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Amazonian farmers discovered how to manipulate wild rice so the plants could provide more food 4,000 years ago, long before Europeans colonised America, archaeologists have discovered.
Experts from the UK and Brazil have found the first evidence that ancient South Americans learned how to grow bigger rice crops with larger grains, but this expertise may have been lost after 1492 when the indigenous population was decimated, research shows.
Evidence - Success - Rice - Farmers - Wetlands
The evidence of the success of early rice farmers on the vast wetlands near the Guaporé River in Rondônia state, Brazil, could help modern day plant breeders develop rice crops which are less susceptible to disease and more adaptable to the effects of climate change than the Asian varieties. Different species of rice were first grown approximately 11,000 years ago in the Yangtze River, China, and around 2,000 years ago in West Africa.
The University of Exeter study, funded in part by the European Research Council, also shows how important the huge wetlands and tropical forests of lowland South America were in providing food for early human settlers in South America. Ancient inhabitants managed to domesticate cassava, peanuts and chilli peppers crops for food.
Archaeologists - Samples - Microscopic - Plant - Time
The archaeologists analysed 16 samples of microscopic plant remains from ten different time periods found during excavations during 2014 led by the University of São Paulo in South West Amazonia. More phytoliths, hard, microscopic pieces of silica made by plant cells, were found at higher ground level, suggesting rice began to play a larger role in the diet of people who lived in the area - and more was farmed - as time went on.
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