Institute of Archaeology
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Eleanor Kingwell-Banham

Early rice agriculture in South Asia. Identifying early cultivation systems using archaebotany.

Rice can be grown in many different agricultural systems. These include flooded fields (sometimes known as paddy), rain fed fields and dry fields in permanent or shifting systems. The nature in which staple crops, such as rice, are grown is determined by/determines social organisation, seasonality and mobility, settlement patterns, trade, technology and cultural development. This project is the first systematic investigation into rice cultivation systems in prehistoric South Asia.

Early rice in South Asia has been discovered in a variety of cultural contexts, from large sedentary settlements in the Gangetic Plains to transient, seasonal camps in the highlands of East India. Using macrobotanic and phytolith evidence the cultivation systems employed at a variety of sites across South Asia will be examined. These sites include Golbai Sasan, Orissa, a large mounded settlement that spans the Neolithic to Chalcolithic periods and Mangudi, Tamil Nadu, an aceramic low density megalithic site. In this way a correlation between site types and cultivation systems can be established, providing an initial framework for the development of rice cultivation systems in South Asia.

Funding organisation

This research is funded by NERC as part of the Early Rice Project, in addition archaeological samples from Mantai, Sri Lanka, have been excavated and provided by the Sealinks Project.

Supervisors

 Educational background

  • MSc Human Paleoecology, Durham University, 2009
  • BSc Archaeology, Durham University, 2008

Kingwell-Banham, E. and Fuller, D.Q. (2012) Shifting cultivators in South Asia: expansion, marginalisation and specialisation over the long term. Quaternary International 249: 84-95

Kingwell-Banham, E. and Fuller, D.Q. (2014) Brown Top Millet: Origins and Development. In Smith, C. (ed.) Encyclopaedia of Global Archaeology. Springer, New York. pp 1021-1024

Kingwell-Banham, E. and Fuller, D.Q. (2014) Horse Gram: Origins and Development. In Smith, C. (ed.) Encyclopaedia of Global Archaeology. Springer, New York. pp 1021-1024

Kingwell-Banham, E. and Fuller, D.Q. (2014) Pigeon Pea: Origins and Development. In Smith, C. (ed.) Encyclopaedia of Global Archaeology. Springer, New York. pp 1021-1024

Weisskopf, A., Harvey, E., Kingwell-Banham, E., Kajale, M., Mohanty, R., Fuller, D.Q.. (2013) Archaeobotanical implications of phytolith assemblages from cultivated rice systems, wild rice stands and macro-regional patterns. Journal of archaeological science.

Fuller, D.Q., van Etten, J., Manning, K., Castillo, C., Kingwell-Banham, E., Weisskopf, A., Qin, L., Sato, Yo-Ichiro, Hijmans, R.J.. (2011) The contribution of rice agriculture and livestock pastoralism to prehistoric methan levels: An archaeological assessment. Holocene 21 (5): 743-759

Fuller, D.Q., Sato, Y-I., Castillo, C., Qin, L., Weisskopf, A., Kingwell-Banham, E., Song, J., Ahn, S-M., van Etten, J.. (2010) Consilience of genetics and archaeobotany in the entangled history of rice. Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences 2 (2): 115-131

Conference Poster ”An Indian domestication of rice: the story from Orissa, East India, and the development of rice cultivation systems.” International Union for Quaternary Research, Bern, 2011; Rice and Language Across Asia, Cornell University, 2011.

Conference Poster “New analyses on the developments of early rice cultivation systems in India.” International Work Group for Paleoethnobotany, Wilhelmshaven, 2010.

  • Irrigated rice fields in Maharashtra, India
  • Excavations at the settlement mound of Golbai Sasan, Orissa.
  • Rain fed rice fields in Orissa, India

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