The archaeology of rice has made important methodological advances over the past decade that have contributed new data on the domestication process, spread and ecology of cultivation. Growing evidence from spikelet bases indicates that non-shattering, domesticated forms evolved gradually in the Yangtze basin and that there were at least two distinct processes around the Middle Yangtze region pre-dating 6000 BC, and the in the Lower Yangtze region between 6000 and 4000 BC. Early rice cultivation in these areas was based on wet field ecologies, in contrast to rainfed rice that is indicated among the earliest systems in India. When rice first spread north it was not entirely suited to shorter temperate summer growth seasons, and we are able to infer from high levels of apparently green-harvested spikelets that genetic adaptations to temperate conditions evolved after 2000 BC. When rice first spread south, to mainland Southeast Asia, after 2500 BC, it was grown in rainfed, dry ecologies that were less labour demanding and less-productive. More productive and intensive irrigated rice then redeveloped in Southeast Asia around 2000 years ago, supporting growing population densities and social complexity.