Archaeology Magazine

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Hunter-Gatherers Cooked in Pots

Thursday, April 11, 2013

YORK, ENGLAND—While we often think of Ice Age hunter-gatherers tracking large game and traveling light, a new study of early Jōmon pottery fragments taken from 13 different sites in Japan suggests that people cooked fish, shellfish, and possibly marine mammals in pottery vessels as early as 15,000 years ago. Biomolecular archaeologist Oliver Craig of the University of York and his team of scientists analyzed scrapings of charred bits from 101 ceramic vessels, most of which came from inland sites that had been located near rivers or lakes. Craig thinks that the people may have been traveling to the coast to catch fish, or catching salmon when they came upstream to spawn. “We weren’t expecting to get such conclusive results from charred deposits of this age,” he said.