Friday, April 12, 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.
Pottery reveals Ice Age hunter-gatherers' taste for fish
An Incipient Jomon pot from Kubodera-minami, Niigata Prefecture, Japan
ca. 15,000 years old [Credit: Tokamchi City Museum]
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?" Theresearch is published in Nature.

The research team was able to determine the use of a range of hunter-gatherer "Jōmon" ceramic vessels through chemical analysis of organic compounds extracted from charred surface deposits. The samples analysed are some of the earliest found in Japan, a country recognised to be one of the first centres for ceramic innovation, and date to the end of the Late Pleistocene -- a time when humans were adjusting to changing climates and new environments.

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