Origin of ceramics

Ceramics is probably the most ancient industry known to man, going back thousands of years. Once humans discovered that clay could be found in abundance and formed into objects by first mixing with water and then firing, a key industry was born.

The oldest known ceramic artefact is dated as early as 28,000 BCE (BCE = Before Common Era), during the late Palaeolithic period. It is a statuette of a woman, named the Venus of Dolní Věstonice, from a small prehistoric settlement near Brno, in the Czech Republic. In this location, hundreds of clay figurines representing Ice Age animals were also uncovered near the remains of a horseshoe-shaped kiln.

The first examples of pottery, however, appeared in Eastern Asia several thousand years later. In the Xianrendong cave in China, fragments of pots dated to 18,000-17,000 BCE have been found. It is believed that from China the use of pottery successively spread to Japan and the Russian Far East region. Use of ceramics soared during the Neolithic period, around when man began to settle and create communities dedicated to agriculture and farming.

Starting approximately in 9,000 BCE, clay-based ceramics became popular as containers for water and food, art objects, tiles and bricks, and their use spread from Asia to the Middle East and Europe. The early products were just dried in the sun or fired at low temperature (below 1,000°C) in rudimentary kilns dug into the ground. Pottery was either monochrome or decorated by painting simple linear or geometric motifs.

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