19 Scopus citations


Rice is one of the most culturally valued and widely grown crops in the world today, and extensive research over the past decade has clarified much of the narrative of its domestication and early spread across East and South Asia. However, the timing and routes of its dispersal into West Asia and Europe, through which rice eventually became an important ingredient in global cuisines, has remained less clear. In this article, we discuss the piecemeal, but growing, archaeobotanical data for rice in West Asia. We also integrate written sources, linguistic data, and ethnohistoric analogies, in order to better understand the adoption of rice outside its regions of origin. The human-mediated westward spread of rice proceeded gradually, while its social standing and culinary uses repeatedly changing over time and place. Rice was present in West Asia and Europe by the tail end of the first millennium BC, but did not become a significant crop in West Asia until the past few centuries. Complementary historical, linguistic, and archaeobotanical data illustrate two separate and roughly contemporaneous routes of westward dispersal, one along the South Asian coast and the other through Silk Road trade. By better understanding the adoption of this water-demanding crop in the arid regions of West Asia, we explore an important chapter in human adaptation and agricultural decision making.

Original languageEnglish
Article number83
Issue number1
StatePublished - 25 Sep 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, The Author(s).


Research funds and support were provided by the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History and the European Research Council, grant number 851102, Fruits of Eurasia: Domestication and Dispersal (FEDD), and the NSFC (41672171).

FundersFunder number
Horizon 2020 Framework Programme851102
H2020 European Research CouncilFEDD
European Research Council
National Natural Science Foundation of China
National Natural Science Foundation of China-Yunnan Joint Fund41672171
Max-Planck-Institut für Menschheitsgeschichte


    • Agricultural intensification
    • Archaeobotany
    • Crop exchange
    • Paddy farming
    • Rice
    • West Asia


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