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Friday, 27 July 2012

Ancient Croatia


 17,500 year old pottery found in Croatia

        What tends to happen in the world of archaeology is something called 'smoothing'. Smoothing requires the ironing out or ignoring of anachronistic evidence, known as 'anomalies', that crop up. This can lead to circular thinking, and it also discourages other archaeologists from reporting such 'anomalies'. So they always remain unexplained 'anomalies' until more are found, and when this happens, the whole story changes, in other words, the paradigm about what we believe about our ancestors is shattered.    The paradigm about when our ancestors were clever enough to make ceramics or pottery is about to shatter.
    This newly discovered Croatian pottery isn't quite as old as the 20,000 year old pottery found in China recently, but its date of 17,500 years ago makes the Chinese pottery not such a rare 'anomaly'. It's also an indicator that such a pre-Ice Age civilisation flourished in the Balkans ~ which is not a million miles from the Bosnian pyramids where ceramics have also been found and where the only explanation of a culture being there would be that it was before the last Ice Age.
 
 Evidence of a community of prehistoric artists and craftspeople who “invented” ceramics during the last Ice Age – thousands of years before pottery became commonplace – has been found in modern-day Croatia.    The finds consist of 36 fragments, most of them apparently the broken-off remnants of modelled animals, and come from a site called Vela Spila on the Adriatic coast. Archaeologists believe that they were the products of an artistic culture which sprang up in the region about 17,500 years ago. Their ceramic art flourished for about 2,500 years, but then disappeared.
    The study, which is published in the journal PLoS ONE, adds to a rapidly-changing set of views about when humans first developed the ability to make ceramics and pottery. Most histories of the technology begin with the more settled cultures of the Neolithic era, which began about 10,000 years ago.    Now it is becoming clear that the story was much more complex. Over thousands of years, ceramics were invented, lost, reinvented and lost again. The earliest producers did not make crockery, but seem to have had more artistic inclinations.
    The Vela Spila finds have been the subject of intensive investigation by researchers at the University of Cambridge and colleagues in Croatia since 2010. Their report suggests that although earlier ceramic remnants have been found elsewhere, they had no connection with the site, where the ability to make these artefacts appears to have been independently rediscovered by the people who lived there.
    “The finds at Vela Spila seem to represent the first evidence of Palaeolithic ceramic art at the end of the last Ice Age. They appear to have been developed independently of anything that had come before. We are starting to see that several distinct Palaeolithic societies made art from ceramic materials long before the Neolithic era, when ceramics became more common and were usually used for more functional purposes.”
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The Cambridge-Croatian team believes that these ceramics came from a hitherto unknown artistic tradition that flourished for about two millennia in the Balkans. Like their Neolithic descendants, these people may have had no knowledge of ceramics before they invented the technology for themselves. And like their Palaeolithic ancestors, over time they either forgot or rejected that technology – only for it to be rediscovered again. The next evidence of ceramic technologies at Vela Spila appears 8,000 years later in the record, and comprises functional pottery items rather than art.
 “Although we often focus on utilitarian innovations as examples of societies transforming as a result of new technology, the ceramic evidence we have found here offers a glimpse into the ways in which prehistoric cultures were also sometimes defined and affected by artistic innovations and expression.”
Heritage Daily