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New insights into the grinding tools used by the earliest farmers in the central plain of China

Li, Weiya, Tsoraki, Christina, Lan, Wanli, Yang, Yuzhang, Zhang, Juzhong, van Gijn, Annelou
Quaternary international 2018
farmers, grinding, quantitative analysis, rice, slabs, starch granules, China
The site of Jiahu in the central plain of China is known for its early rice cultivation 9000 years ago. The preliminary starch analysis implies that the Jiahu grinding tools were used for processing various plants, including rice. This paper presents the use-wear analysis carried out on a sample of seventeen grinding tools from Jiahu, nine of which were previously analyzed for the presence of starch. Use-wear traces associated with processing cereal and wood-like material were identified. This result confirms important evidence of cereal processing in the early Neolithic period. It also reveals the diversity of functions in the grinding tool assemblage. Furthermore, the use-wear distribution indicates that grinding slabs without feet and cylindrical rollers were mainly associated with the processing of cereals while grinding slabs with feet were mainly related to the processing of wood-like material. Quantitative analysis of the starch data also indicates that grinding slabs without feet possess more starch grains than the grinding slabs with feet. Therefore, it is argued that specific types of grinding tools were used for processing specific kinds of material. This study highlights the different roles grinding tools may have played in early farming societies.