Thursday, April 11, 2013

Ceramic Cook Pots: An Early Version

Ice Age hunter-gatherers ate fish cooked in ceramic pots

An Incipient Jomon pot from Kubodera-minami, Niigata Prefecture, Japan ca. 15,000 years old, which also contained traces of fish (Photo Courtesy: Tokamchi City Museum)
Hunter-gatherers living in glacial conditions used pots for cooking fish, a new study suggests. According to the findings led by the University of York, this is the earliest direct evidence for the use of ceramic vessels. Scientists from the UK, the Netherlands, Sweden and Japan carried out chemical analysis of food residues in pottery up to 15,000 years old from the late glacial period, the oldest pottery so far investigated. It is the first study to directly address the often posed question why humans made pots?
The question of why glacial-era humans made pots strikes me as a stupid one: because it's fun, duh. J/K. But really, is that such a mystery? If they knew how to make vessels from readily available material that could store food and other items against scavengers, dirt, and weather; keep water cool; provide a cinder-free cooking experience; and be almost endlessly reusable, why in the world wouldn't they? Why did early humans make pots? Because they could.

The more interesting question to me is, how did humans discover the fire-able quality of clay: how did human-induced quartz inversion first occur? I can tell myself a little story about a clay-lined cooking basket catching fire and getting hot enough to give someone an inkling of what clay could do, but it's only a story. Absent a time machine, guesses are all we've got.


Lori Buff said...

I make up the same stories about early pottery. Hehe. It seems that potters love to experiment, I assume that has been true for the life of the art.

Thistle Bee Pottery said...

My theory has a more whimsical twist. It involves kids playing with mud making people and animal figures. Then there's a forest fire or someone was supposed to be shucking the corn instead of playing and instead of "time out" the figures got thrown in the fire. Then they discovered the figures became rock hard. One thing leads to another and voila!

HeidiMCF said...

I love your comment that early humans made pots because it's fun! Ha! It is interesting to think how it all came to be. Maybe they made a vessel to contain food and ending up putting it over the fire to heat it up?

Christine Covert said...

Love the kid making a doll version of the story. Must add that water kept cool in an earthenware jar is just the right temperature to satisfy one's thirst without making the stomach too cold for comfort. We've used them in Africa and have one here for summer use.

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