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Farming rice in India much older than thought, used as a ‘summer crop’ by the Indus Civilisation

last modified Nov 25, 2016 05:03 PM

Cambridge Global Food Security Initiative member Cameron Petrie and his colleague Jennifer Bates have discovered that rice was cultivated in India at the same time farming techniques were developed in China, around 2800BC, and 400 years earlier than previously thought. This suggests systems of seasonal crop variation that would have provided a rich and diverse diet for the Bronze Age residents of the Indus valley.


The Land, Water, Settlement project excavations in northwest India. Credit: C. Petrie

Dr Bates said: “It is certainly possible that a sustainable food economy across the Indus zone was achieved through growing a diverse range of crops, with choice being influenced by local conditions. It is also possible that there was trade and exchange in staple crops between populations living in different regions, though this is an idea that remains to be tested.”

Dr Petrie added: “Such a diverse system was probably well suited to mitigating risk from shifts in climate. It may be that some of today’s farming monocultures could learn from the local crop diversity of the Indus people 4,000 years ago.

Their research has been covered widely by international press:

The Times of India: Rice farming in India began much before Chinese rice arrived

Daily Mail: World's first curry was made 5,000 years ago: Indians have been eating their national dish since the Bronze Age

The Mirror: People have been getting takeaway curries for 5,000 years as dish first appeared in Bronze Age