The University of Arizona

The Origin of Pottery in East Asia and Its Relationship to Environmental Changes in the Late Glacial

Y V Kuzmin


The chronometry of the origin of pottery in East Asia can give some insights to the question: did environmental changes trigger and/or accelerate innovations such as pottery-making, maritime adaptation, and agriculture? Recent results show that pottery emerged in 3 regions of East Asia: south China (up to ~14,800 BP), the Japanese Islands (about 13,800-13,500 BP), and the Russian Far East (~13,300 BP). The earliest pottery in the Old World preceded the Bølling-Allerød warm period (about 13,000?11,500 BP). Thus, the relationship between climate and pottery origin was not "linear." It seems that the combination of environmental changes and the necessity to process freshwater fish and mollusks and terrestrial plants (including acorns and nuts) resulted in the introduction of pottery-making in East Asia. An important feature is the quite non-uniform nature of the Neolithization process in the eastern part of Asia, where often in 2 neighboring regions pottery appeared at very different times: approximately 15,000-14,000 BP in south China and ~4000 BP in mainland Southeast Asia. Thus, the kind of eternal question like "What caused what?" still stands in terms of what were the driving forces for the emergence of pottery in East Asia and worldwide.

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