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16 April 2013
Pottery reveals Ice Age hunter-gatherers' taste for fish

Hunter-gatherers living in glacial conditions produced pots for cooking fish, according to the findings of a pioneering new study led by the University of York, which reports the earliest direct evidence for the use of ceramic vessels.
     Scientists 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. The team was able to determine the use of a range of hunter-gatherer 'Jomon' ceramic vessels through chemical analysis of organic compounds extracted from charred surface deposits. The samples analysed are some of the earliest found in Japan - one of the first centres for ceramic innovation - and date to the end of the Late Pleistocene, at a time when humans were adjusting to changing climates and new environments.
     Until quite recently ceramic container technologies have been associated with the arrival of farming, but we now know they were a much earlier hunter-gatherer adaptation. The first ceramic containers must have provided attractive new ways for processing and consuming foods, but until now virtually nothing was known of how early pots were used.
     According to research leader Doctor Oliver Craig, "Perhaps most interesting is that this fundamental adaptation emerged over a period of severe climate change." This initial phase of ceramic production probably paved the way for further intensification in the warmer climate of the Holocene when we see much more pottery on Japanese sites. Doctor Craig continues: "It opens the way for further study of hunter-gatherer pottery from later periods to clarify the development of what was a revolutionary technology."

Edited from EurekAlert! (10 April 2012)

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