This article sets out the first direct evidence for the central role of rice cultivation in the origin and development of complex chiefdoms, or kingdoms, in South Sulawesi after c. AD 1200. This evidence comprises Oryza phytoliths recovered from a test pit excavated from the earliest recorded palace site in South Sulawesi. A chronological context is provided by ceramic sherdage recovered from the test pit and from a partial surface survey of the hill on which the site is located. The combined evidence supports our contention that agrarian kingdoms first appeared in the late 13th century as an indigenous response to the availability of trade goods, mainly Indian textiles and Chinese and Southeast Asian ceramic wares. No material or stratigraphic support was found for an alternative theory that South Sulawesi's early kingdoms were primarily trade based, and that their subsequent development was punctuated by an economic and social collapse lasting several decades.