The Expansion of Rice Farming
Although rice (Oryza sativa) was grown in South Asia for around 5,000 years — depending on where one stands on the debates over in situ rice domestication in Eastern India — it was not a major crop until sometime during the first millennium BCE. The shift to large-scale intensive cultivation of rice, especially “wet” rice or paddy rice, represented a major transition in agrarian strategies, transforming local environments, soils and hydrology, and production regimes. The scheduling and labor demands of rice differ significantly from those of dry-farmed grains such as millets and pulses, and this transition led to changes in ritual, social, and political as well as economic and ecological contexts. As part of the Early Historic Landscapes of the Tunabhadra Corridor project, we are working to locate and understand the transition to large-scale rice farming, which in northern Karnataka seems to have taken place in the Iron Age. This project aims to link this early evidence with information later agrarian and dietary shifts, through the Early Historic, Middle Periods, and beyond.
One aspect of this project is a comparative analysis of a series of contemporary rice varieties from southern India, samples that will form a basis of comparison for the archaeological samples.
Stay tuned for more information about this project and for publications, which are just beginning to emerge.