Ancient pottery, arguably the world's most commonly practiced form of ancient art, first appeared during the Upper Paleolithic in the Moravian basin of Central Europe. Unlike other types of plastic art, pottery was invented then lost, then reinvented then lost again, before finally becoming established around the world during the Neolithic period (c.8000-2000 BCE). Only in China was ceramic art practiced continuously from its first known appearance in 18,000 BCE.
Venus of Dolni Vestonice (26,000 - 24,000 BCE)
Xianrendong Cave Pottery (c.18,000 BCE)
"World's Oldest Ceramic Pots"
Over the past 20 years, a series of exciting discoveries in the field of prehistoric art have pushed back the earliest date for the invention of pottery by more than 10,000 years. In June 2012, for instance, an article in Science magazine (June 2012), confirmed that fragments (shards) of Chinese pottery discovered in Xianrendong Cave in China's Jiangxi Province had been radiocarbon dated to 18,000 BCE, making them the oldest ceramic art ever found.
Xianrendong Cave (known as "Immortal's Cave" in Chinese) is located at the foot of Xiaohe mountain, in Wannian County, in northeastern Jiangxi, in southeast China. The province of Jiangxi stretches from the Yangzi River in the north to Fujian in the east, Guangdong in the south, and Hunan to the west.
Similar to the ceramic vessels found at Yuchanyan in Hunan province, the sherds discovered at the Paleolithic hunter-gatherer cave site of Xianrendong were the remains of coarse-pasted, round-bottomed, bag-shaped jars with plain or primitively decorated walls. Made from clay, with added sand, quartz and feldspar, they were used for boiling, baking and steaming food, rather than storage, as is evident from the burn marks and soot on their outside surfaces, caused by being placed over fires. The archeological layer in which the ceramic fragments were found, also contained a large quantity of clam and snail shells, clearly indicating the popular Chinese food of the time.
Jomon Pottery (c.14500-1000 BCE)
In prehistoric art, the term "Jomon" (which means "cord pattern" in Japanese) refers to the ancient pottery produced by Japan's first Stone Age culture, during the period 14,500 and 1000 BCE. It was christened Jomon pottery by the American zoologist Edward S. Morse (1838-1925), who excavated the first known examples of Jomon ceramic art from the Omori shell-mound near Tokyo. Because all the recovered shards had marks of twisted cords on their exterior surfaces, Morse gave them the name "Jomon". In fact, the name "Jomon" is now used to describe the entire prehistoric culture of Japanese art, a culture which began in the era of Paleolithic Art, and continued throughout the period of Neolithic Art, before finishing about 300 BCE, towards the end of the Iron Age.
All Jomon vessels were hand made, without the aid of a potter's wheel, which wasn't invented until about 4,000 BCE. The artist therefore built up the pot from the bottom with coil upon coil of soft clay, mixed with a selection of adhesive additives, including lead, mica and crushed shells.
Jomon pots are traditionally divided into five categories: (1) "fukabachi" - deep bowls or jars; (2) "hachi" - bowls of medium depth; (3) "asabachi" - shallow bowls; (4) "tsubo" - containers with narrow mouths and long necks; and (5) "chuko" - vessels with spouts.