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

May 8, 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: Rice responsible for Asians' alcohol flush reaction

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

Related Stories

Rice responsible for Asians' alcohol flush reaction

January 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 ...

Ancient domesticated remains are oldest in southern Africa

July 11, 2012

Researchers have found evidence of the earliest known instance of domesticated caprines (sheep and goats) in southern Africa, dated to the end of the first millennium BC, providing new data to the ongoing debate about the ...

Recommended for you

Chimpanzees shed light on origins of human walking

October 6, 2015

A research team led by Stony Brook University investigating human and chimpanzee locomotion have uncovered unexpected similarities in the way the two species use their upper body during two-legged walking. The results, reported ...

Who you gonna trust? How power affects our faith in others

October 6, 2015

One of the ongoing themes of the current presidential campaign is that Americans are becoming increasingly distrustful of those who walk the corridors of power – Exhibit A being the Republican presidential primary, in which ...

The hand and foot of Homo naledi

October 6, 2015

The second set of papers related to the remarkable discovery of Homo naledi, a new species of human relative, have been published in scientific journal, Nature Communications, on Tuesday, 6 October 2015.

How much for that Nobel prize in the window?

October 3, 2015

No need to make peace in the Middle East, resolve one of science's great mysteries or pen a masterpiece: the easiest way to get yourself a Nobel prize may be to buy one.


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.