Pottery Dates Back 20,000 Years | Chemical & Engineering News
Volume 90 Issue 27 | p. 23 | Concentrates
Issue Date: July 2, 2012

Pottery Dates Back 20,000 Years

Study pushes origins of craft 2,000 years earlier than previously known
Department: Science & Technology
News Channels: Analytical SCENE
Keywords: pottery, carbon dating
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Artifacts in China push back the advent of pottery making by 2,000 years to 20,000 years ago.
Credit: Science
Two brown, triangular pieces of 20,000 year old pottery found in a Chinese cave. The top of the curved shards features circular indentations.
 
Artifacts in China push back the advent of pottery making by 2,000 years to 20,000 years ago.
Credit: Science

Researchers digging in a cave in Xianrendong, China, about 100 km south of the Yangtze River, have used radiocarbon dating to establish that humans were making pottery as early as 20,000 years ago. This new work puts the origins of pottery some 2,000 years earlier then previously reported (Science, DOI: 10.1126/science.1218643). “Pottery making introduces a fundamental shift in human dietary history, and Xianrendong demonstrates that hunter-gatherers in East Asia used pottery for some 10,000 years before they became sedentary or began cultivating plants,” notes the team of researchers in China and the U.S. that made the discovery. Led by Harvard University anthropologist Ofer Bar-Yosef, the researchers propose that the pottery was used for cooking and possibly to grind grains, ferment alcohol, or extract marrow from animal bones. Pottery would have enabled hunter-gatherers to diversify their diet as they faced the challenges of the last ice age. The group determined the age of the pottery by radiodating 45 bone, charcoal, and skull samples found near the ancient pottery.

 
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