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Rice in Thailand: The Archaeobotanical Contribution

Rice in Thailand: The Archaeobotanical Contribution Rice (2011) 4:114–120 DOI 10.1007/s12284-011-9070-2 Cristina Castillo Received: 11 October 2011 /Accepted: 3 November 2011 /Published online: 24 November 2011 Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011 Abstract There are few archaeological projects incorporat- three sites (Khao Sam Kaeo [KSK], Phukhao Thong [PKT] ing archaeobotanical sampling and even fewer published and Ban Non Wat [BNW]) and the published data from four archaeobotanical studies in Thailand. Available data show that other sites (Khok Phanom Di [KPD], Non Pa Wai [NPW], rice was the ubiquitous cereal in prehistory and particularly Non Mak La [NML] and Nil Kham Haeng [NKH]) to during the Metal/Iron Age. This either signifies the impor- interpret the evolution of rice in prehistoric Thailand tance of rice as a crop or signals a preservation bias; both through cultivation systems and the type of rice cultivated. topics are considered in this paper. The site Khao Sam Kaeo in Furthermore, I provide preliminary information on charring Peninsular Thailand (ca. 400–100 BCE) is strategically experiments of cereals to show that preservation biases located between the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea exist and should be considered in discussions. providing evidence of Indian, Han Chinese and locally produced cultural material. The archaeobotanical assemblage attests to South Asian and East Asian influence as well: the Results mungbean and horsegram of Indian origin and the northern Chinese cereal foxtail millet. But the site has also yielded the Rice finds in Thailand greatest amount of rice from Thai archaeology and provides information on the domestication of rice and the cultivation During the course of my research, I have identified 29 sites practices during this Late Prehistoric period. in Thailand (Fig. 1) which report rice finds dating from the Hoabinhian to the Late Prehistoric period (Fuller et al. 2010 . . . . Keywords Rice Millet Archaeobotany Thailand online supplement). There are differences in the data Khao Sam Kaeo quality dependent on the accuracy of interpretation and these were taken into account. From these sites, only nine have evidence of rice resulting from flotation and an Introduction additional eight from phytolith analysis. In the case of rice, the presence of rice spikelet bases allows for the identifi- This paper is intended to review what we know so far about cation of the domestication status of rice. rice in Thailand during prehistory using an archaeobotan- The earliest sites where rice has been found show rice ical approach. There are very few archaeobotanical studies may have possibly been cultivated as early as the mid- published from Thai archaeological sites making it difficult Holocene in north and central Thailand (Kealhofer 2002). to have a clear picture of this history. I use my work in These inferences have been based on phytolith studies. The phytoliths from these sites were taken from sediment sequences in lake cores and alluvial deposits and the rice C. Castillo (*) cannot be considered domesticated. Evaluating the status of Institute of Archaeology, University College London, domestication using phytoliths remains problematic (Fuller 31-34 Gordon Square, and Qin 2009; Fuller et al. 2010), though there are several London WC1H 0PY, UK scholars who believe it is possible (Saxena et al. 2006; e-mail: cristina.castillo@ucl.ac.uk Rice (2011) 4:114–120 115 Fig. 1 Map showing sites with evidence of rice. 1 Banyan Valley Cave; 2 Phu Lon; 3 Ban Chiang; 4 Nong Han Kumpha- wapi, Ban Na Di; 5 Ban Chiang Hian, Non Noi, Ban Kho Noi; 6 Non Nok Tha; 7 Non Dua, Don Taphan; 8 Ban Non Wat, Phi- mai, Noen U-Loke, Non Muang Kao, Ban Tamyae; 9 Khok Phanom Di, Nong Nor; 10 Khok Charoen; 11 Non Pa Wai, Nil Kham Haeng, Non Mak La, Lopburi, Ban Tha Kae; 12 Ban Don Ta Phet, Ban Na Khun Saen 2; 13 Khao Sam Kaeo; 14 Phukhao Thong; 15 Non Khao Wong. Zhao et al. 1998). In order to assess the domestication provides rice finds in the form of domesticated-type rice status of rice, archaeobotanists examine the abscission scars spikelet bases and weeds of cultivation. Higham (2002) found in rice spikelet bases, which can only be done with originally proposed that rice agricultural expansion fol- macroremains (Thompson 1997; Fuller et al. 2009). If one lowed major riverine routes and would be archaeologically were to strictly adhere to the examination of rice spikelet visible in interior sites, an idea previously put forth for bases, there would only be a handful of sites in Thailand Austroasiatic language expansion by Blust (1996). Howev- that would positively yield evidence for domesticated rice. er, Ban Tha Kae and Ban Chiang are the earliest interior Most rice reports come from rice temper or impressions in sites dating to the Neolithic and are reported to have rice pottery consisting mainly of husks and, like phytoliths, cultivation, but the evidence is based on rice-tempered these data do not provide information on the domesticated pottery, so it may be open to doubt. The first inland sites status of the cereal. that provide reliable domesticated rice finds are NPW, NKH The first evidence of domesticated rice in Thailand using and NML in Lopburi. The rice finds at these sites date to macroremains dates to 2000–1500 BCE from the Neolithic the first millennium BCE and not earlier. Interestingly, period in the coastal site of KPD (Thompson 1996). KPD these sites provide evidence that millets were cultivated 116 Rice (2011) 4:114–120 before rice. The primary crop found in all three sites in development or expansion occurred in India (Molina et al. the second millennium BCE was foxtail millet (Setaria 2011). The archaeobotanical evidence in Thailand does not italica) and the mode of cultivation was dryland farming corroborate one or the other. It does, however, point (Weber et al. 2010). NPW has evidence of Setaria during towards a largely japonica-type variety in prehistory and the third millennium BCE signifying the introduction of using either model ultimately shows that rice in prehistoric millet cultivation at least a thousand years before rice at Thailand until at least the Iron Age has its origins in China. this site. This cereal originates from the north of China, The morphometric analyses of rice grains from four Thai though in the third millennium BCE, it was also evident in archaeological sites (KSK, PKT, BNW and Noen U-Loke south China bordering Vietnam together with rice remains [NUL]) suggest that rice in prehistoric Thailand was Oryza (Fuller et al. 2010). sativa japonica (Fig. 2). The length–width (L/W) ratios of In the Late Prehistoric period, more evidence for these rice grains were compared with those of modern domesticated rice comes from samples from the Iron populations of domesticated and wild rice. According to Age site BNW. These were floated and rice grain, Ahn (1993), L/W ratios are not affected by charring so spikelet bases, husk and weeds of cultivation have been ancient and modern rice should therefore be comparable. identified. The Metal Age (400–200 BCE) sites KSK Indica rice normally has a L/W ratio above 2.5, whereas and PKT in the southern Peninsula have also yielded a japonica rice is below 2.3 (Fuller et al. 2009). The large number of rice remains and associated weeds, as prehistoric rice measured all come from Iron and Late well as the Indian pulses Vigna radiata and Macrotyloma Metal Age sites from the NE region and southern Peninsula uniflorum. All three sites have domesticated japonica-type of Thailand (map 1) indicating that ca. 400–200 BCE, it rice and possibly dryland and rainfed rice cultivation was the Chinese rice subspecies japonica that was being systems (Castillo and Fuller 2010). consumed and cultivated. However, genetic studies are needed to confirm this view as morphometrics is just a first Origins of rice step towards identification. At present, there has been no DNA fingerprinting of prehistoric rice in Thailand. The widely held view is that rice in Southeast Asia came The first rice samples from the sites of BNW, NUL and from China and that it was Oryza sativa spp. japonica. The KSK were sent to Japan in July 2011 and will be analysed linguistic evidence indicates that the original domesticators using DNA chloroplast and nuclear genome markers. The of rice, depending on the author of the hypothesis, were the analysis will, hopefully, provide information on rice variety Miao-Yao coming from south and central China (Blench (indica, tropical japonica, temperate japonica) and whether 2005), the Austroasiatic speakers (Sagart 2005) or Austric it was the waxy or sticky type of rice. speakers (Blust 1996; Higham 1996) coming from the The morphometric analysis above indicates that at the Yangzi Valley. Movements of agriculturalists have also four sites (KSK, BNW, PKT and NUL) during the late been proposed such as the Austronesians from Taiwan to prehistoric period, japonica was the type of rice found the Philippines and further southwards (Bellwood 2007) across Thailand. But several questions arise. When did and the Tibeto-Burman into northern China (van Driem indica become the dominant rice variety; what agricultural 1998). The archaeological evidence consistently points to regime was practised in prehistory (wetland vs. dryland the Yangzi valley as the area where rice was first cultivation); was the cultivation technique also brought in domesticated (Fuller et al. 2007, 2010; Nakamura 2010; with the introduction of rice or was it a local innovation? Zhao 2010). However, which group of people brought rice cultivation to Thailand remains a matter of debate. Cultivation systems and weeds of cultivation Unfortunately, archaeological work in the region does not assist due to the lack of archaeobotanical sampling (Castillo Today, indica is the dominant rice type and rainfed and Fuller 2010). There are not enough rice finds to permit cultivation is the main agricultural system practised in geographic and chronological resolution for a clear picture Thailand. Cultivation today uses bunded fields inundated of the diffusion of rice cultivation to emerge. by retaining rainwater and allowed to dry naturally. Rainfed Genetic studies remain divided as to whether rice systems of cultivation were most likely practised during domestication had a single origin or multiple origins (He prehistoric times as well. White (1995) proposes that in et al. 2011; Molina et al. 2011; Sang and Ge 2007). The Thailand, both wetland and dryland rice cultivation evolved multiple-origins model proposes two centres of domestica- from inundated rice cultivation, a less labour demanding tion, one in China ca. 4000 BCE and the other in South technique than irrigated cultivation. This is true in the case Asia ca. 2000 BCE (Fuller 2007). The single-origin model of the low-lying coastal site KPD during the Neolithic considers indica to be a hybrid of japonica rice and where rice cultivation is believed to have been dependent therefore, the origin lies in China even though its on natural flooding at a nearby swamp (Thompson 1996). Rice (2011) 4:114–120 117 Fig. 2 Comparison of L/W ratios of rice from four prehis- toric sites in Thailand to modern populations of domesticated and wild rice. Modern and wild population measurements courtesy of Fuller. To define systems of land use and cultivation practices, dryland cultivation. It appears that rice cultivation in archaeobotanists have relied on the weed flora associated Thailand during the Metal Age was rainfed and upland. with economic crops because weed species occur in certain As a point of comparison, a geomorphological study in ecological zones, are displaced travelling with particular Kedah situated in the Thai–Malay Peninsula hypotheses crop packages and help identify crop processing stages communities in the first millennium CE being dependent on (Bogaard et al. 1999; Colledge 1994; Colledge et al. 2005; dryland cereal cultivation and not irrigated rice agriculture Fuller and Qin 2009; Jones 2002; Kealhofer and Piperno (Allen 1991). 1994). Unfortunately, macroremains from the Khao Wong The cultivation practices inferred from prehistoric Prachan valley sites (NKH, NPW and NML) dating to the sites in Thailand and one in the Thai–Malay Peninsula Bronze Age do not contain sufficient numbers of weed discussed above differ from the lowland paddy field seeds to define the rice agricultural regime and such weed agricultural system that was in place at the centre of seeds as are found provide ambiguous results. Sedges origin in the Lower Yangtze when rice spread outwards normally associated with wetland rice as well as dryland to other regions ca. 4000 BCE (Fuller and Qin 2009). weeds such as chenopods are found in the samples (Weber This difference may be because wetland paddy field et al. 2010). Furthermore, prior to rice cultivation, millets agriculture in Thailand developed later. Although the were being cultivated in dryland conditions, potentially earliest paddy field agriculture is found in China, it is signifying a continuum in the cultivation practice for rice in during the first millenium CE that indica together with the area. wetland systems of cultivation may have been introduced During the Metal Age at KSK, the majority of the weed into Southeast Asia from India as a result of exchange assemblage comes from dryland habitats. The predominant weed is Spilanthes acmella belonging to the Asteraceae family (Fig. 3). It is significant in that 94% of the samples with rice contained this weed representing a high level of co-occurrence. Furthermore, S. acmella is reported to be a weed of rice throughout Indonesia, Bangladesh, India, Philippines, Sri Lanka and Thailand (Moody 1989) found in rainfed and upland fields (Soerjani et al. 1987). The other crops found at KSK, such as foxtail millet and the mungbean, are also indicative of dryland cultivation systems and are drought-resistant and found mainly in upland cultivation systems. So it is clear from the weeds and other cultivars that the rice cultivation system at KSK was dryland. A similar assemblage of pulses and weeds associated with rice at KSK is also found at PKT, another Metal Age site in the southern Peninsula. The weed assemblage at the Fig. 3 SEM image of the weed Spilanthes acmella from Khao Iron Age site BNW in northeast Thailand also indicates Sam Kaeo. 118 Rice (2011) 4:114–120 networks. In India, the expansion of rice agriculture 2010). This may indicate that the mungbean was brought occurs during the Iron Age and is linked to labour- into Thailand by Indian people as a domesticated pulse intensive irrigated rice cultivation (Castillo and Fuller probably through the southern Peninsula via entrepôts like 2010;Fullerand Qin 2009;Shaw etal. 2007). It seems KSK. The cereal foxtail millet is one of the two Chinese likely that during the early contact period with South Asia native crops found at KSK, the other, is the rice. This (300 BCE onwards), Thailand already had an established suggests that there was a package of South Asian crops rice agricultural regime primarily focused on dry cropping which included mungbean and horsegram brought into in low-lying areas and the rice grown was japonica.KSK Thailand. This late prehistoric package may not have attests to this conclusion. It was after continuous contact included rice as it was probably already in cultivation. with India that wetland systems of agriculture were Cultivation in KSK or its hinterlands is probable due to developed. the large size of this 34-ha urban settlement. In order to maintain the social network composed of specialised craftsmen and travellers, there must have been an Discussion agricultural base to sustain them. Although rice fields have not been identified yet, the geomorphological study Khao Sam Kaeo: the point of contact with India at KSK (Allen 2009; Allen and Silapanth unpublished report) indicates probable cultivation was on gently KSK lies in the narrowest stretch of the Thai–Malay sloping plateau land and hill slopes in the hinterlands. Peninsula known as the Kra Ithmus. Thus, it is in a strategic location for several spheres of influence and Caveats: preservation bias contact from South Asia to the west and East Asia and Insular Southeast Asia to the east. The evidence of these Rice is the most commonly reported archaeobotanical contacts is well-documented (Bellina 2007; Bellina and find in Thailand. This is not surprising because unlike Silapanth 2006; Bellina-Pryce and Silapanth 2008; Glover other macroremains, rice is easy to recognise. It also and Bellina 2011). Excavations from 2006 to 2009 at this has distinctive phytoliths (e.g. bulliforms) and is large late prehistoric site included an archaeobotanical agenda, enough to be found with the naked eye, whereas the and the macroremains from the site mirror the material retrieval of finer fraction (e.g. millets) requires the use culture having both South Asian and East Asian originated of flotation. Also being now the most important crops. South Asian influence is not evident before the Iron economic crop in Southeast Asia, scholars have dedi- Age in Thailand. cated more effort in the search of prehistoric rice to clarify its history and that of the people that consumed The archaeobotanical remains include the mungbean (V. radiata) and the horsegram (M. uniflorum), both and produced it and have therefore reported more finds originating from India. There are no earlier reported finds than for other cereals. of either horsegram or mungbean in Thailand before the At several excavations in Thailand where I have worked Iron Age. In principle, the mungbean could have been as the on-site archaeobotanist, I have found that rice is the domesticated in Thailand since the wild progenitor is most common crop in the samples floated. This pattern found all across Thailand. However, genetic studies have leads one to assume that rice was the most important shown that the modern Thai domesticated mungbean is economic crop in prehistory, just as it is today. However, more closely related to wild progenitors found in India preservation biases must be considered. The lack of than the native Thai wild progenitor (Castillo and Fuller substantial evidence of millets in Southeast Asia has been Table 1 Results of charring experiments Ratios Ex1 Ex2 Ex3 Ex4 Hulled rice/hulled foxtail millet 14:1 12:11 1:1 Hulled rice/hulled broomcorn millet 2:1 8:7 19:20 Rice husk/foxtail millet husk 12 Rice husk fragments no foxtail husk 22:3 35:3 Rice husk/broomcorn millet husk 12:1 44:7 35:9 Naked rice/naked foxtail millet No rice 6 foxtail Naked rice/naked broomcorn millet No rice 15 broomcorn Twenty-five grains of each cereal were used in all the experiments. Fires were fed for 3 hours with the highest temperature reaching 900ºC. All cereals were hulled in Ex1, Ex2 and Ex3. In Ex1, the cereals were in the fire for an hour longer than Ex2 and Ex3. All cereals were naked in Ex4 Rice (2011) 4:114–120 119 attributed to preservation issues, for example (Weber et al. the understanding of the origins and movements of rice. 2010; Weber and Fuller 2008). Very preliminary interpre- However, we should also take into consideration that tations of charring experiments using real fire instead of a other domesticates, including millets, may have been the muffler furnace suggest that whilst rice grain does not precursors to rice and how this will contribute to our necessarily preserve better than some other crops, it does understanding of the people that settled or migrated to have greater visibility when the husk is taken into account. Thailand. In comparison to the small millets, Panicum milliaceum (broomcorn millet) and Setaria italica (foxtail millet), Legend hulled rice is more easy to recognise than each of the BNW Ban Non Wat millets in charring experiments (Table 1). KPD Khok Phanom Di Although details of these charring experiments are KSK Khao Sam Kaeo discussed elsewhere (Castillo unpublished), the main con- NKH Nil Kham Haeng clusions are as follows: All three cereals preserve better NML Non Mak La when hulled, and rice disintegrates to an unidentifiable state NPW Non Pa Wai when naked grains are charred. In two out of the first three PKT Phukhao Thong experiments, the preservation of rice (excluding husk but including spikelet bases) compared to the millets was higher, though it was especially high when the rice had been in the fire for the longest duration of the experiment Acknowledgements I thank Dr. Dorian Fuller and Prof. Vincent (Ex1). In all the three experiments where hulled cereal was Pigott for their comments, Dr. Berenice Bellina for giving me the opportunity to work at Khao Sam Kaeo, John Watson for help in the used (Ex1, Ex2 and Ex3), rice husks preserved better than editing of the manuscript and the anonymous reviewer for providing the husks from the millets. These experiments lead me to useful comments. This work was funded in part by the Arts and believe that if hulled rice or the waste products after Humanities Research Council and the Royal Thai Embassy in dehusking happened to come into contact with fire in London. prehistory, they would have a higher chance of preserving than remains of the two millets referred to above. The References archaeological record shows that ca. 67% of reported rice in Thailand are rice husks or rice impressions (Fuller et al. 2010 online supplement). Similarly, in my own work at Ahn S-M. Origin and differentiation of domesticated rice in Asia. 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Rice in Thailand: The Archaeobotanical Contribution

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Springer Journals
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Copyright © 2011 by Springer Science+Business Media, LLC
Subject
Life Sciences; Plant Sciences; Plant Genetics & Genomics; Plant Breeding/Biotechnology; Agriculture; Plant Ecology
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1939-8425
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1939-8433
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10.1007/s12284-011-9070-2
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Abstract

Rice (2011) 4:114–120 DOI 10.1007/s12284-011-9070-2 Cristina Castillo Received: 11 October 2011 /Accepted: 3 November 2011 /Published online: 24 November 2011 Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011 Abstract There are few archaeological projects incorporat- three sites (Khao Sam Kaeo [KSK], Phukhao Thong [PKT] ing archaeobotanical sampling and even fewer published and Ban Non Wat [BNW]) and the published data from four archaeobotanical studies in Thailand. Available data show that other sites (Khok Phanom Di [KPD], Non Pa Wai [NPW], rice was the ubiquitous cereal in prehistory and particularly Non Mak La [NML] and Nil Kham Haeng [NKH]) to during the Metal/Iron Age. This either signifies the impor- interpret the evolution of rice in prehistoric Thailand tance of rice as a crop or signals a preservation bias; both through cultivation systems and the type of rice cultivated. topics are considered in this paper. The site Khao Sam Kaeo in Furthermore, I provide preliminary information on charring Peninsular Thailand (ca. 400–100 BCE) is strategically experiments of cereals to show that preservation biases located between the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea exist and should be considered in discussions. providing evidence of Indian, Han Chinese and locally produced cultural material. The archaeobotanical assemblage attests to South Asian and East Asian influence as well: the Results mungbean and horsegram of Indian origin and the northern Chinese cereal foxtail millet. But the site has also yielded the Rice finds in Thailand greatest amount of rice from Thai archaeology and provides information on the domestication of rice and the cultivation During the course of my research, I have identified 29 sites practices during this Late Prehistoric period. in Thailand (Fig. 1) which report rice finds dating from the Hoabinhian to the Late Prehistoric period (Fuller et al. 2010 . . . . Keywords Rice Millet Archaeobotany Thailand online supplement). There are differences in the data Khao Sam Kaeo quality dependent on the accuracy of interpretation and these were taken into account. From these sites, only nine have evidence of rice resulting from flotation and an Introduction additional eight from phytolith analysis. In the case of rice, the presence of rice spikelet bases allows for the identifi- This paper is intended to review what we know so far about cation of the domestication status of rice. rice in Thailand during prehistory using an archaeobotan- The earliest sites where rice has been found show rice ical approach. There are very few archaeobotanical studies may have possibly been cultivated as early as the mid- published from Thai archaeological sites making it difficult Holocene in north and central Thailand (Kealhofer 2002). to have a clear picture of this history. I use my work in These inferences have been based on phytolith studies. The phytoliths from these sites were taken from sediment sequences in lake cores and alluvial deposits and the rice C. Castillo (*) cannot be considered domesticated. Evaluating the status of Institute of Archaeology, University College London, domestication using phytoliths remains problematic (Fuller 31-34 Gordon Square, and Qin 2009; Fuller et al. 2010), though there are several London WC1H 0PY, UK scholars who believe it is possible (Saxena et al. 2006; e-mail: cristina.castillo@ucl.ac.uk Rice (2011) 4:114–120 115 Fig. 1 Map showing sites with evidence of rice. 1 Banyan Valley Cave; 2 Phu Lon; 3 Ban Chiang; 4 Nong Han Kumpha- wapi, Ban Na Di; 5 Ban Chiang Hian, Non Noi, Ban Kho Noi; 6 Non Nok Tha; 7 Non Dua, Don Taphan; 8 Ban Non Wat, Phi- mai, Noen U-Loke, Non Muang Kao, Ban Tamyae; 9 Khok Phanom Di, Nong Nor; 10 Khok Charoen; 11 Non Pa Wai, Nil Kham Haeng, Non Mak La, Lopburi, Ban Tha Kae; 12 Ban Don Ta Phet, Ban Na Khun Saen 2; 13 Khao Sam Kaeo; 14 Phukhao Thong; 15 Non Khao Wong. Zhao et al. 1998). In order to assess the domestication provides rice finds in the form of domesticated-type rice status of rice, archaeobotanists examine the abscission scars spikelet bases and weeds of cultivation. Higham (2002) found in rice spikelet bases, which can only be done with originally proposed that rice agricultural expansion fol- macroremains (Thompson 1997; Fuller et al. 2009). If one lowed major riverine routes and would be archaeologically were to strictly adhere to the examination of rice spikelet visible in interior sites, an idea previously put forth for bases, there would only be a handful of sites in Thailand Austroasiatic language expansion by Blust (1996). Howev- that would positively yield evidence for domesticated rice. er, Ban Tha Kae and Ban Chiang are the earliest interior Most rice reports come from rice temper or impressions in sites dating to the Neolithic and are reported to have rice pottery consisting mainly of husks and, like phytoliths, cultivation, but the evidence is based on rice-tempered these data do not provide information on the domesticated pottery, so it may be open to doubt. The first inland sites status of the cereal. that provide reliable domesticated rice finds are NPW, NKH The first evidence of domesticated rice in Thailand using and NML in Lopburi. The rice finds at these sites date to macroremains dates to 2000–1500 BCE from the Neolithic the first millennium BCE and not earlier. Interestingly, period in the coastal site of KPD (Thompson 1996). KPD these sites provide evidence that millets were cultivated 116 Rice (2011) 4:114–120 before rice. The primary crop found in all three sites in development or expansion occurred in India (Molina et al. the second millennium BCE was foxtail millet (Setaria 2011). The archaeobotanical evidence in Thailand does not italica) and the mode of cultivation was dryland farming corroborate one or the other. It does, however, point (Weber et al. 2010). NPW has evidence of Setaria during towards a largely japonica-type variety in prehistory and the third millennium BCE signifying the introduction of using either model ultimately shows that rice in prehistoric millet cultivation at least a thousand years before rice at Thailand until at least the Iron Age has its origins in China. this site. This cereal originates from the north of China, The morphometric analyses of rice grains from four Thai though in the third millennium BCE, it was also evident in archaeological sites (KSK, PKT, BNW and Noen U-Loke south China bordering Vietnam together with rice remains [NUL]) suggest that rice in prehistoric Thailand was Oryza (Fuller et al. 2010). sativa japonica (Fig. 2). The length–width (L/W) ratios of In the Late Prehistoric period, more evidence for these rice grains were compared with those of modern domesticated rice comes from samples from the Iron populations of domesticated and wild rice. According to Age site BNW. These were floated and rice grain, Ahn (1993), L/W ratios are not affected by charring so spikelet bases, husk and weeds of cultivation have been ancient and modern rice should therefore be comparable. identified. The Metal Age (400–200 BCE) sites KSK Indica rice normally has a L/W ratio above 2.5, whereas and PKT in the southern Peninsula have also yielded a japonica rice is below 2.3 (Fuller et al. 2009). The large number of rice remains and associated weeds, as prehistoric rice measured all come from Iron and Late well as the Indian pulses Vigna radiata and Macrotyloma Metal Age sites from the NE region and southern Peninsula uniflorum. All three sites have domesticated japonica-type of Thailand (map 1) indicating that ca. 400–200 BCE, it rice and possibly dryland and rainfed rice cultivation was the Chinese rice subspecies japonica that was being systems (Castillo and Fuller 2010). consumed and cultivated. However, genetic studies are needed to confirm this view as morphometrics is just a first Origins of rice step towards identification. At present, there has been no DNA fingerprinting of prehistoric rice in Thailand. The widely held view is that rice in Southeast Asia came The first rice samples from the sites of BNW, NUL and from China and that it was Oryza sativa spp. japonica. The KSK were sent to Japan in July 2011 and will be analysed linguistic evidence indicates that the original domesticators using DNA chloroplast and nuclear genome markers. The of rice, depending on the author of the hypothesis, were the analysis will, hopefully, provide information on rice variety Miao-Yao coming from south and central China (Blench (indica, tropical japonica, temperate japonica) and whether 2005), the Austroasiatic speakers (Sagart 2005) or Austric it was the waxy or sticky type of rice. speakers (Blust 1996; Higham 1996) coming from the The morphometric analysis above indicates that at the Yangzi Valley. Movements of agriculturalists have also four sites (KSK, BNW, PKT and NUL) during the late been proposed such as the Austronesians from Taiwan to prehistoric period, japonica was the type of rice found the Philippines and further southwards (Bellwood 2007) across Thailand. But several questions arise. When did and the Tibeto-Burman into northern China (van Driem indica become the dominant rice variety; what agricultural 1998). The archaeological evidence consistently points to regime was practised in prehistory (wetland vs. dryland the Yangzi valley as the area where rice was first cultivation); was the cultivation technique also brought in domesticated (Fuller et al. 2007, 2010; Nakamura 2010; with the introduction of rice or was it a local innovation? Zhao 2010). However, which group of people brought rice cultivation to Thailand remains a matter of debate. Cultivation systems and weeds of cultivation Unfortunately, archaeological work in the region does not assist due to the lack of archaeobotanical sampling (Castillo Today, indica is the dominant rice type and rainfed and Fuller 2010). There are not enough rice finds to permit cultivation is the main agricultural system practised in geographic and chronological resolution for a clear picture Thailand. Cultivation today uses bunded fields inundated of the diffusion of rice cultivation to emerge. by retaining rainwater and allowed to dry naturally. Rainfed Genetic studies remain divided as to whether rice systems of cultivation were most likely practised during domestication had a single origin or multiple origins (He prehistoric times as well. White (1995) proposes that in et al. 2011; Molina et al. 2011; Sang and Ge 2007). The Thailand, both wetland and dryland rice cultivation evolved multiple-origins model proposes two centres of domestica- from inundated rice cultivation, a less labour demanding tion, one in China ca. 4000 BCE and the other in South technique than irrigated cultivation. This is true in the case Asia ca. 2000 BCE (Fuller 2007). The single-origin model of the low-lying coastal site KPD during the Neolithic considers indica to be a hybrid of japonica rice and where rice cultivation is believed to have been dependent therefore, the origin lies in China even though its on natural flooding at a nearby swamp (Thompson 1996). Rice (2011) 4:114–120 117 Fig. 2 Comparison of L/W ratios of rice from four prehis- toric sites in Thailand to modern populations of domesticated and wild rice. Modern and wild population measurements courtesy of Fuller. To define systems of land use and cultivation practices, dryland cultivation. It appears that rice cultivation in archaeobotanists have relied on the weed flora associated Thailand during the Metal Age was rainfed and upland. with economic crops because weed species occur in certain As a point of comparison, a geomorphological study in ecological zones, are displaced travelling with particular Kedah situated in the Thai–Malay Peninsula hypotheses crop packages and help identify crop processing stages communities in the first millennium CE being dependent on (Bogaard et al. 1999; Colledge 1994; Colledge et al. 2005; dryland cereal cultivation and not irrigated rice agriculture Fuller and Qin 2009; Jones 2002; Kealhofer and Piperno (Allen 1991). 1994). Unfortunately, macroremains from the Khao Wong The cultivation practices inferred from prehistoric Prachan valley sites (NKH, NPW and NML) dating to the sites in Thailand and one in the Thai–Malay Peninsula Bronze Age do not contain sufficient numbers of weed discussed above differ from the lowland paddy field seeds to define the rice agricultural regime and such weed agricultural system that was in place at the centre of seeds as are found provide ambiguous results. Sedges origin in the Lower Yangtze when rice spread outwards normally associated with wetland rice as well as dryland to other regions ca. 4000 BCE (Fuller and Qin 2009). weeds such as chenopods are found in the samples (Weber This difference may be because wetland paddy field et al. 2010). Furthermore, prior to rice cultivation, millets agriculture in Thailand developed later. Although the were being cultivated in dryland conditions, potentially earliest paddy field agriculture is found in China, it is signifying a continuum in the cultivation practice for rice in during the first millenium CE that indica together with the area. wetland systems of cultivation may have been introduced During the Metal Age at KSK, the majority of the weed into Southeast Asia from India as a result of exchange assemblage comes from dryland habitats. The predominant weed is Spilanthes acmella belonging to the Asteraceae family (Fig. 3). It is significant in that 94% of the samples with rice contained this weed representing a high level of co-occurrence. Furthermore, S. acmella is reported to be a weed of rice throughout Indonesia, Bangladesh, India, Philippines, Sri Lanka and Thailand (Moody 1989) found in rainfed and upland fields (Soerjani et al. 1987). The other crops found at KSK, such as foxtail millet and the mungbean, are also indicative of dryland cultivation systems and are drought-resistant and found mainly in upland cultivation systems. So it is clear from the weeds and other cultivars that the rice cultivation system at KSK was dryland. A similar assemblage of pulses and weeds associated with rice at KSK is also found at PKT, another Metal Age site in the southern Peninsula. The weed assemblage at the Fig. 3 SEM image of the weed Spilanthes acmella from Khao Iron Age site BNW in northeast Thailand also indicates Sam Kaeo. 118 Rice (2011) 4:114–120 networks. In India, the expansion of rice agriculture 2010). This may indicate that the mungbean was brought occurs during the Iron Age and is linked to labour- into Thailand by Indian people as a domesticated pulse intensive irrigated rice cultivation (Castillo and Fuller probably through the southern Peninsula via entrepôts like 2010;Fullerand Qin 2009;Shaw etal. 2007). It seems KSK. The cereal foxtail millet is one of the two Chinese likely that during the early contact period with South Asia native crops found at KSK, the other, is the rice. This (300 BCE onwards), Thailand already had an established suggests that there was a package of South Asian crops rice agricultural regime primarily focused on dry cropping which included mungbean and horsegram brought into in low-lying areas and the rice grown was japonica.KSK Thailand. This late prehistoric package may not have attests to this conclusion. It was after continuous contact included rice as it was probably already in cultivation. with India that wetland systems of agriculture were Cultivation in KSK or its hinterlands is probable due to developed. the large size of this 34-ha urban settlement. In order to maintain the social network composed of specialised craftsmen and travellers, there must have been an Discussion agricultural base to sustain them. Although rice fields have not been identified yet, the geomorphological study Khao Sam Kaeo: the point of contact with India at KSK (Allen 2009; Allen and Silapanth unpublished report) indicates probable cultivation was on gently KSK lies in the narrowest stretch of the Thai–Malay sloping plateau land and hill slopes in the hinterlands. Peninsula known as the Kra Ithmus. Thus, it is in a strategic location for several spheres of influence and Caveats: preservation bias contact from South Asia to the west and East Asia and Insular Southeast Asia to the east. The evidence of these Rice is the most commonly reported archaeobotanical contacts is well-documented (Bellina 2007; Bellina and find in Thailand. This is not surprising because unlike Silapanth 2006; Bellina-Pryce and Silapanth 2008; Glover other macroremains, rice is easy to recognise. It also and Bellina 2011). Excavations from 2006 to 2009 at this has distinctive phytoliths (e.g. bulliforms) and is large late prehistoric site included an archaeobotanical agenda, enough to be found with the naked eye, whereas the and the macroremains from the site mirror the material retrieval of finer fraction (e.g. millets) requires the use culture having both South Asian and East Asian originated of flotation. Also being now the most important crops. South Asian influence is not evident before the Iron economic crop in Southeast Asia, scholars have dedi- Age in Thailand. cated more effort in the search of prehistoric rice to clarify its history and that of the people that consumed The archaeobotanical remains include the mungbean (V. radiata) and the horsegram (M. uniflorum), both and produced it and have therefore reported more finds originating from India. There are no earlier reported finds than for other cereals. of either horsegram or mungbean in Thailand before the At several excavations in Thailand where I have worked Iron Age. In principle, the mungbean could have been as the on-site archaeobotanist, I have found that rice is the domesticated in Thailand since the wild progenitor is most common crop in the samples floated. This pattern found all across Thailand. However, genetic studies have leads one to assume that rice was the most important shown that the modern Thai domesticated mungbean is economic crop in prehistory, just as it is today. However, more closely related to wild progenitors found in India preservation biases must be considered. The lack of than the native Thai wild progenitor (Castillo and Fuller substantial evidence of millets in Southeast Asia has been Table 1 Results of charring experiments Ratios Ex1 Ex2 Ex3 Ex4 Hulled rice/hulled foxtail millet 14:1 12:11 1:1 Hulled rice/hulled broomcorn millet 2:1 8:7 19:20 Rice husk/foxtail millet husk 12 Rice husk fragments no foxtail husk 22:3 35:3 Rice husk/broomcorn millet husk 12:1 44:7 35:9 Naked rice/naked foxtail millet No rice 6 foxtail Naked rice/naked broomcorn millet No rice 15 broomcorn Twenty-five grains of each cereal were used in all the experiments. Fires were fed for 3 hours with the highest temperature reaching 900ºC. All cereals were hulled in Ex1, Ex2 and Ex3. In Ex1, the cereals were in the fire for an hour longer than Ex2 and Ex3. All cereals were naked in Ex4 Rice (2011) 4:114–120 119 attributed to preservation issues, for example (Weber et al. the understanding of the origins and movements of rice. 2010; Weber and Fuller 2008). Very preliminary interpre- However, we should also take into consideration that tations of charring experiments using real fire instead of a other domesticates, including millets, may have been the muffler furnace suggest that whilst rice grain does not precursors to rice and how this will contribute to our necessarily preserve better than some other crops, it does understanding of the people that settled or migrated to have greater visibility when the husk is taken into account. Thailand. In comparison to the small millets, Panicum milliaceum (broomcorn millet) and Setaria italica (foxtail millet), Legend hulled rice is more easy to recognise than each of the BNW Ban Non Wat millets in charring experiments (Table 1). KPD Khok Phanom Di Although details of these charring experiments are KSK Khao Sam Kaeo discussed elsewhere (Castillo unpublished), the main con- NKH Nil Kham Haeng clusions are as follows: All three cereals preserve better NML Non Mak La when hulled, and rice disintegrates to an unidentifiable state NPW Non Pa Wai when naked grains are charred. In two out of the first three PKT Phukhao Thong experiments, the preservation of rice (excluding husk but including spikelet bases) compared to the millets was higher, though it was especially high when the rice had been in the fire for the longest duration of the experiment Acknowledgements I thank Dr. Dorian Fuller and Prof. Vincent (Ex1). 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