The innovation and development of pottery in East Asia

Lead Research Organisation: University of York
Department Name: Archaeology

Abstract

'In their many manifestations, pots resonate throughout human history, from the most primitive domestic meal or drink to the Last Supper; from a nomadic snack to an international banquet.' ('Neil McGregor. BBC Radio 4/British Museum 'The World in 100 Objects')

Pottery was a fundamentally important prehistoric innovation and had revolutionary implications for human diet, health and demography. The emergence of pottery is therefore one of the most important problems in World Archaeology. In the past, scholars have tended to link its invention to the rise of farming economies and settled village life. With new data from across Eurasia and Africa, these explanations are now undergoing fundamental revision. It is increasingly clear that the oldest pottery origins extend much further back in time - ceramic vessels appeared among East Asian hunting and gathering societies, even as far back as 20,000 years ago, many millennia before the emergence of farming. As climates warmed at the end of the last Ice Age pottery-use rapidly intensified, with knowledge of the craft spreading steadily into new regions and across continents.

While the general outlines of this new hunter-gatherer pottery-origin model are now accepted, archaeologists need to develop a much more detailed explanation of why the first pottery was actually made, what new foods, economies and cuisines it was associated with, and why it flourished so quickly among pre-agricultural societies. Building on recent methodological advances in the analysis of organic residues, we are now in a position to address these issues by investigating the contents of ceramic containers at the molecular and microscopic level.

This project will initially focus on the pottery record in Japan where ceramic vessels were independently invented around 16,000 years ago, towards the end of the last Ice Age. Before recent discoveries in China, these were thought to be the world's earliest pots and were extensively studied and dated by Japanese archaeologists. Such studies revealed that ceramic production was initially on a very small scale but then, around 11,000 years ago, there was a massive increase in production. Intriguingly, this change in the scale of production coincided with climate warming marking the end of the Ice Age. Although much is known about Japanese hunter-gatherer ceramics (known as the Jomon pottery) there have been no systematic investigations of their contents. Here we propose to reconstruct the use of ceramic vessels using residue analysis in order to understand the initial function of Jomon pottery, and more broadly why pottery was innovated, and how the function of pots changed through time as they became integrated into daily life.

In our proof-of-concept study, we showed that we can recover lipids (waxes, fats and oils) and also plant microfossils, (microscopic starch granules and silica bodies from plants) from material of this age. We are also very confident that these residues became charred on the ceramic surface or trapped within its porous structure during the vessel's use rather than during burial. Therefore, analysis of these deposits can be used to identify the type of animals and plants that were originally processed in pottery.
Given this success we now propose to:

1. Obtain a large sample of Japanese pottery from a range of sites and environments dating to the first 7,000 years following its invention.
2. To look for changes in the patterns of pottery use across Japan's varied environmental zones and though climate change.
3. To see how patterns of pottery use relate to the foods available in particular regions or sites.
4. To see how patterns of pottery use are related to the shapes or design of the pots analysed or how they are made.
5. To see if lipids and plant microfossils can be recovered from other centres of pottery innovation in East Asia and if so whether they show a similar pattern of use to Japanese early pottery.

Planned Impact

Who will benefit from this research?

We have identified the following general and specific beneficiaries outside the academic community:

1. Regional and National Museums in Japan (Niigata Prefectural Museum of History , National Museum of Japanese History, Kokugakuin University Museum) and the UK (Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts).
2. General public and museum visitors.
3. Norwich School Children (11-14yrs)
4. Secondary school children and university students from English-speaking countries

How will they benefit from this research?

1. Regional and National Museums in Japan and the UK will be benefit through increased knowledge, and the opportunity to kindle renewed visitor interest, in artefacts held within their collections or by increased visitors to online resources describing these artefacts. We will provide supplementary information regarding the use of pottery to annotate the presentation of some of the world's earliest pottery vessels. We will also provide a short video documenting the methods we used to investigate the contents of early ceramics.

2. We are already aware that the origins and innovation of pottery is of great interest to the general public. This project will inform the public understanding of the relationship between technology and diet, and has the potential to contribute to public awareness of the origins of the food industry, essential to fostering a critical understanding of dietary and culinary issues facing humanity today. The project will also showcase the application of the latest scientific methodologies to understand our cultural heritage. The general public visiting exhibition in Japan and UK or accessing their websites will be informed of these messages. We will also train museum staff, who directly interact with visitors, so they can communicate the results of the project and are also broadly aware of the methods used.

3. Norwich School children (11-14yrs) will benefit from an experiential open day on prehistoric Japanese culinary activities which we will run at the launch of the poster exhibition at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts.

4. Secondary school children and university students from English-speaking countries will benefit from the freely available on-line teaching resource in response to the growing demand for high quality English-language materials about Japanese culture. A module derived from our project on prehistoric Japanese will be added to this resource.

Publications

10 25 50

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Colonese AC (2015) Archaeological bone lipids as palaeodietary markers. in Rapid communications in mass spectrometry : RCM

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Lucquin A (2016) Ancient lipids document continuity in the use of early hunter-gatherer pottery through 9,000 years of Japanese prehistory. in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

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Lucquin A (2018) The impact of environmental change on the use of early pottery by East Asian hunter-gatherers. in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

 
Description Yes

Please explain for a non-specialist audience what has been discovered or achieved as a result of the work funded through this award.

We have found a chemical maker for the economically important plant millet in East Asian pottery. We have discovered how the earliest pots in the Korean peninsular were used (for aquatic products) We have explored some later Japanese prehistoric pottery and food remains showing diversity in use of different cooking technologies. We have shown that pottery use was remarkably resilient to environmental change in Japan focusing on one site with exceptional preservation. We have identified a new technique of identifying aquatic foods processed in pottery based on the occurrence of two forms of a commonly occurring lipid compound. We have shown that lipids can be extracted from archaeological bone to inform palaeodietary studies and to compare with pottery. We have just shown that pottery use remained unchanged across the transition to the Holocene in Northern Japan. We have examined the response of early pottery use to different environmental conditions across the Japanese archipelago. We have developed a method for determing mixing of foodstuffs in pottery using Bayesian inference and applied this to Early Pottery from Japan. We have identified a biomakrer for millet in pottery and described this in Bronze pottery from the Korean Peninsular.
Exploitation Route A quick method for recovering lipids from bone has implications for characterising modern foods, food traceability and also identification of lipids in environmental samples. The publication of the article on millet prepares the ground for the widespread application of this approach by us and others. A new approach to deconvoluting mixtures of foodstuffs in pottery. A new biomarker for millet in arcaheological pottery.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Environment,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

URL http://www.earlypottery.org/
 
Description The findings of this research project have been presented at National Museum in Tokyo, Japan and the National Research Institute to Cultural Heritage in Korea. Both these events were used to inform cultural heritage mangers, museum staff and the public of the potential of the AHRC research project. The research has contributed to the creation of a resource for schools on Japanese culture Our research has contributed to an exhibition on Flame Pots of Japan on view at the Japanese Embassy in London to promote Japanese culture. Our research has featured in a major 4 part documentary on the main Japanese broadcasting network NHK.
Sector Education,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural

 
Description Demography, Cultural change, and the Diffusion of Rice and Millet during the Jomon-Yayoi transition in prehistoric Japan
Amount € 1,500,000 (EUR)
Funding ID ERC-2018-STG 
Organisation European Research Council (ERC) 
Sector Public
Country Belgium
Start 04/2019 
End 03/2024
 
Description European Research Council Advance Award
Amount € 2,234,000 (EUR)
Funding ID 695539 
Organisation European Research Council (ERC) 
Sector Public
Country Belgium
Start 10/2016 
End 10/2021
 
Description JSPS Visting Professor (short-term)
Amount ¥1,230,000 (JPY)
Funding ID S19142 
Organisation Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) 
Sector Public
Country Japan
Start 01/2020 
End 03/2020
 
Description PONTE: Shinya Shoda Marie Curie Fellowship (llF)
Amount € 180,000 (EUR)
Funding ID 624467 PONTE 
Organisation European Commission 
Department Seventh Framework Programme (FP7)
Sector Public
Country European Union (EU)
Start 09/2014 
End 08/2016
 
Description Welcome Trust Studentship
Amount £48,000 (GBP)
Organisation Wellcome Trust 
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country United Kingdom
Start 09/2018 
End 10/2021
 
Title ADS_The innovation and development of pottery in East Asia_GCMS_Data 
Description The online collection comprises of data files produced by Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry (GC-MS) of lipids extracted from pottery sherds. These have been analysed throughout the project and are derived from various archives in Japan and other locations in East Asia. The data deposited is linked with published journal articles which discuss the context of pottery and the interpretation of the data. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2018 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact Database used for a publication in Scientific Reports 
URL https://archaeologydataservice.ac.uk/archives/view/idopea_ahrc_2018/
 
Title EPRG Jomon - ISOMEMO 
Description The database contains carbon stable isotope data and molecular information derived from organic residue analysis of ceramics. The database is concerned with pottery from Incipient and Initial Jomon. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2018 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact Database used for a publication in PNAS. 
URL https://www.earlypottery.org/database
 
Description JSPSS rice civilisation project 
Organisation Kanazawa University
Country Japan 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We will develop a analytical approach to identify rice on archaeological pottery using lipid residue analysis.
Collaborator Contribution The partners will provide samples and contextual information.
Impact n/a
Start Year 2015
 
Description East meets West Outreach event 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact East Meets West - outreach event in Norwich highlighting Japanese culture and history. We participated highlighting the AHRC research project findings focusing on prehistoric Japanese cuisine.

Thursday 14 July (schools day)
71 pupils

Saturday 16 July
Adults: 455
Children: 326
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://sainsbury-institute.org/news-events/east-meets-west/
 
Description INQUA XIV (Nagoya, Japan) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact A series of talks were given a the INQUA Conference - new contacts made and request for publications ensued.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL http://inqua2015.jp/
 
Description Lecture (National Museum for Cultrual Heritage) Korea 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact Healthy discussion and requests for information were promoted from the talk.

The talk has opened new dialogue between Korean and UK scientists working on ceramic analysis
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description NHK TV documentary 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Project featured in NHK (main Japanese broadcasting channel) special on 'Jomon culture' in the series (4 programmes) of 'Great Antiquities of Asia'.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://www.nhk.or.jp/
 
Description Public Lecture, National Museum, Tokyo, Japan 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Panel discussion afterwards that generated much discussion

Following a questionnaire most of the audience found the presentation engaging.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL http://sainsbury-institute.org/news-events/archives-2012/events/the-second-ishibashi-foundation-lect...
 
Description RESMO 2018 conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact an Introductory talk given during theRESMO 2018 conference (Trégastel, France). Resulted in discussion with international scholars from a wide range of specialisation (ecology, biology, chemistry...).
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://resmo2018.sciencesconf.org/
 
Description St Petersburg Archaeology Conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Invited speaker at an International Conference in Saint Petersberg. Resulted in much discussion and involvement of Russian scholars.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description UISPP Conference (Paris) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact A talk given at the IUSPP Conference. Resulted in discussion with international scholars.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://uispp2018.sciencesconf.org/
 
Description Website for schools 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact The Online Resource for Japanese Archaeology and Cultural Heritage (ORJACH) is an English-language interactive tool for teachers and students interested in incorporating the wonders of early Japan in teaching and learning across a range of subjects including history, geography, environment, cuisine and religious studies. We produced modules on food.

Feedback pending.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://www.orjach.org/
 
Description World Archaeology Coference (Kyoto) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact A series of talks were given a the World Archaeology Conference - new contacts made and request for publications ensued.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://wac8.org/
 
Description Yorktalks 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The launch of the University of York's new Research Strategy offers the perfect opportunity to showcase some of the University's finest researchers with the return of YorkTalks on Wednesday 7 January.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Yornight 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact European Researchers' Night is a mega event which takes place every year simultaneously in several hundred cities all over Europe and beyond. It aims to show that research is fun and influences daily life for all of us. YorNight is York's contribution to this event, hosted by the University of York in partnership with the York Museums Trust. This year we will be celebrating the 10-year anniversary of European Researchers' Night on the 25 September.

We ran a stall presenting information on pottery and food in prehistory that was visited by over 200 people.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL http://yornight.com/2015/
 
Description Youtube video: Organic residue analysis in archaeology: a brief introduction 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact This is a video presentation aimed to explain, in a way understandable to a broad audience, the analysis of lipids (fats, oils, waxes) extracted from archaeological artefacts, focusing on prehistoric ceramic sherds from Japan and Korea.
The film was made in BioArCh, the Department of Archaeology, University of York.
This video was also used in various museum exhibition in Japan (Niigata Prefectural Museum of History) and is regularly shown to archaeology student.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015,2016,2017,2018,2019,2020
URL https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nxNMm78tvrI&t=27s