A group of scientists from the UK, the Netherlands, Sweden, and Japan have been conducting an investigation on the residue left behind in ancient 15,000-year-old pottery. The pottery is used by early humans in the late glacial period. According to the scientists, this is the oldest pottery studied so far.
The question the scientists looked to answer was a simple one, why did humans make pots. The team was able to determine that the use of a range of hunter-gatherer “Jōmon” ceramic pots through chemical analysis of organic compounds extracted from charred surface deposits. The pieces of pottery the team used in the research are among some of the earliest found in Japan.
The period when the pottery was used was at the end of the time officially called the Late Pleistocene when humans were adjusting to changing climates and new environments. Ceramic container technology was believed to have been more associated with the arrival of farming in the past, however the researchers now know that ceramic pottery was used in much earlier hunter-gatherer societies. The scientists say that the first ceramic pots gave hunter-gatherers new ways for processing and consuming foods.
During the investigation, researchers recovered diagnostic lipids from charred surface deposits left on the pottery and found that most of the compounds were derived from the processing of freshwater or marine organisms. The researchers say that the majority of the 101 charred deposits analyzed from across Japan were derived from high tropic level aquatic foods.