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28 December 2003
Invention of pottery may be linked to snail eating

After studying relics in Zengpiyan Cave in Guilin City, capital of Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, archeologists say China's most primitive pottery was made to cook freshwater snails. The cave represents Neolithic culture in south China about 12,000 to 7,000 years ago and it yielded the country's most primitive potsherds, estimated to be 12,000 years old.
     People in south China had been using fire to cook wild plants or animals long before they started cooking shellfish in pottery, said Fu Xianguo, a researcher with the Institute of Archeology of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS). "Freshwater snails were one of their staple foods, judging by the quantities of snail shells found in various strata. Our experiments show it is necessary to heat them before consumption, otherwise it's difficult to release the meat from the shells," Fu said.
     There were various hypotheses on how and why pottery was created. Some said it was related with mud-brick house  construction, others believed it was created to meet culinary needs or for  subsistence strategies. Richard Pearson, an independent Canadian archeologist, disagreed with the theory that it was made to cook snails. "They could also have been roasted or baked,"he said.

Source: China View (23 December 2003)

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