The rice kernel discovered in the Yuchanyan cultural relics in Central China's Hunan Province may be the earliest cultivated rice specimen yet discovered, said archaeologists.
During the excavation at the Yuchanyan cultural relics in Daoxian County at the end of 2004, six rice kernels were discovered. The age of one was confirmed at 12,000 years ago, a transitional period from the Paleolithic Age to the Neolithic Age (10,000 years ago), or even earlier, said Yuan Jiarong, director of the provincial archaeological research institute.
The ages of other five grains, which were found nearer to the earth's surface, are still unidentified, said Yuan.
"As the oldest cultivated rice specimen ever discovered in the world, the discovery marks the significance of central China in the origin of the world rice cultivation culture," said Yuan.
The discovery was regarded as a significant achievement of the research topic on the origin of rice in China, which has seen the participation of experts from the School of Archaeology and Museology of Beijing University, the Department of Anthropology of Harvard University, the Boston University, China Agricultural University, the Weizmann Institute of Science of Israel as well as the Hunan Provincial archaeological research institute, said Yuan.
Four rice kernels were discovered in the Yuchanyan cultural relics in 1993 and 1995. Predating the then generally accepted history of rice production by as much as 4,000 years, the rice kernels, which could be dated back to the period between Paleolithic and Neolithic ages, were the earliest rice specimens ever discovered in the world.
To make further exploration of the cultural relics, archaeologists made another excavation in 2004, during which the six rice kernels and some ceramic pieces were discovered.
Locals showed Yuan the cave in 1998 when he was holding a training course on cave archaeology.
The cave, five meters above the ground, covers an area of 100 square meters.
(Xinhua News Agency February 16, 2005)