Common carp aquaculture in Neolithic China dates back 8,000 years

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Despite the growing importance of farmed fish for contemporary economies, the origins of aquaculture are poorly known. Although it is widely assumed that fish domestication began much later than the domestication of land animals, the evidence is largely negative. Here, we use age-mortality and species-selection profiles of fish bones from prehistoric East Asia to show that managed aquaculture of common carp (Cyprinus carpio) was present at the Early Neolithic Jiahu site, Henan Province, China, by around 6000 bc.

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Fig. 1: Common carp (Cyprinus carpio) standard BL distributions and cyprinid species compositions from archaeological sites in China and Japan.

Data availability

The pharyngeal bone and tooth remains analysed here are curated in the following institutions: Jiahu: Institute of Archaeology, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Beijing; Tianluoshan: Zhejiang Provincial Institute of Archaeology, Hangzhou; Asahi: Aichi Prefectural Centre for Archaeological Operations, Yatomi City, Aichi; Irienaiko and Akanoi: Cultural Property Protection Division, Shiga Prefectural Board of Education, Ōtsu City, Shiga.

Change history

  • 24 September 2019

    An amendment to this paper has been published and can be accessed via a link at the top of the paper.


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We thank J. Yuan for permission to examine pharyngeal remains from Jiahu, Z. Li and P. Lü for photographs of the pharyngeal teeth, Ō. Nishizawa and Matsukawa Village office for permission to measure carp from Matsukawa, and Y. Fujioka for advice concerning carp aquaculture. The research leading to these results has received funding from JSPS KAKENHI Grants (nos. 22401002 and 26300004), the NEOMAP project of the Research Institute for Humanity and Nature (no. H-04), the European Research Council under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (grant no. 646612), the Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Cultures (7th Handa Japanese Archaeology Fellowship under the International Jomon Culture Conference), National Basic Research Program of China (grant no. 2015CB53802) and National Natural Science Foundation of China (grant no. 41472148).

Author information

T.N. conceived the initial study and conducted analyses of fish remains from Jiahu with critical input from K.M. and J.Z. M.J.H. and J.U. conducted the fieldwork at Matsukawa. All authors interpreted the results and implications. T.N. and M.J.H. wrote the manuscript with input from J.U. who prepared the figures.

Correspondence to Tsuneo Nakajima.

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Supplementary Figs. 1–4 and Tables 1 and 2.

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