A new study suggests that the knowledge for making ceramic vessels came to Europe from the Middle East and the Far East via Siberia and the Caspian Sea region.
While examples of pottery figurines such as the Gravettian culture Venus of Dolní Věstonice figurine discovered in the Czech Republic date to 29,000-25,000 BC, the earliest examples of pottery vessels in the world come from China around 20,000 to 19,000-years-ago. Until now, the prevailing view among scientists was that this skill reached Europe only with the advent of agriculture.
The oldest ceramic vessels, which date back to around 5,900 BC, were found in the northernmost part of Eastern Europe at the Pezmog archaeological site, according to new study. This suggests that the ability to produce ceramic vessels also emerged in the northeastern corners of the European continent from Western Siberia and the region of the Caspian Sea.
“In Europe, i.e. around the Baltic region, where Mesolithic pottery occurs, the origin of vessels is complex. Its appearance is dated to c. 4,700 BC and is believed to be the result of both Early Neolithic and secondary influences from the East,” said Dr. Hab. Agnieszka Czekaj-Zastawny from the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology of the Polish Academy of Sciences.
A team of scientists from the University of York, the British Museum, and Poland examined the remains of over 1,200 pottery vessels from 156 sites associated with hunter-gatherer communities in nine Northern and Eastern European countries.
The ability to make pottery spread from Siberia and the Caspian Sea to north-eastern Europe around 5,900 BC, possibly over the lifetime of a single generation, according to the study. Rapid knowledge dissemination was made possible not by migrations and population movements, but by the exchange of ideas between communities living next to each other.