MicroCT reveals domesticated rice (Oryza sativa) within pottery sherds from early Neolithic sites (4150-3265 cal BP) in Southeast Asia

Aleese Barron, Michael Turner, Levi Beeching, Peter Bellwood, Philip Piper, Elle Grono, Rebecca Jones, Marc Oxenham, Nguyen Khanh Trung Kien, Tim Senden, Tim Denham*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Citations (Scopus)


Rice (Oryza sativa) was domesticated in the Yangtze Valley region at least 6000-8000 years ago, yet the timing of dispersal of domesticated rice to Southeast Asia is contentious. Often rice is not well-preserved in archaeobotanical assemblages at early Neolithic sites in the wet tropics of Southeast Asia and consequently rice impressions in pottery have been used as a proxy for rice cultivation despite their uncertain taxonomic and domestication status. In this research, we use microCT technology to determine the 3D microscale morphology of rice husk and spikelet base inclusions within pottery sherds from early Neolithic sites in Vietnam. In contrast to surface impressions, microCT provides images of the entire husk and spikelet base preserved within the pottery, including the abscission scar characteristic of domesticated rice. This research demonstrates the potential of microCT to be a new, non-destructive method for the identification of domesticated plant remains within pottery sherds, especially in contexts where archaeobotanical preservation is poor and chaff-tempered sherds are rare and unavailable for destructive analysis. The method has the potential to greatly advance the understanding of crop domestication and agricultural dispersal for ceramic cultures in different parts of the world.

Original languageEnglish
Article number7410
Number of pages5
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Early online date7 Aug 2017
Publication statusPublished - 7 Aug 2017


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