Thursday, June 04, 2009

Human evolution: Pottery older than we thought?

Okay, okay, you always wondered where your great aunt got that perfectly awful stuff. But that's not what we are talking about here.

Haim Watzman tells us (NatureNews, 01 June 2009), "Earliest evidence for pottery making found: Fragments from a Chinese cave push back the dawn of the craft by more than 1,000 years."
Shards of pottery dating back 18,000 years have been unearthed in a cave in Hunan province, southern China.

The manufacture of ceramic pots and other items is generally associated with the change from Paleolithic hunter-gatherer societies into sedentary Neolithic communities, which began about 10,000 years ago in the eastern Mediterranean. But pottery manufacture began considerably earlier in East Asia, during the late Paleolithic. Until now, the earliest previous finds in East Asia were dated to 15,000–16,000 years ago.
Well, the basic idea isn't difficult. Clay grows very hard when subjected to intense heat, and most other methods of producing a waterproof container are much more labour intensive. So I wouldn't be surprised if the craft turns out to be older still.