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Yuchanyan Cave

Yuchanyan Cave

I’ve admitted that cultural anthropology rarely gets its fair share on this blog, but I must also confess I don’t spread the love with archaeological news. Hopefully you’ll forgive me a bit today, because thanks to Luis, there’s news of the discovery of the oldest known pottery  — 17,500-18,300 years old from the Yuchanyan Cave in the Hunan province of China that I wanna share with you.

Let me remind you that the Yuchanyan cave also yielded the oldest kernels of rice in 2005 so it’s not too surprising to find old vessels to store the rice. The big shake up here is that previously, the Jōmon of Japan were considered to be the inventors of ancient pot making, with vessels dated to an age between 16,000 and 17,000 years ago.

Yuchanyan Pot

Yuchanyan Pot

One thing that isn’t properly clarified in news media buzz is that that act of firing clay and making figurines has twice as long as vessel making. In fact, ceramic objects, such as Gravettian figurines likes the Venus of Dolní Věstonice those from Dolni Vestonice, Czech Republic, a clay statuette of a female figure, is dated to 29,000–25,000 BCE. The distinction here is that the Yuchanyan pot is oldest known clay vessel.

You can read the full text of the study, published as an open access paper in the journal PNAS.

    Boaretto, E., Wu, X., Yuan, J., Bar-Yosef, O., Chu, V., Pan, Y., Liu, K., Cohen, D., Jiao, T., Li, S., Gu, H., Goldberg, P., & Weiner, S. (2009). Radiocarbon dating of charcoal and bone collagen associated with early pottery at Yuchanyan Cave, Hunan Province, China Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0900539106
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