Skip to main content

Kushan Period rice in the Amu Darya Basin: Evidence for prehistoric exchange along the southern Himalaya

Abstract

The origins and prehistoric spread of rice agriculture between East and West Asia are hot topics in the current archaeological community. In this study, we present the results from a preliminary archaeobotanical study at the Khalchayan site in Uzbekistan, where we recovered the oldest securely dated rice thus far identified in Central Asia. We directly dated the rice grains to 1714-1756 cal yr BP (Kushan period), and morphologically compared them with other contemporaneous cultivated rice remains from China and India. The morphological results showed that the rice remains found at Khalchayan are more similar to cultivated japonica rice from southern China and northwestern India. Integrated archeological and chronological results from the surrounding area show that the rice remains found at Khalchayan likely spread along a southern Himalayan route from southwest China to northern India and finally reached the Amu Darya. The rice remains from Khalchayan are the first directly dated and well-reported rice remains found in Central Asia. By the Islamic period, rice was an important culinary aspect of the culture in Central Asia, but the cultural affinity towards rice only developed over the past two millennia. This study provides new information on the spread of rice agriculture globally, especially in arid-semiarid inland regions.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

References

  1. Amzallag N. 2009. From metallurgy to bronze age civilizations: The synthetic theory. Am J Archaeol, 113: 497–519

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. An C B, Ji D X, Chen F H, Dong G H, Wang H, Dong W M, Zhao X Y. 2010. Evolution of prehistoric agriculture in central Gansu Province, China: A case study in Qin’an and Li County. Chin Sci Bull, 55: 1925–1930

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. An Z. 1999. The origin and eastward spread of rice-planting culture of China (in Chinese). Cult Relic, (2): 63–70, 92

    Google Scholar 

  4. Askarov A. 1973. Sapallitepa (In Russian). Tashkent: FAN.UzSSR Press. 1–127

    Google Scholar 

  5. Brite E B, Khozhaniyazov G, Marston J M, Negus Cleary M, Kidd F J. 2017. Kara-tepe, Karakalpakstan: Agropastoralism in a Central Eurasian Oasis in the 4th/5th century A.D. Transition. J Field Archaeol, 42: 514–529

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Brite E B, Marston J M. 2013. Environmental change, agricultural innovation, and the spread of cotton agriculture in the Old World. J Anthropol Archaeol, 32: 39–53

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Castillo C 2013. The archaeobotany of Khao Sam Kaeo and Phu Khao Thong: The agriculture of late prehistoric southern Thailand. Dissertation for Doctoral Degree. London: University College London

    Google Scholar 

  8. Castillo C C, Tanaka K, Sato Y I, Ishikawa R, Bellina B, Higham C, Chang N, Mohanty R, Kajale M, Fuller D Q. 2016. Archaeogenetic study of prehistoric rice remains from Thailand and India: Evidence of early japonica in South and Southeast Asia. Archaeol Anthropol Sci, 8: 523–543

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Chen T, Wu Y, Zhang Y, Wang B, Hu Y, Wang C, Jiang H. 2012. Archaeobotanical study of ancient food and cereal remains at the Astana Cemeteries, Xinjiang, China. PLoS One, 7: e45137

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Dani A H, Masson V. 1992. History of Civilizations of Central Asia, Vol. I, The Dawn of Civilization: Earliest Times to 700 BC. Paris: UNESCO Press. 441–458

    Google Scholar 

  11. Dani A H, Staff U, Asimov M, Litvinsky B, Samghabadi R S, Bosworth C. 1994. History of Civilizations of Central Asia Vol. II The Development of Sedentary and Nomadic Civilizations, 700 BC to A, Paris: UNESCO Press. 96–254

    Google Scholar 

  12. Deng Z, Fuller D Q, Chu X, Cao Y, Jiang Y, Wang L, Lu H. 2019. Assessing the occurrence and status of wheat in late Neolithic central China: The importance of direct AMS radiocarbon dates from Xiazhai. Veget Hist Archaeobot, 29: 61–73

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Deng Z, Hung H, Fan X, Huang Y, Lu H. 2018a. The ancient dispersal of millets in southern China: New archaeological evidence. Holocene, 28: 34–43

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Deng Z, Liu H, Meng H. 2013. Botanical remains analysis in Sanfangwan and Tanjialing Sites, Shijiahe Ancient City, Tianmen, Hubei Province (in Chinese). Archaeology, (1): 91–99, 92

    Google Scholar 

  15. Deng Z, Hung H, Carson M T, Bellwood P, Yang S, Lu H. 2018b. The first discovery of Neolithic rice remains in eastern Taiwan: Phytolith evidence from the Chaolaiqiao site. Archaeol Anthropol Sci, 10: 1477–1484

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Dong G H, Yang Y S, Han J Y, Wang H, Chen F H. 2017. Exploring the history of cultural exchange in prehistoric Eurasia from the perspectives of crop diffusion and consumption. Sci China Earth Sci, 60: 1110–1123

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Fan X, Harbottle G, Gao Q, Zhou W, Gong Q, Wang H, Yu X, Wang C. 2012. Brass before bronze? Early copper-alloy metallurgy in China. J Anal At Spectrom, 27: 821–826

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Frachetti M D, Spengler R N, Fritz G J, Mar’yashev A N. 2010. Earliest direct evidence for broomcorn millet and wheat in the central Eurasian steppe region. Antiquity, 84: 993–1010

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Fuller D Q. 2006. Agricultural origins and frontiers in South Asia: A working synthesis. J World Prehist, 20: 1–86

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Fuller D Q. 2011a. Finding plant domestication in the Indian Subcontinent. Curr Anthrop, 52: 347–362

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. Fuller D Q. 2011b. Pathways to Asian civilizations: Tracing the origins and spread of rice and rice cultures. Rice, 4: 78–92

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Fuller D Q, Harvey E, Qin L. 2007. Presumed domestication? Evidence for wild rice cultivation and domestication in the fifth millennium BC of the Lower Yangtze region. Antiquity, 81: 316–331

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. Fuller D Q, Qin L, Zheng Y, Zhao Z, Chen X, Hosoya L A, Sun G P. 2009. The domestication process and domestication rate in rice: Spikelet bases from the lower Yangtze. Science, 323: 1607–1610

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. Fuller D Q, Rowlands M. 2009. Towards a long-term macro-geography of cultural substances: Food and sacrifice tradition in East, West and South Asia. Chin Rev Anthropol, 12: 1–37

    Google Scholar 

  25. Fuller D Q, Sato Y I, Castillo C, Qin L, Weisskopf A R, Kingwell-Banham E J, Song J, Ahn S M, van Etten J. 2010. Consilience of genetics and archaeobotany in the entangled history of rice. Archaeol Anthropol Sci, 2: 115–131

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. Fuller D Q, van Etten J, Manning K, Castillo C, Kingwell- Banham E, Weisskopf A, Qin L, Sato Y I, Hijmans R J. 2011. The contribution of rice agriculture and livestock pastoralism to prehistoric methane levels. Holocene, 21: 743–759

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. Garris A J, Tai T H, Coburn J, Kresovich S, McCouch S. 2005. Genetic structure and diversity in Oryza sativa L. Genetics, 169: 1631–1638

    Article  Google Scholar 

  28. Gross B L, Zhao Z. 2014. Archaeological and genetic insights into the origins of domesticated rice. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA, 111: 6190–6197

    Article  Google Scholar 

  29. Harmatta J. 1992. The Emergence of the Indo-Iranians: The Indo-Iranian Languages. Paris: UNESCO Press. 357–378

    Google Scholar 

  30. He K Y, Lu H Y, Zhang J P, Wang C, Huan X J. 2017. Prehistoric evolution of the dualistic structure mixed rice and millet farming in China. Holocene, 27: 1885–1898

    Article  Google Scholar 

  31. Huang Z, Zhang W. 2002. More on the origin, development and propagation of rice cultivation in China (in Chinese). Trop Geogr, 22: 76–79

    Google Scholar 

  32. Jiang L, Liu L. 2006. New evidence for the origins of sedentism and rice domestication in the Lower Yangzi River, China. Antiquity, 80: 355–361

    Article  Google Scholar 

  33. Jiang M, Zhao D, Huang W, Zhao Z. 2011. Botanical archaeology analysis report at No. 5, C Site, Jinniu District, Chengdu Urban and Rural Integration Project, Chengdu, Sichuan (in Chinese). Cult Relic South Chin, 3: 68–72

    Google Scholar 

  34. Jin G Y, Wu W W, Zhang K S, Wang Z B, Wu X H. 2014. 8000-year old rice remains from the north edge of the Shandong Highlands, East China. J Archaeol Sci, 51: 34–42

    Article  Google Scholar 

  35. Jones M, Hunt H, Lightfoot E, Lister D, Liu X, Motuzaite- Matuzeviciute G. 2011. Food globalization in prehistory. World Archaeol, 43: 665–675

    Article  Google Scholar 

  36. Kan Y. 1983. Carbonized rice remain in Shifodong site, Yunnan (in Chinese). Agric Archaeol, (2): 80–83, 82

    Google Scholar 

  37. Kato S, Kosaka H. 1930. On the affinity of the cultivated varieties of rice plants, Oryza sativa L. J Dept Agric Kyushu, 2: 241–276

    Google Scholar 

  38. Lahiri N. 1990. Harappa as a centre of trade and trade routes: A case study of the resource-use, resource-access and lines of communication in the Indus civilization. Ind Econ Soc Hist Rev, 27: 405–444

    Article  Google Scholar 

  39. Li H M, Zuo X X, Kang L H, Ren L L, Liu F W, Liu H G, Zhang N M, Min R, Liu X, Dong G H. 2016. Prehistoric agriculture development in the Yunnan-Guizhou Plateau, southwest China: Archaeobotanical evidence. Sci China Earth Sci, 59: 1562–1573

    Article  Google Scholar 

  40. Li X, Zhou X, Zhang H, Zhou J, Shang X, Dodson J. 2007a. 5000 a BP rice remains in northwestern China recorded by archaeological proxy (in Chinese). Chin Sci Bull, 52: 673–678

    Article  Google Scholar 

  41. Li X Q, Zhou X Y, Zhou J, Dodson J, Zhang H B, Shang X. 2007b. The earliest archaeobiological evidence of the broadening agriculture in China recorded at Xishanping site in Gansu Province. Sci China Ser DEarth Sci, 50: 1707–1714

    Article  Google Scholar 

  42. Long T, Leipe C, Jin G, Wagner M, Guo R, Schröder O, Tarasov P E. 2018. The early history of wheat in China from 14C dating and Bayesian chronological modelling. Nat Plants, 4: 272–279

    Article  Google Scholar 

  43. Lu H Y. 2017. New methods and progress in research on the origins and evolution of prehistoric agriculture in China. Sci China Earth Sci, 60: 2141–2159

    Article  Google Scholar 

  44. Ma Y, Jin G, Yang X. 2017. Identification of rice remains and the progress (in Chinese). East Asia Archaeol, 14: 131–157

    Google Scholar 

  45. Miller N F. 1999. Agricultural development in western Central Asia in the Chalcolithic and Bronze Ages. Veget Hist Archaebot, 8: 13–19

    Article  Google Scholar 

  46. Miller N F, Spengler R N, Frachetti M. 2016. Millet cultivation across Eurasia: Origins, spread, and the influence of seasonal climate. Holocene, 26: 1566–1575

    Article  Google Scholar 

  47. Moulherat C, Tengberg M, Haquet J F, Mille B. 2002. First evidence of cotton at Neolithic Mehrgarh, Pakistan: Analysis of mineralized fibres from a copper bead. J Archaeol Sci, 29: 1393–1401

    Article  Google Scholar 

  48. Pugachenkova G A. 1966. Khalchayan (in Russian). Tashkent: FAN. UzSSR Press. 1–287

    Google Scholar 

  49. Pugachenkova G A. 1971. Sculpture of Khalchayan (in Russian). Moscow: Art Press. 1–201

    Google Scholar 

  50. Qin L. 2012. Botanical archaeology research and prospects of Chinese agricultural origins (in Chinese). Coll Stud Archaeol: 260–315

    Google Scholar 

  51. Ramsey C B. 2009. Bayesian analysis of radiocarbon dates. Radiocarbon, 51: 337–360

    Article  Google Scholar 

  52. Reimer P J, Bard E, Bayliss A, Beck J W, Blackwell P G, Ramsey C B, Buck C E, Cheng H, Edwards R L, Friedrich M, Grootes P M, Guilderson T P, Haflidason H, Hajdas I, Hatté C, Heaton T J, Hoffmann D L, Hogg A G, Hughen K A, Kaiser K F, Kromer B, Manning S W, Niu M, Reimer R W, Richards D A, Scott E M, Southon J R, Staff R A, Turney C S M, van der Plicht J. 2013. IntCal13 and Marine13 radiocarbon age calibration curves 0-50000 years cal BP. Radiocarbon, 55: 1869–1887

    Article  Google Scholar 

  53. Saraswat K. 2005. Agricultural background of the early farming communities in the Middle Ganga Plain. Pragdhara, 15: 145–177

    Google Scholar 

  54. Spengler R N 2019. Fruit from the Sands: The Silk Road Origins of the Foods We Eat. Oakland: University of California Press. 59–271

    Book  Google Scholar 

  55. Spengler R, Frachetti M, Doumani P, Rouse L, Cerasetti B, Bullion E, Mar’yashev A. 2014. Early agriculture and crop transmission among Bronze Age mobile pastoralists of Central Eurasia. Proc R Soc B, 281: 20133382

    Article  Google Scholar 

  56. Spengler R N, Chang C, Tourtellotte P A. 2013. Agricultural production in the Central Asian mountains: Tuzusai, Kazakhstan (410-150 BC). J Field Archaeol, 38: 68–85

    Article  Google Scholar 

  57. Stevens C J, Murphy C, Roberts R, Lucas L, Silva F, Fuller D Q. 2016. Between China and South Asia: A Middle Asian corridor of crop dispersal and agricultural innovation in the Bronze Age. Holocene, 26: 1541–1555

    Article  Google Scholar 

  58. Sun C, Sun X, Zhou M, Liu L, Xing S. 2018. Morphological studies on Wuzhutai tooth, Xintai of Shandong Province (in Chinese). Acta Anthropol Sin, 37: 1–13

    Google Scholar 

  59. Tang L, Luo Y, Tao Y, Zhao Z. 2014. Research on charred plant remains from the Xiezidi site in Daye City, Hubei Provience (in Chinese). Quat Sci, 34: 97–105

    Google Scholar 

  60. Tewari R, Srivastava R, Singh K, Saraswat K, Singh I, Chauhan M, Pokharia A K, Saxena A, Prasad V, Sharma M. 2006. Second preliminary report of the excavations at Lahuradewa, District Sant Kabir Nagar, UP: 2002-2003-2004 & 2005-06. Pragdhara, 16: 35–68

    Google Scholar 

  61. Wang C, Lu H, Gu W, Zuo X, Zhang J, Liu Y, Bao Y, Hu Y. 2018. Temporal changes of mixed millet and rice agriculture in Neolithic-Bronze Age Central Plain, China: Archaeobotanical evidence from the Zhuzhai site. Holocene, 28: 738–754

    Article  Google Scholar 

  62. Wang Y, Wei C, Que J, Zhang W, Sun C, Shu Y, Hou Y, Zhang J, Shi R, Wei L. 2017. Development and applications of paleontological computed tomography. Vertebr Palasiat, 57: 84–92

    Google Scholar 

  63. Wu S. 1998. Preliminary analysis of the origin and development of protorice agriculture in China (in Chinese). Agric Archaeol, (1): 87–93, 117

    Google Scholar 

  64. Xia X, Yin Y P, Xu W, Wu Y. 2017. The discovery and discussion of rice remains from the Archaeological Site of Dongyang, Huaxian County, Shaanxi Province (in Chinese). Acta Anthropol Sin, 36: 369–381

    Google Scholar 

  65. Xiang A, Zhang W, Cao Y, Liu G. 2012. Ancient rice unearthed from wells of the Eastern Zhou Dynasty ruins at Daping Shuangyan of Li County in Hunan Province (in Chinese). Acta Agron Ica Sin, 38: 1943–1947

    Article  Google Scholar 

  66. Xiang A, Zhang W, Huang Y, Zheng T. 2013. Research on unearthed ancient rice in Pinglingtou Ruins of Longchuan in Guangdong Province (in Chinese). Tianjin Agric Sci, 19: 80–83

    Google Scholar 

  67. Xiang A, Zhang W, Yang K. 2015. Research on the ancient rice unearthed from the Han Tomb No. 1 of Xiejiaqiao Site in Jingzhou (in Chinese). Jianghan Archaeol, 4: 110–114

    Google Scholar 

  68. Xu P. 1998. Western Han Dynasty carbonized rice remain and related relics in Fenghuangshan, Chengdu, Sichuan (in Chinese). Agric Archaeol, (3): 105–109

    Google Scholar 

  69. Yang Z, Cao Y, Su Y, Liu X, Li H, Lu Y. 2006. Classification and methods of cultivated Indica and japonica rice in China (review) (in Chinese). Southwest Chin J Agric Sci, 19: 480–487

    Google Scholar 

  70. You X. 1976. Views on the rice remain and skeleton tools in the fourth cultural layer of Hemudu site (in Chinese). Cult Relic, (8): 20–23

    Google Scholar 

  71. Yuan Z. 2004. Introduction to the Surxondaryo region of the Republic of Uzbekistan (in Chinese). Cent Asia Inf, (1): 30–32

    Google Scholar 

  72. Zhang D J, Chen F H, Bettinger R L, Barton L, Ji D X, Morgan C, Wang H, Cheng X Z, Dong G H, Guilderson T P, Zhao H. 2010. Archaeological records of Dadiwan in the past 60 ka and the origin of millet agriculture. Chin Sci Bull, 55: 1636–1642

    Article  Google Scholar 

  73. Zhang J, Lu H, Gu W, Wu N, Zhou K, Hu Y, Xin Y, Wang C. 2012. Early mixed farming of millet and rice 7800 years ago in the middle Yellow River region, China. PLoS One, 7: e52146

    Article  Google Scholar 

  74. Zhang J P, Lu H Y, Wu N Q, Li F J, Yang X Y, Wang W L, Ma M Z, Zhang X H. 2010. Phytolith evidence for rice cultivation and spread in Mid-Late Neolithic archaeological sites in central North China. Boreas, 39: 592–602

    Google Scholar 

  75. Zhang W, Pei A. 2000. The study of the ancient cultivated rice restored from the carbonized rice (in Chinese). Acta Agron Ica Sin, 26: 579–586

    Google Scholar 

  76. Zhang W, Wang H. 2000. Study on ancient cultivated rice in Qingyang Site, Gansu Province (in Chinese). Agric Archaeol, (3): 80–85

    Google Scholar 

  77. Zhao Z. 2015. Study on the introduction of wheat into China—Plant archaeological data (in Chinese). Cult Relic South Chin, (3): 44–52

    Google Scholar 

  78. Zhao Z J. 1998. The Middle Yangtze region in China is one place where rice was domesticated: Phytolith evidence from the Diaotonghuan Cave, Northern Jiangxi. Antiquity, 72: 885–897

    Article  Google Scholar 

  79. Zheng Y, Jiang L, Zheng J. 2004. Study on the remains of ancient rice from Kuahuqiao Site in Zhejiang Province (in Chinese). Chin J Rice Sci, 18: 33–38

    Google Scholar 

  80. Zheng Y F, Crawford G W, Jiang L P, Chen X G. 2016. Rice domestication revealed by reduced shattering of archaeological rice from the lower Yangtze valley. Sci Rep, 6: 28136

    Article  Google Scholar 

  81. Zhou J. 1981. Investigation report on ancient rice remains in the middle and lower Yangtze (in Chinese). Yunnan Agric Sci Technol, (6): 1–6, 50

    Google Scholar 

  82. Zhou X Y, Li X Q, Zhao K L, Dodson J, Sun N, Yang Q. 2011. Early agricultural development and environmental effects in the Neolithic Longdong basin (eastern Gansu). Chin Sci Bull, 56: 762–771

    Article  Google Scholar 

  83. Zhou X Y, Li X Q, Dodson J, Zhao K L. 2016. Rapid agricultural transformation in the prehistoric Hexi corridor, China. Quat Int, 426: 33–41

    Article  Google Scholar 

  84. Zinkina J, Christian D, Grinin L, Ilyin I, Andreev A, Aleshkovski I, Shulgin S, Korotayev A. 2019. Archaic Globalization: The Birth of the World-System. Cham: Springer International Press. 25–49

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgements

This study is part of the joint archaeological work of China and Uzbekistan. We are grateful to Professor Annaev Tukhuash from University of Temez, Uzbekistan and Navbatov Djasur for their help in the field. We also thank the two reviewers who provided valuable comments. This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant Nos. 41572161 & 41730319) and the Strategic Priority Research Progarm of Chinese Academy of Sciences (Grant No. XDB26000000).

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Xinying Zhou or Jianxin Wang or Xiaoqiang Li.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Chen, G., Zhou, X., Wang, J. et al. Kushan Period rice in the Amu Darya Basin: Evidence for prehistoric exchange along the southern Himalaya. Sci. China Earth Sci. 63, 841–851 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11430-019-9585-2

Download citation

Keywords

  • Rice
  • Central Asia
  • Khalchayan site
  • Agriculture spread
  • Seed morphology
  • Civilization exchange
  • Silk Road