NERC grant success for Dorian Fuller

29 January 2013

Wet rice cultivation, Orissa

Congratulations to Dorian Fuller who has received a major new NERC award for the continuation of his ground-breaking research on early rice agriculture.

Dorian has been awarded a NERC Research Grant of over £700,000 for a 3-year project, working with Andrew Bevan, new research staff and collaborative project partners to investigate the evolution of rice systems from China to Southeast Asia.

Understanding the development, diversification and spread of rice agriculture is central, not only to understanding the processes of human population growth, dispersal and formation of civilizations in Asia, but also to the reconstruction of how past agricultural activities might have impacted global climate through methane emissions and deforestation.

Dorian has been conducting archaeobotanical research into early millet and rice cultivation systems for over a decade, primarily in India and China and more recently in Thailand and Sri Lanka. In addition, he has contributed new syntheses to archaeobotany and agricultural origins in Southeast Asia and West Asia with comparative perspectives on crop domestication.

His previous NERC-funded research project on 'The identification of arable rice systems in prehistory' has consolidated our understanding of early rice agricultural development in the Yangtze and in India.

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The data obtained from this research have, for the first time, allowed a move beyond just the documentation of the presence of rice agriculture to a determination of whether deeper wet-field forms of cultivation were practiced as opposed to dry-cropped forms of rice across a number of sites in China, India and Thailand. The form of rice cultivation has obvious implications for the reconstruction of prehistoric landuse but also for anthropogenic influences on climate since wet rice systems produce significant quantities of methane whereas dry systems do not.

The UCL Institute of Archaeology is a world centre for archaeological research and teaching, with long-established world-class archaeobotanical laboratories and a dedicated GIS laboratory.

NERC invests in world-class environmental science, innovation and training for the UK and co-ordinates some of the world's most exciting research projects, tackling major issues such as climate change, environmental influences on human health, and much more.