In ancient China, sago palms were major plant food prior to rice cultivation

May 08, 2013
This image shows modern starch grains from sago palms and ancient phytolith and starch grains recovered from Neolithic tools. Credit: Xiaoyan Yang

Before rice cultivation became prevalent, ancient populations on the southern coast of China likely relied on sago palms as staple plant foods, according to research published May 8 in the open access journal PLOS ONE by Xiaoyan Yang and colleagues from the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing, China.

Little is known about prehistoric diets of those who lived in southern subtropical China, as the and humid climate of the region cause poor preservation of plant remains. Though literature and archaeological discoveries have suggested that roots and tubers were the staple foods in this region, no direct evidence has so far been found.

In this study, researchers analyzed starch granules recovered from Neolithic stone tools used approximately 3,350-2,470 BC, and found these to resemble starches typically found in sago-type palms. They found that people at this time also likely relied on bananas, acorns and freshwater roots and tubers as important plant foods prior to the cultivation of rice.

Explore further: Research pushes back origins of agriculture in China by 12,000 years

More information: Yang X, Barton HJ, Wan Z, Li Q, Ma Z, et al. (2013) Sago-type Palms Were an Important Plant Food Prior to Rice in Southern Subtropical China. PLoS ONE 8(5): e63148. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0063148

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Rice responsible for Asians' alcohol flush reaction

Jan 19, 2010

The mutation responsible for the alcohol flush reaction, an unpleasant response to alcohol that is relatively common in people of Asian descent, may have occurred following the domestication of rice. Researchers writing in ...

Recommended for you

Egypt archaeologists find ancient writer's tomb

19 hours ago

Egypt's minister of antiquities says a team of Spanish archaeologists has discovered two tombs in the southern part of the country, one of them belonging to a writer and containing a trove of artifacts including reed pens ...

Crowd-sourcing Britain's Bronze Age

Apr 17, 2014

A new joint project by the British Museum and the UCL Institute of Archaeology is seeking online contributions from members of the public to enhance a major British Bronze Age archive and artefact collection.

Roman dig 'transforms understanding' of ancient port

Apr 17, 2014

(Phys.org) —Researchers from the universities of Cambridge and Southampton have discovered a new section of the boundary wall of the ancient Roman port of Ostia, proving the city was much larger than previously ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Egypt archaeologists find ancient writer's tomb

Egypt's minister of antiquities says a team of Spanish archaeologists has discovered two tombs in the southern part of the country, one of them belonging to a writer and containing a trove of artifacts including reed pens ...