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Human evolution: Current pottery theory in smithereens. Pottery much older than (dated) agriculture


In “Pottery invented in China to cook food and brew alcohol” (BBC News , 28 June 2012), Pallab Ghosh reports that pieces of a large bowl found in Jiangxi Province are 20,000 years old. Pottery had been theorized to get started only 10,000 years ago, when agriculture prevailed. The theory was, pottery would be too hard for nomads to transport.

But in the past 10 years, researchers have found instances of pottery pre-dating agriculture.

One possible reason for the invention of pottery is that 20,000 years ago the Earth was the coldest it had been for a million years.

According to the lead researcher, Prof Ofer Bar-Yosef of Harvard University, pottery cauldrons would have enabled people to extract more nutrition from their food by cooking it.

“Hunter-gatherers were under pressure to get enough food,” he told BBC News.

Hmmm. What will be the explanation if they find pottery from 30,000 years ago?

Here’s New Scientist’s take.

See also: Musical instruments pushed back by about 7,000 years

Human evolution: Artists’ workshop from 100,000 years ago

Sophisticated tool production system discovered, from 200,000-400,000 million years ago

Oh, and Michael Cremo is still wrong?

My understanding of the people who lived in the French caves is that a cave was occupied on a semi-permanent basis, serving as a base from which hunting parties stalked whatever was available for the season. The idea that "hunter-gatherer" groups all lived like the Bushmen, making camp for a few days and moving on, only applies if the site is easily exhausted of food. A well sited cave in China could very well provide everything a generation of humans needed. Why not start making bowls? Hunter-gatherers spend, on average, 4 hours per day collecting and preparing food. This leaves lots of time for crafting tools and inventing stuff. It isn't unusual for a "new technology" to have a few false starts before it gets widely accepted. Note also that some primitive people cook food in baskets woven from grasses or twigs. You simply heat rocks in the fire, scoop the hot rock out with 2 sticks, drop it into the basket, and stir the rock around in the basket until the oatmeal (or whatever is on the menu) is considered "done". There is some technological link from basketweaving to pottery. mahuna
Huh, it's almost like you can't observe the past you weren't present for. Thank goodness that science is past worrying about trivialities such as observation. For example: How did our hapless ancestors "know" they could get more nutrition from the use of pottery... before they had pottery? They observed the past future from the future past, obviously. Maus

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