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22 October 2003
15,000-year-old rice found

Scientists have found the oldest known domesticated rice. The handful of 15,000-year-old burnt grains was discovered by archaeologists in Korea. Their age challenges the accepted view that rice cultivation originated in China about 12,000 years ago.
     The oldest known rice was discovered by Lee Yung-jo and Woo Jong-yoon of Chungbuk National University in South Korea. They found the ancient grains during excavations in the village of Sorori in the Chungbuk Province. Radioactive dating of the 59 grains of carbonised rice has pushed back the date for the earliest known cultivation of the plant. The region in central Korea where the grains were found is one of the most important sites for understanding the development of Stone Age man in Asia.
     DNA analysis shows the early rice sample to be different from the modern intensively farmed varieties, thereby offering scientists the opportunity to study the evolution of one of the world's principal food sources. Today's rice is the primary food for over half the world's population, with 576,280,000 tonnes produced in 2002.

Source: BBC News (21 October 2003)

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