YORK, ENGLAND—Pottery is thought to have originated with hunter-gatherers in Japan some 16,000 years ago. It was also thought that as the climate warmed at the end of the last Ice Age some 11,500 years ago, their use of pottery expanded as more foods became available. But when an international team of researchers examined lipids extracted from 143 ceramic vessels from Torihama, a site in western Japan, they found that the pots were routinely used for cooking marine and freshwater animals over a 9,000-year period. Little evidence of plant processing or the cooking of animals such as deer was found, although there was an increase over time in the amount of freshwater fish that was cooked. “Here, we are starting to acquire some idea of why pottery was invented and became such a successful technology. Interestingly, the reason seems to be little to do with subsistence and more to do with the adoption of a cultural tradition, linked to celebratory occasions and competitive feasting, especially involving the preparation of fish and shellfish,” Oliver Craig of the University of York said in a press release. To read more about the use of pottery in archaeological research, go to "On the Trail of the Mimbres."