Issue Date: July 2, 2012
Pottery Dates Back 20,000 Years
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.
- Chemical & Engineering News
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