Archaeologists in southern subtropical China have uncovered evidence for the first time that people living in Xincun 5,000 years ago may have practised agriculture -before the arrival of domesticated rice in the region.
Current archaeological thinking is that it was the advent of rice cultivation along the Lower Yangtze River that marked the beginning of agriculture in southern China.
Poor organic preservation in the study region, as in many others, means that traditional archaeobotany techniques are not possible.
Now, thanks to a new method of analysis on ancient grinding stones, the archaeologists have uncovered evidence that agriculture could predate the advent of rice in the region.
The research was the result of a two-year collaboration between Dr Huw Barton, from the School of Archaeology and Ancient History at the University of Leicester, and Dr Xiaoyan Yang, Institute of Geographical Sciences and Natural Resources Research, Chinese Academy of Sciences, in Beijing.
The research is published in the journal PLOS ONE.