Pottery 20,000 Years Old Found in China, Say Researchers

The oldest known man-made pottery is thought to have been discovered in a cave in China that dates back some 20,000 years, according to archeologists.

The results, which were published in the Science journal on Friday, is part of a larger project that has already dated some ancient artifacts found East Asia to more than 15,000 years ago. The results counter previous theories which stated that the development of pottery came about around 10,000 years ago when humans began to develop permanent civilizations.

The research was conducted by a team comprised of both Chinese and American scientists and "pushes back the creation of pottery back to the last ice age, which might provide new explanations for the creation of pottery," Gideon Shelach, chair of the Louis Frieberg Center for East Asian Studies at The Hebrew University in Israel, told the Associated Press.

In a related science article Shelach wrote that the research results "are fundamental for a better understanding of socio-economic change (25,000 to 19,000 years ago) and the development that led to the emergency of sedentary agricultural societies."

Wu Xiaohong, professor of archaeology and museology at Peking University and lead author of the published article, detailed the radiocarbon dating process and why these findings are so important. She also explained why this was only the start and that more excavations and research is needed to better understand early human civilizations.

"We are very excited about the findings. The paper is the result of efforts done by generations of scholars," Wu said. "Now we can explore why there was pottery in that particular time, what were the uses of the vessels, and what role they played in the survival of human beings."

The ancient pottery fragments were discovered in the Xianrendong cave in south China's Jiangxi province. The cave was first excavated in the 1960s and then again during the mid-1990s, according to AP.