tracts of alluvium that could have provided adequate water for crop production (Roberts et al. 2016).
The development of rice agriculture in South Asia: established narratives and gaps in the data
Key crops of South India, their earliest reported dates and the number of sites they have been reported. Data from Stevens et al. (2016), Supplementary Table 1, which records published archaeobotanical data and associated radiocarbon dates. Note the reduction in published archaeobotanical data sets from post-Neolithic sites (1000 BC onwards)
Area of origin
Earliest reported date in South India (BC)
Number of sites present at 2000–1000 BC
Number of sites present at 1000–500 BC
Number of sites present at 500–0 BC
Number of sites present at 0–500 AD
Oryza sativa indica
The spread of rice agriculture into the savannahs of southern India is postulated to have been via the eastern coast (Cooke et al. 2005), but may equally have travelled along the western coast as the data are very patchy. Both the coastal regions to the sides of the Western and Eastern Ghats see higher levels of rainfall than the central zone during the summer monsoon and so could have supported a rainfed rice crop. It is also possible that early forms of saltwater/saline rice cultivation systems (e.g. kaipad) may have developed in these regions, but this remains speculation. From there, either before or after the development of irrigation systems, rice cultivation may have moved over these mountain ranges and into the interior, possibly along rivers such as the Krishna or Godavari and their tributaries (see Raman 2008 for notes on the importance of riverside agricultural land in the Sangam period). By 1000 AD urban centres, tanks and irrigation networks were present across arid South India. Undoubtedly, by this time, irrigated agriculture was important in supporting larger urban populations and irrigated cash crops such as sugarcane and cotton became increasingly important to the economy (Thakur 2002; Fuller 2008; Fuller et al. 2017).
Intensification versus extensification
The leading theory as to what allowed rice agriculture to move into the dry zones of the Southern Peninsula does not primarily come directly from archaeobotanical analysis, but from the archaeologies of settlement, landscape, state development and from the studies of early historical texts. This theory ties the spread of rice agriculture to the development of irrigation technologies, the construction of tanks, ponds and canals across the Deccan, the Southern Peninsula and Sri Lanka at the end of the Iron Age/beginning of the Early Historic Period, and the development of early polities and urbanism (e.g. Shaw and Sutcliffe 2003; Bauer and Morrison 2008; Gilliland et al. 2013) and can be traced back to Wittfogel’s seminal work (Wittfogel 1957).
Irrigation is a form of agricultural intensification which can dramatically increase yields (Boserup 1965; Brookfield 1972; McClatchie 2014), and as such is often associated with the development of densely populated urban societies across the world (e.g. Marcus and Stanish 2006; Weiss 1986); however, this is a simplified understanding of the dynamics between agriculture and populations (e.g. Erickson 2006; Kirch 1995; Morrison 1994). Other forms of agricultural intensification include manuring and weed management, both of which can be analysed archaeobotanically (see Jones et al. 2000; Bogaard et al. 2005), but these have often been overlooked in South Asian archaeobotany in favour of irrigation, undoubtedly because deep-water irrigated paddy fields are visually conspicuous within the modern landscape. Flooded and transplanted rice cultivation systems (which the term ‘paddy’ most often relates to, when not used more generally simply mean ‘rice’) are almost unique in that the process of flooding fields and transplanting seedlings both fertilises and dramatically reduces the amount of weeding needed to raise a crop. It is a highly labour intensive system of cultivation (including the creation of bunds [linear banks of earth], canals, damns and sluices) but with some of the highest yields. Compare modern yields of deep-water irrigated rice of around 2.5 t/ha to around 1 t/ha for rainfed rice (IRRI 2000), for example. The early development of irrigated fields has been documented archaeologically in Neolithic China, where small, enclosed, rainfed ‘ponds’ developed into large canal fed paddy fields (Fuller and Qin 2009; Zhuang et al. 2014), but not in South Asia.
Intensification is not, however, the only way in which past societies increased crop yields. Diversification of crops (see Marston 2011), including the establishment of summer and winter cropping, has frequently been considered within the archaeology of Northern India in particular (e.g. Petrie and Bates 2017; Weber 1998; Weber et al. 2010a) and to a more limited extent in South India (e.g. Cooke and Fuller 2015). Extensification has been greatly overlooked in the research of the Early Historic South Asia however (although see Miller 2006). Extensification refers to the process of increasing crop production by bringing more land under cultivation. Obvious indicators of extensification include deforestation (most often seen archaeologically through palaeoclimate records as increased microcharcoal or decreased arboreal pollen, e.g. Penny and Kealhofer (2005)) and the creation of new fields and field boundaries over a large area (e.g. Porter et al. 2014). McClatchie (2014) convincingly argues against oversimplification in the identification of ‘intensive agriculture’ through the creation of stone-built field boundaries. These have been interpreted as the establishment of fixed plot, more intensive agriculture, developing from less intensive systems of shifting cultivation. As McClatchie details, however, ‘a change in the organisation of production … does not necessarily imply any enhancement in productivity’ and instead may mark changes in the conceptual and social demarcation of landscapes. This can be related to Bauer and Morrison’s (2008) consideration of the socially symbolic importance of early reservoirs in South India. These changes in social landscape may include the process of extensification, as a social group incorporates larger areas into their agricultural territory, such as the Tiv’s extensive agriculture in the Benue Lowlands. As Stone (1996 p. 189) describes it ‘in location after location, land pressure brought not the heightened work of intensification, but movement’, indicating that extensive agriculture can sometimes provide a more resilient and productive option. This resilience is demonstrated in the continued existence of shifting cultivators within India today, who instead of being seen as marginalised and ‘pushed out’, instead could be seen as groups who have maintained their cultural and economic identities despite consistent pressures to ‘modernise’ (Guha 1999; Kingwell-Banham and Fuller 2012; Morrison 2007; Scott, 2009, b).
Within South Asian archaeology, there tends to be an assumption that the presence of rice = presence of irrigation = intensive agriculture and centrally controlled labour = increased production and political control = urbanism. Yet, however, there is unfortunately little archaeobotanical evidence to support this assumption outside of the comparatively well-researched Harappan Civilisation (Miller 2006; Weber 1999; and for replies, see Fuller 2001; Weber et al. 2010a) and studies from around the world into agriculture, intensification and the emergence of complex societies repeatedly demonstrate that models like this are too simple. Challenges to this and similar models have been proposed for places as disparate as the Indus Civilisation (e.g. Miller 2006, who critically reanalyses the Wittfoglian hypothesis; Petrie and Bates, 2017, who discuss intensification via multi-cropping), Africa (see Connah 2001, who also provides an overview of state formation theories), the Early Historic Mesopotamia (Styring et al. 2017, who show evidence for extensive agriculture in an early urban environment), China (e.g. Liu 2005 for the importance of craft specialisation, bronze and other non-agricultural resources in the development of urbanism) and from, of course, the complex hunter-gatherer societies of the Americas (Ames 1994; Fitzhugh 2003; Marquet et al. 2012, who document non-agricultural complex societies). Challenges to the idea that centralised government was needed for tank construction have also been recently made for South India, with Stargardt (2019) suggesting a bottom-up management of irrigation infrastructure in the first millennium AD. It is clear, therefore, that more care needs to be applied when interpreting the relationship between rice agriculture, irrigation, intensification, state formation and urban complexity in South Asia. To this aim, a preliminary study into the agricultural field systems of ancient South Asia was conducted. This article presents the first attempt to directly identify crop irrigation within the archaeological record of South Asia using the crop remains themselves.
Materials and methods
Published dates for Tokwa, Golbai Sasan, Perur and Kodumanal (Kingwell-Banham 2015)
Date cal BC/AD
Perur and Kodumanal are both located in Tamil Nadu, a much drier state than Uttar Pradesh and Odisha, which receive the majority of its rainfall during the winter monsoon. Both sites belong to the Early Historic-Medieval period. Rice from Kodumanal has recently been dated to 430–230 BC and Perur from 260 to 557 AD (Table 2). Kodumanal is situated further inland than Perur, which benefits slightly from the increased precipitation of the Western Ghats; thus, Kodumanal receives less rainfall than Perur (Fig. 2). Rice, tuber parenchyma and some millets were recovered in the macrobotanical remains from both sites. In addition, pulses were recovered from Kodumanal and Perur (Cooke et al. 2005) (Table 3).
# of samples
Total volume (L)
Asteraceae Tridex type
cf. Crotolaria sp.
cf. Ipomea sp.
cf. Lolium sp.
cf. Molluga sp.
cf. Oldenlandia sp.
cf. Phyllanthus sp.
cf. Lindernia/Scropia sp.
cf. Scirpus sp.
cf. Stellaria sp.
Wild seed indet.
Identifying rice cultivation systems
Different field management and cultivation systems produce different field ecologies, and this has been used in archaeobotany to identify cultivation practices and changes to cultivation practices over long- and short-time frames, from more simple analyses of the abundance of certain weed-type floras (e.g. Jones 2009), to more complex analyses of weed-type floras (e.g. Bogaard et al. 1998; Jones et al. 2000) and phytolith assemblages (e.g. Weisskopf et al. 2013). Due to the relative sparsity of the macrobotanical weeds within the assemblages from each of the sites investigated, analysis of the phytolith data has provided the main avenue of investigation.
Categories of phytoliths used in correspondence analysis
Other grass multi-cells
cf. Oryza bilobe
cf. Oryza husk
Leaf/culm square cell
Sedge achene cells
All grass short cells (bilobate, rodel, trapezoid, crenate, cross, etc.)
All grass long cells (smooth, sinuous, dendritic)
Leaf/culm long cells
cf. Setaria husk
cf. Panicum husk
Millet type 1
Millet type 2
Polyhedral hair base
Sampling, processing and identification of phytoliths
Phytolith samples were collected at 10-cm intervals from a single trench section that spanned the entire chronological sequence of the site at Golbai Sasan. At Tokwa, Perur and Kodumanal phytolith samples were collected from the same stratigraphic layers as macrobotanical samples. Phytolith samples were processed at the UCL Institute of Archaeology using the heavy liquid separation method developed by Arlene Rosen (see Piperno 2006). 0.8 g of fine sediment was processed per sample and samples were mounted to slide using Entellen. Identifications were done using a biological microscope with a cross-polarising filter at × 400 magnification. A minimum of 300 single cells and 100 multi-cell panels were counted per sample, when possible. Identifications were made using reference slides and relevant literature (for example Eichhorn et al. 2010; Lu et al. 2009; Piperno 2006). Analysis of the phytolith data was done using correspondence analysis, which has been shown to provide an effective means to distinguish between different rice cultivation systems across Asia (Weisskopf et al. 2013; Weisskopf 2017). Canoco for Windows 4.5 and CanoDraw for Windows 4.1 (ter Braak & Smilauer 1998) were used to analyse and plot the data.
Sensitive to fixed morphotypes ratios for Tokwa, Golbai Sasan, Perur and Kodumanal
The results indicate that the rice at Kodumanal and Perur was grown in an environment with lower water availability than at Tokwa and Golbai Sasan. Kodumanal and Perur both have higher quantities of ‘other grass multi-cells’ to dicotyledon phytoliths, suggesting a higher proportion of grass weeds (and that these correlate with dryland cultivation system ecology and not water availability), as well as lower sensitive to fixed ratios and a lower quantity of Cyperaceae phytoliths, suggesting lower water availability during the growing season. This is consistent with a ground water/lowland rainfed cultivation system (Fig. 3). Conversely, the samples from Golbai Sasan and Tokwa show a high quantity of sensitive morphotypes and dicotyledon phytoliths. Golbai Sasan in particular shows a very high quantity of hydrophilic morphotypes. This is consistent with wet-rice agriculture (Fig. 3, ‘flooded/decrue’, ‘irrigated’ or ‘deepwater’).
Reevaluating the evidence for irrigation in South India pre-500 AD
The modification of natural rock pools and reservoirs, in order to retain more water, has been identified at several Early Iron Age sites in Karnataka and (coupled to the recovery of rice, banana, wheat and barley) has been posited to represent the initial phase of the development of irrigation systems in South India, leading to tank, canal and dam construction in the Early Historic period (Bauer and Morrison 2008; Morrison, in press). However, it is important to question the likelihood that the altered natural ponds and reservoirs found across the central Southern Peninsula were primarily used for crop irrigation. They are often located on hill tops, without channels to feed water to agricultural fields, and, like Johansen and Bauer (2018), I would argue that a more likely agricultural use would be livestock watering. Pastoralism remains an important economy during the Iron Age. There is the suggestion that it saw a resurgence during the drier periods of the Early Iron Age based on the reoccupation of temporary hunting-pastoral sites such as Birappa post-1300 BC (Roberts et al. 2016; Shipton et al. 2012), and a decline in the number of sedentary settlement sites across the Southern Peninsula c.1200 BC (Roberts et al. 2016, p. 592). The value of having a protected and relatively secluded water source for watering herds of animals during a period of climatic fluctuations would have been high. This is especially true if there was risk of conflict with other groups (both mobile pastoralists and nearby settled pastoralists) during periods of water stress (see, for example Jia et al. 2017). If the hypothesis of protected hilltop settlement sites is expanded, associated megalithic features could potentially be seen as monuments delineating regional territories, constructed to be visible within the wider landscape. It is clear that water is symbolically important during the Iron Age, with the association of modified ponds with megalithic burial sites (Morrison 2015); however, the construction of monumental architecture is evidently incredibly nuanced (e.g. MacEachern and David 2013).
The argument that banana, wheat, barley and rice needed to be grown with supplemental watering provided by Iron Age reservoirs suggests that these crops were grown within an intensive, irrigated cultivation system (Morrison in press; Bauer and Morrison 2008). However, all of these crops could have been grown within other areas of seasonally waterlogged land, in a similar way to tank cultivation, without additional irrigation. In the absence of evidence for crop irrigation, and the work of Roberts et al. (2016) which shows a shift in settlement towards reliable rivers and alluvial plains, this low labour input scenario should be more readily considered. Prior to the development of agricultural irrigation in this region, larger and larger areas of seasonally flooded catchments could have been transformed into agricultural fields (extensification). It would be very interesting to see whether the larger Iron Age-Early Historic settlements tend to have been located next to larger areas of seasonally waterlogged land or not, and it is anticipated that the next decade of archaeological survey, settlement and landscape analysis will shed light on this.
The specific regional impacts of increased monsoon variability in the Late Holocene and more recent changes in regional climates also need to be considered in relation to settlement distribution and agricultural adaptation. Whilst it has been suggested that adopting or developing irrigation systems allowed for past societies to mitigate against fluctuating or decreasing rainfall levels in other parts of the world (e.g. Weber et al. 2010b; Castillo et al., 2019), it seems likely that in South India, mitigation strategies included maintaining crop diversity by cultivating a wide range of regionally adapted drought resilient millets, pulses and tubers.
Rice as a symbolic crop in the Iron Age-Early Historic South India
Much more work needs to be done in order to accurately reconstruct the agricultural systems of ancient South Asia, but this study serves to demonstrate that a more nuanced and critical approach needs to be applied to discussions of agricultural systems in the Prehistoric and Early Historic South Asia. A ‘one size fits all’ theoretical model (in this case, ‘presence of rice = presence of irrigation’) can rarely be applied over such a large geographical and environmental gradient. The data presented in this study, although limited, casts some doubt over the notion that rice in South India was irrigated prior to 500 AD and has allowed for a discussion of alternative interpretations related to rice cultivation systems and the role of rice in this area. It is increasingly seems likely that there was a continuation in agricultural traditions in South India, from the Neolithic to well into the Early Historic period. This focused on the production of drought resilient crops (local small millets and pulses), with more water thirsty crops (including rice, cotton and sugar cane) the focus of more limited, but specialised, ‘boutique’ production.
As more archaeological survey and, crucially, more archaeobotanical work is conducted within South Asia, it is expected that increasing evidence will be found for regional variability within the Prehistoric and Early Historic South Asia, both within agricultural systems and related pathways to urbanisation. Within this context, and to allow our understanding to develop, more critical applications of the theories of intensification and the development of urban states must be incorporated into our analyses of South Asian archaeology.
I was fortunate enough to meet Steve Weber in the first year of my PhD, at the Early rice Symposium in Beijing (http://www.indigo-sandbox.ucl.ac.uk/rice/workshops/Beijing2011/Photo_of_participants_Early_Rice_and_its_Weed_Flora_Symposium__Peking_University__2011?hires), where he gave excellent advice to me, as a fledgling PhD student. He was very supportive, encouraging and warm, and gave me a confidence boost that keeps me going through those early PhD years! My thanks also go to Prof. Dorian Fuller, Prof. Arlene Rosen and Dr. Sue College for their supervision and advice on this work, and access to samples. Much thanks to Prof. Rabindra Kumar Mohanty for all of his advice and assistance and for samples from Golbai Sasan.
This work was developed during my PhD, funded by a Natural Environment Research Council grant (‘Early Rice Project’ NE/G005540/1), and finalised during work on the European Research Council funded project ‘Comparative Pathways to Agriculture’ (grant number 323842).
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