ECSAS 2023 – Turin 26-29 July

Changing the narrative – moving beyond ‘proto-indica’ debates to think about the complexity of early rice use in India.


Bates Jennifer - Seoul National University, Archaeology and Art History, Seoul, Korea, Republic Of


07 – Towards Collaborative Research on Cereal Cultures in South Asia


┬áThe mosaic nature of the South Asian subcontinent make it one of the richest settings for studying changing human lifeways across the Quaternary Period. One debate that remains constant within this is the nature of early agriculture and the shift between hunter-gatherer-fisher-forager and farming lifeways which developed in numerous forms at numerous times within South Asia, as might be expected of this diverse landscape. The debates are however perhaps most heated in the Ganges Plains. Questions remain over whether rice was domesticated in India before, during or after the arrival of Chinese domesticated Oryza japonica, how Meso-Neolithic peoples first used rice, and whether human interactions with Oryza nivara led not only to changes in rice, but also to changes in lifeways and the ecologies and environments around sites in the plains. Taking a new theoretical stance, this paper explores the implications of the various ‘indica’ rice domestication hypotheses from a broad environmental and ecological stance, asking what impact a local domestication or incoming hybridization model might have had on the changing habitats and niches both plants and humans would have inhabited. Through niche-construction theory, and incorporating new data, this paper asks what impact might different interactions with rice have had on lives and landscapes, and how might this altered perspective allows us to move the debates around the Mesolithic-Neolithic transition forwards?