label r shifted
Session B6
Phytoliths Evidence for Rice Cultivation at 3500 Years Ago, OLPII Site, Kenting Area
李作婷 Tsuo-Ting Lee
Division of Anthropology, National Museum of Natural Science, Taiwan
李匡悌 Kuang-Ti Li
Institute of History and Philology, Academia Sinica, Taiwan

 OLPII site of Kenting area is located in the southernmost area of Taiwan. Archaeologists in Taiwan have regarded that the Neolithic settlement in Kenting relied heavily on marine resources with no direct evidence of crop farming. For a long time, archaeologists who work in this area took stone knives or sickle, hypothetical agriculture implements based on ethnographic analogy, as a proxy for the existence of grain agriculture. In recent years, carbonized rice and millet remains were not rare across sites in Taiwan. However, there were no such findings in the Kenting area. It is considered that high temperature and humidity makes organic materials difficult to preserve in soil. For that reason, an approach from phytolith analysis, a method that examines the inorganic amorphous oxides matters extracted from soil, is used to analyze the samples from OLPII site.

 Phytoliths occur when a plant absorb ground water and obtain precipitated monosilicic acid within cell walls. After the plant is dead, phytoliths which remain the shape of the cell were preserved and deposited into soil. Significant correlations are found between the shape of phytoliths and the source plant's taxon and postulated phylogeny. Therefore, phytoliths found in ancient soil can be used to make identifications of certain taxa of plants below the level of family. For example, in the Poaceae family, bilobate or cross-shape phytoliths(short cell) and bulliform phytoliths(motor cell) both are significantly for genus or species level identification.

 The early stage of rice cultivation is an important archaeology topic in Taiwan, archaeologists are interested in how did it occur in Taiwan and its connections with the oldest rice farming system of East Asia. Some researchers even link it to the model of Proto-Austronesian expansion, which suggest rice cultivation support the increase of population and and enabled their dispersion to the Pacific. In this study, we report new findings that provide evidence of rice cultivation in Kenting, ca. 3,500 BP. We identify the bulliform phytoliths from motor cell and the twin-peak phytoliths from epidermal cell, which indicate, respectively, the leaf and husk of Oryza Sativa, i.e., cultivated rice. Moreover, the bulliform phytoliths phytoliths from motor cell of leaf suggest that people in OLPII were not just obtaining rice grains, but actually cultivating it. Meanwhile, we also identified phytoliths came from Arecaceae, Lauraceae and Fagaceae, most of them were related to coast plant of tropical monsoon forest. This result reveals an environment not suitable for rice farming and therefore lead to another possibility that people in OLPII site may carry out their farming elsewhere.

 Besides the production of rice, the role of rice in this period is also concerned since the context of OLPII site indicates a subsistence that emphasized on the usage of marine resources. We also identified millet-type phytoliths in the present study as well, suggested that rice may not be the only crop in the farming system. Overall, we shall consider the early residents of Kenting had an access to not only marine resources, but also a broad spectrum of plant resources.