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Origin Of Pottery Dates Back To The Last Ice Age

Pottery has been around 20,000 years. Credit: AAAS/Science.

Pottery found in a Chinese cave near Xianrendong, about 100 kilometers south of the Yangtze River, is 20,000 years old, say Chinese and American researchers.

The announcement pushes back the invention of this craft by 2,000 years, to smack dab in the middle of the last ice age–a time when humans were probably looking for ways to diversify their food supply. (And keep it warm.)

Access to pottery allowed hunter-gathers to do more sophisticated cooking, such as grind grains, ferment alcohol and extract marrow from animal bones, explains Harvard anthropologist Ofer Bar-Yosef, who led the research just published in the journal Science.

“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,” they note.

That’s right, folks: we’ve been creating pottery for twice as long as we’ve been sowing seeds.

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