Archive of European Projects

Pottery Innovation and Transmission in East Asia: bridging expertise across continents (PONTE)
Start date: 01 Sep 2014, End date: 31 Aug 2016 PROJECT  FINISHED 

Although pottery is one of humanity’s most important and enduring innovations, understanding exactly how and why pottery first appeared, as well as how, when and where the innovation subsequently spread, remains a central problem in archaeological research. It is also unclear why pottery was innovated at this particular juncture and in East Asia, much earlier than other parts of the world. In 2013, Craig (scientist in charge) and colleagues succeeded in extracting interpretable amounts of alkanoic acids from 15,000 year old pottery from Japan. Demonstration that lipids survive in pottery of this age provides the first opportunity to directly investigate the origins and development of pottery in East Asia by reconstructing pottery use and function. Knowing how early pottery was used provides the strongest indication of why it was used, and this is the rationale for the proposed research. BRIDGE aims to unite the host’s recent state-of-the-art expertise in organic residue analysis, with expertise of East Asian prehistoric archaeology, already acquired by the incoming fellow enhancing the European host’s chances of making a significant contribution to our understanding of the origins of pottery. The overarching aims of the proposal are to examine the use and role of pottery a) as it gradually emerged in the Japanese archipelago across a broad range of environmental settings during the final Pleistocene (15,500-11,000 BP) and b) became ‘thoroughly embedded’ in hunter-gatherer communities of the early Holocene (11,000-9, 000 BP). This will provide the first insight into why pottery was innovated and so widely adopted. In the final part of the project we will expand the geographical scope of the project to other regions of East Asia including China, Korea and Russia by conducting pilot studies targeting key early pottery assemblages from Late Pleistocene and Early Holocene sites.
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