Rice (Oryza sativa) is regarded as the only grass that was selected for cultivation and eventual domestication in the Yangtze basin of China. Although both macro-fossils and micro-fossils of rice have been recovered from the Early Neolithic site of Shangshan, dating to more than 10,000 years before present (BP), we report evidence of phytolith and starch microfossils taken from stone tools, both for grinding and cutting, and cultural layers, that indicating barnyard grass (Echinochloa spp.) was a major subsistence resource, alongside smaller quantities of acorn starches (Lithocarpus/Quercus sensu lato) and water chestnuts (Trapa). This evidence suggests that early managed wetland environments were initially harvested for multiple grain species including barnyard grasses as well as rice, and indicate that the emergence of rice as the favoured cultivated grass and ultimately the key domesticate of the Yangtze basin was a protracted process.
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