Fragments of Ancient Ceramic Bowl Found in China Suggest Pottery Came Before Agriculture

Posted on July 3, 2012

Ancient Pottery Fragments Found in Xianrendong Cave


Fragments of an ancient ceramic bowl were recently found in Xianrendong Cave, Jiangxi Province, China. The fragments are 20,000 years old, making it the oldest pottery ever found. The researchers say the ancient pottery suggests pottery came before agriculture.

Study author Wu Xiaohong of the School of Archaeology and Museology at Peking University, told Bloomberg, "The long-held view was pottery appeared around the same period as agriculture and humans adopting settled lifestyles. This research overturns that view."

The Guardian says conventional theories link the creation of pottery to agriculture. One theory is that pottery was invented during the period when humans moved from being hunter-gatherers to farmers about 10,000 years ago. The pottery found in the cave in China is estimated to be about 20,000 years old, which greatly predates the estimated beginning of farming.

Ceramics.org reports that archaeologists says possible uses for the ancient pottery included cooking food, food storage and brewing alcohol.

The research paper was published here in Science Magazine.

Photo: Science/AAAS