Radiocarbon dating tests confirm pottery fragments found in a cave in south China are 20,000 years old, making them the oldest known artifact of its kind in the world.
The pottery is believed to have been used by mobile foragers who hunted and gathered during the Late Glacian Maximum, the high point of the Ice Age, the journal Science reports.
Researchers says the vessels may have been used as cooking devices about 10, 000 years before the emergence of agriculture.
Wu Xiaohong, professor of archaeology and museology at Peking University and the lead author of the Science article that details the radiocarbon dating efforts, tells the Associated Press that her team was eager to build on the research.
“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 fragments were discovered in the Xianrendong cave in south China’s Jiangxi province, which was excavated in the 1960s and again in the 1990s, according to the article.