Rice farming in India is far older than previously thought. According to the new research on the sites of ancient Indus Valley Civilization, the domestication of the staple crop in the country could have been developed in tandem with China. The study also confirms that Indus population were the earliest people to use complex multi cropping strategies across both seasons. They grew rice, millets and beans during the summers and wheat, barley and pulses during the winter which required different watering requirements. The finding suggest a network of regional farmers supplied assorted produce to the markets of the ancient cities of Indus Valley Civilization which stretched across what is now Pakistan and Northwest India during Bronze age. Evidence of the very early rice farming has been known from the region called Lahuradewa in the central Ganges basin but it was long been thought the domesticated rice agriculture did not reach South Asia until towards the end of Indus era when the wetland rice arrived from China around 2000 BC.
Researchers including those from Banaras Hindu University (BHU) and Oxford, England found evidence of domesticated rice in South Asia as much as 430 years earlier. Jennifer Bates of Cambridge in UK says “We found evidence for an entirely separate domestication process in ancient South Asia likely based around the wild species Oryza nivara.” “This led to the local development of a mix of ‘wetland’ and ‘dryland’ agriculture of local Oryza sativa indica rice agriculture before the truly ‘wetland’ Chinese rice, Oryza sativa japonica, arrived around 2000 BC,” said Bates. “While wetland rice is more productive, and took over to a large extent when introduced from China, our findings appear to show there was already a long-held and sustainable culture of rice production in India as a widespread summer addition to the winter cropping during the Indus civilization,” she said.
The location of the Indus in a part of the world that received both summer and winter rains may have encouraged the development of seasonal crop rotation before other major civilisations of the time such as Ancient Egypt and China’s Shang Dynasty, said Cameron Petrie from University of Cambridge. “Most contemporary civilisations initially utilised either winter crops, such as the Mesopotamian reliance on wheat and barley, or the summer crops of rice and millet in China-producing surplus with the aim of stockpiling,” said Petrie. The study was published in the journals Antiquity and Journal of Archaeological Science.