The ceramics probably consisted of simple concave vessels that were likely used for cooking food, said Ofer Bar-Yosef, an archaeologist at Harvard and an author of the study, which appears in the journal Science.
“What it seems is that in China, the making of pottery started 20,000 years ago and never stopped,” he said. “The Chinese kitchen was always based on cooking and steaming; they never made, as in other parts of Asia, breads.”
Science 29 June 2012:
Vol. 336 no. 6089 pp. 1696-1700
Early Pottery at 20,000 Years Ago in Xianrendong Cave, China
Xiaohong Wu et al.
The invention of pottery introduced fundamental shifts in human subsistence practices and sociosymbolic behaviors. Here, we describe the dating of the early pottery from Xianrendong Cave, Jiangxi Province, China, and the micromorphology of the stratigraphic contexts of the pottery sherds and radiocarbon samples. The radiocarbon ages of the archaeological contexts of the earliest sherds are 20,000 to 19,000 calendar years before the present, 2000 to 3000 years older than other pottery found in East Asia and elsewhere. The occupations in the cave demonstrate that pottery was produced by mobile foragers who hunted and gathered during the Late Glacial Maximum. These vessels may have served as cooking devices. The early date shows that pottery was first made and used 10 millennia or more before the emergence of agriculture.