Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences

, Volume 11, Issue 12, pp 6501–6513 | Cite as

Rice carbonization and the archaeobotanical record: experimental results from the Ban Chiang ethnobotanical collection, Thailand

  • Chantel WhiteEmail author
  • Fabian Toro
  • Joyce White
Original Paper
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Archaeobotanical Progress in South and South East Asia


Our paper addresses the complex set of issues affecting rice grain preservation at archaeological sites. Through a set of carefully controlled carbonization experiments using wild and domesticated species, we demonstrate that dried, dehusked grains survive intact within a small window of heating conditions and, contrary to previous studies, are not substantially reduced in size by the carbonization process. The rice accessions included in this study are part of an extensive botanical collection from the Ban Chiang region, Thailand, which provides unique ethnobotanical information for traditional rice cultivars, their growing conditions, and specific attributes favored by local farmers. The Ban Chiang rice study provides a new lens for considering the history of rice cultivation in Southeast Asia regarding the chronology, archaeology, and cultural importance of Oryza sativa ssp. japonica and Oryza sativa ssp. indica.


Archaeobotany Rice Ethnobotany Carbonization Southeast Asia Ban Chiang Thailand 



We wish to thank Jade d’Alpoim Guedes for the opportunity to present our work as part of the session organized in honor of Steven Weber at the Society for American Archaeology annual meeting in Vancouver, BC, in 2017. The impact of Steven’s research is far-reaching for the archaeology of South and Southeast Asia. His integration of ethnobotanical perspectives into archaeobotanical studies in particular set new standards in the discipline. We also wish to thank two anonymous reviewers for their careful reading and helpful comments on an earlier draft of this manuscript. The late Li Hirionatha is deeply acknowledged for sharing with Joyce White his profound knowledge of plants in the Ban Chiang area, including the rice cultivars used in this study. Anna Pugsley and Ashley Krauss assisted in editing and proofing the bibliography.

Funding information

Funding for the fieldwork to undertake the Ban Chiang ethnobotanical collection was provided to Joyce White by the University of Pennsylvania Museum, with a contribution from the Department of Anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania for a pre-dissertation feasibility study to undertake the initial collection in 1978. Partial funding for the carbonization experiments was provided by donors to the Institute for Southeast Asian Archaeology (ISEAA) and by the Center for the Analysis of Archaeological Materials (CAAM). Penn Museum Academic Engagement funded the attendance of Fabian Toro at the Society for American Archaeology 82nd meeting in Vancouver in April 2017, where he first presented the data discussed in this paper.

Supplementary material

12520_2019_797_MOESM1_ESM.docx (1019 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 0.99 mb)
12520_2019_797_MOESM2_ESM.xlsx (111 kb)
ESM 2 (XLSX 111 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for the Analysis of Archaeological MaterialsThe University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and AnthropologyPhiladelphiaUSA
  2. 2.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of California San DiegoSan DiegoUSA
  3. 3.Institute for Southeast Asian ArchaeologyThe University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and AnthropologyPhiladelphiaUSA

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