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Ancient Pottery of the Pacific Rim
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Jomon of Japan:
The World's
Oldest Pottery

Ancient Ceramics | More on Pottery | Dogs in Pottery | Pacific Rim Peoples

Archaeological research on ancient pottery of Japan, the Russian Far East, China and Siberia provides insights on the Chukchi, Eskimo and other maritime peoples of the North Pacific Rim. The Chukchi, sea coastal mammal hunters and reindeer breeders of northeast Siberia, are linked genetically to Siberian and North American Eskimo or Inuit.

Here are resources on pottery from Japan, the Asian mainland, Chukotka and the Bering Strait region, Alaska, northern Canada and more, useful in understanding origins of Chukchi culture. See more on ancient artifacts, early art and on ancient harpoons.

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Japan | Asian Mainland | Bering Strait | N. America | Pacific | S. America

Pottery of Ancient Japan   [ Top ]

The world's earliest pottery may be from Japan where, at Odai Yamamoto on northern Honshu, shards have been found C14 dated to 13,000 BP, calibrated 16,000 years old, and confirmed by AMS or Accelerated Mass Spectrometer dating.  Pottery was also known then in China & the Russian Far East. Compare ancient Jomon pottery [Japan] with Paleoeskimo pottery [Yukon, Canada] & Stallings pottery [Georgia], below.

Early pottery was found at the Kamino site in southwest Japan; shards were found with microblades dated to ca. 16,000 years ago.  Early pottery is also known from Fukui Cave on Kyushu, C14 dated to 12,700 to 12,400 BP [calibrated ca. 16,000 years old]. Pottery at Sempukuji Cave was dated ca. 13,000 years ago with thermoluminescent dating.

Jomon culture lasted 7,000+ years. The name means cord-marked or "cord pattern," precisely what was found on their pottery. Jomon people made ceramic vessels plus animal figurines. See many Jomon pots plus a pointed bottom vessel from earliest Jomon, similar to those from Siberia, plus incipient Jomon ovoid pots of Niigata plus and cord-marking.

Explore the pottery of each phase of the Jomon culture:
· Incipient Jomon with plain and decorated pottery
· Earliest Jomon with cord-impressed pots with conical bottoms as well
   as shell-impressed and carved-stick-impressed pottery
· Early Jomon with flat-bottomed pottery
Middle Jomon with its elaborate pottery including flame style as well
cord-marked pottery of the Middle Jomon
· Late Jomon with more ritual activity, more maritime orientation and
   pottery styles such as
· Final Jomon with simpler pottery styles including cord marking

Early Jomon Earthenware Beaker: c. 5000 BP, from exhibit of Japanese art, "Quiet Beauty," plus a Sue Ware Ewer from the 6th century, more

View earliest & middle Jomon pottery. See initial & early Jomon pots as well as middle Jomon and late Jomon pots. See timeline.

From 5000 to 4000 BP, the Jomon made elaborate ceramics. This pottery of the Middle Jomon includes animal figures. Before and after that, ceramics were more utilitarian in design.  Some say that women potters made these ceramics; cord-marked pottery is shown.

The purpose of pottery dogu figurines from the Jomon is unclear.

In 2000 AD, people experimented with making Jomon pottery as well as the process of drying and then firing Jomon pottery.

About 2300 years ago - or perhaps as early as 3000 years ago - the Yayoi people, originally from Northern China and Korea, entered the southern islands with a new culture - and new, plainer ceramic style as seen in this view of Jomon & Yayoi pottery and this of Yayoi ceramics.

About 600 AD on the northern island of Hokkaido, the traditional cord-marked Jomon pottery - including epi-Jomon pottery - gave way to the new Satsumon pottery style, apparently with the start of agriculture. Both the Satsumon & Okhotsk cultures developed their own pottery styles and they may have influenced each other. Both influenced the Ainu.

Periods of Japanese Cultures: differing sequences for Hokkaido for the other islands - Jomon, Satsukon, Okhotsk, Yayoi, for reference

Pottery of the Ancient Asian Mainland   [ Top ]

Southern China's earliest pottery dates to 16,000 BP, Zhang Chi says. In the Russian Far East, the earliest pottery is C14 dated to 13,000 years ago [calibrated to 16,000 years ago], Yaroslav V. Kuzmin says. Pottery thus begins at comparable ages in China, Japan, the Russian Far East.

Early cord-marked pottery is also known from cave, shell-midden and open air sites in southern China dated to 9,000 years ago as well as at the Spirit Cave site in northeast Thailand.

Earliest village has pottery: 8,200-year-old village in north China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, the Xinglonggou Site near the Xiliao River, has artifacts including pottery, jade and shells, suggesting trading in the interior and to the coast, with a trade route to northern Japan through northeast China and what is now the Russian Far East.

Some of earliest colored pottery in China is from the Dadiwan culture,
c. 8,000 BP, among the earliest Neolithic evidence in Northwest China, while
painted pottery was created in the Yellow River valley area 5000 years ago, including in Shaanxi province, home to Xi'an, plus pictures of China's Neolithic pottery including Longshan, Banpo, others, and more Yangshao & Lunghshan pottery and Yangshao pottery & Longshan jade

Banpo Site - Yangshao Culture: 7000 years ago near Xi'an, people made pottery with coil or slab technique and large village kilns, with more on Banpo and Yangshao culture known for painted or red pottery and more on Banpo ceramics with painted wares, a basin with "face" made with circle and dot eyes, a pointed-bottom vessel reminiscent of early fabric-marked pottery, another pointed-bottom pot. Browse for more pots and fish hooks similar to Japan, Amur River artifacts. Banpo Painted Pottery includes images of swimming fish, running deer, barking dogs.

Chinese Pottery & Bronze: by 6000 years ago, clay, bronze and jade were the primary materials of Chinese art, while by 5000 years ago, the Chinese were making some of the earliest ceramics thrown on a wheel

Chinese Pottery Influences Bronze: compare tripod pottery pouring vessel and similar bronze vessel, and evolution of early Chinese ceramics including a painted pottery urn from the Henan Langshao period some 5,000 years ago and a painted pottery pan basin from the Taosi Longshan culture 4,500 BP, and the jades of this period and the "taotie" face

Terra-cotta Warriors & Horses: and the Emperor's Army, extraordinary pottery from the burial of Qin, the first emperor, 200 BC, near X'ian

Russian Far East, Amur River, Lake Baikal:
Pottery shards dated to 13,000 years ago, found in the Russian Far East's Amur River Valley. are among Asia's oldest -- and show textile impressions on their exterior.  On the Amur River, ceramics are known in stage four of the Selemdjinskaya Culture starting ca. 12,000 years ago, and in the related Osipovskaya Culture at Gasya and Khummy sites.

Thermoluminescent dating of pottery from Gasya, one of the Russian Far East's earliest Neolithic sites, confirms radiocarbon dating of the pottery to before 10,000 years ago

Invention of pottery may have occurred independently in the Amur River basin ca. 13,000 BP, in southern Japan ca. 12,000-12,700 BP  and in southern China, ca.11,000-14,000 BP, based on radiocarbon dates.

Pottery starts Neolithic in the Russian Far East with initial, early and late stages. Gromatukha [pdf] complex on Middle Amur River corresponds to initial stage ca. 13,300-10,400 BP, pottery with impressions of fabric, cordage or cord-wrapped stick. Early Neolithic cultures are Rudnaya and Boisman in Primorye and Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk on southern Sakhalin Island.

Pottery invention may have occurred independently in the Lower Amur River and Transbaikal areas, before 10,000 years ago. For example, the Osipovka and Gromatukha sites have the earliest pottery from the Russian Far East, C14 dated ca. 13,300-12,300 BP. They're  Initial Neolithic, contemporaneous with the earliest Neolithic in southern China and Japan.

Amur River pottery used untempered or plant-tempered paste, simplicity of shape, undeveloped surface treatment and low-temperature firing.

Ust-Karenga yielded the earliest pottery known from Siberia, dated to ca. 11,200-10,800 BP [Vitim River, Chita District, Transbaikal: see Chita east of Lake Baikal, west of Hokkaido; Vitim River north of Chita]

By 9,000 years ago, pottery was also known in the Lake Baikal region not far from the headwaters of the Amur River. "Checkered pottery" from Yakutia's Lena River basin is linked to Chukotkan and Alaskan cultures.

Pottery was widespread in the Russian Far East by ca. 6700-8400 BP.

The Amur River, a 2,700-mile-long waterway, for thousands of years moved people and new technologies including pottery and metal between the coast and forested interior. Ca. 5000 years ago on the Amur and Ussuri rivers, pottery with mask-like faces matching rock art are found.


Neolithic Korean Pottery showing an earthenware vessel with pointed bottom, comb-pattern, plus history of East Asian ceramics

Early Korean comb-patterned vessel [click Return on page for more] from the Amsa-Dong site near the Han River, and a timeline of Korean history with pottery known from 9000 years ago

Pottery of Amsa-Dong: 6,000 year old site near Seoul yielded pointed- bottom pots with geometric comb patterns and fish bone patterns, plus holes in the pit house floors, apparently to hold the pottery. The pottery type is known as far north as Lake Baikal in Siberia. More on Amsa Dong in pdf version with pictures of pottery, dwellings, and another look at Neolithic Amsa Dong and its pottery, stone tools, pits houses

LEARN ABOUT Chinese Imari, Japanese Imari, Canton and
other Oriental Pottery in an interview with
Elizabeth Bradley
Elizabeth Bradley Antiques [now closed]


Pottery of Neolithic Scandinavia: by 5,600 years ago, pointed-bottom pottery reaches this region, and by 4,800 years ago, corded ware or pottery with cord markings is known from the Baltic region

Corded Ware Culture begins ca. 4,900 years ago, perhaps arriving with people of the steppes, named for pottery with cord impressions, with examples of Corded Ware Pottery, close-up of Corded Ware and a map showing distribution in eastern Europe and Scandinavia

Pottery of Ancient Bering Strait, Sea of Okhotsk    [ Top ]

By 4,500 to 5,000 years ago, the people of the Bering Strait in Siberia were using pottery with net impressions and later with cord impressions. They carved ivory paddles with patterns used to "consolidate" the clay and to impress patterns on the exterior. This culture showed links those of the Yakutia region to the west in Siberia. About 4,000 years ago, pottery making spread from Siberia into Alaska.

Ancient Koryak ceramics have been found on the north side of Talan Island located 150 km southwest of Magadan which is on the north end of the Sea of Okhotsk. The pottery is dated to some 2,200 years ago.

About 4,000 years ago, pottery making spread from Siberia to Alaska, or perhaps it arrived in Alaska ca. 3,500 years ago at the start of the Norton tradition, including the Choris, Norton and Ipiutak phases. By 2,500 years ago during the Norton culture phase, check-stamped pottery and polished slate tools were used. The pottery with check-stamped design came from Neolithic-era Siberia ca. 3000 BP, some say.

Fiber-tempered, stamped pottery from Asia appears in Alaska with the start of the Norton Tradition 3000 BP, some say. At ca. 1000 BP, the Thule Eskimo have thick, gravel-tempered pottery.

In southwest Alaska, Arctic Small Tool tradition people without pottery arrived about 3800 BP. About 2300 BP, Norton culture people arrived. This culture group, with a maritime economy, used pottery and ground slate. About 1000 BP, the Thule Eskimo culture, also with pottery, evolved north of the Bering Strait in Alaska and spread east across the Canadian Arctic and south along the coast of Alaska.

Pottery is one example of cultural transmissions that occurred between northeast Asia and northwest North America at Bering Strait.

Pottery of Ancient North America    [ Top ]

Canadian Arctic & Eastern Canada
Ancient pottery vessels from different locations across Canada is linked to a map of their locations.

The Independence I people, starting about 4,000 years ago, had toggle harpoons but no evidence of pottery or stone blubber lamps is found. They appear to have hunted musk ox, caribou, and seals.

The Pre-Dorset culture, dated to 4,000 years ago, evolved, with change increasing around 3,000 years ago when the culture is called Dorset. This latter people used soapstone for their vessels including soapstone lamps, but not pottery. Ivory strips for sled runners are found along with dog bones, clues the Dorset use dog sleds. Ivory carvings were made.

The Middle Paleo-Eskimo period begins, including all Arctic Small Tool tradition complexes from 3,000 to 1,500 years ago. Toggling harpoons are known, but people still used soapstone for vessels and lamps. Dorset culture is a subset of these traditions. In the Late Paleo-Eskimo period again, harpoons and soapstone vessels are used. Illustrations.

Again, the Dorset people were known for remarkable carvings of ivory and for toggle harpoons but not for use of pottery. Illustrations.

The earliest pottery found in Canada was made some 3,500 years ago at a site in the northern Yukon near the Arctic Ocean. This Paleoeskimo pottery is believed to be inspired by Siberian ceramics. Thus, while the Dorset peoples to the east are not using pottery, the new technology is beginning to arrive. About 2,500 years ago, pottery making arrived in southeastern Canada from the eastern United States.

This check-stamped pottery is considered to be of the late Arctic Small Tool tradition people in western Canada. This pottery [ another view ] found in the Yukon and dated to 3,500 years ago shows stylistic links to the Norton pottery of Alaska. See Stallings pottery in Georgia and Jomon pottery from Odai Yamomoto for interesting comparisons.

In Quebec, pottery with harpoons and fishhooks is found in Meadowood and Point Peninsula and Laurel culture sites, the latter type also found in the Upper Midwest USA.   Dates run 3000 to 1500 years ago here.

About 2,700 years ago, pottery production arrived in eastern Canada's Maritime region, apparently from the northeast U.S. The Red Bank site in New Brunswick shows similarities to the Adena Culture of Ohio. In the Ottawa Valley, conoidal pottery with dentate markings on the exterior.

By 2,300 years ago, the Middle Dorset era people of Greenland and some northcentral Canadian peoples were using pottery.

When the Thule Eskimo culture evolved in northern Alaska and then spread east to Greenland, they were using pottery, not soapstone lamps.

The Northwest Coast Indians of Canada, including Haida and Tlingit, used wood for their vessels but apparently never adopted pottery.

Some 500 years ago, the Mackenzie Inuit were making pottery of the conoidal shape known in Asia thousands of years before. Even earlier, Saskatchewan's native people also made conoidal pottery. Illustrations.

Southeastern United States:
Pottery from Stallings Island, a large shell-midden site in the Savannah River near Augusta, Georgia, is thought to be the earliest prehistoric pottery in North America, dated to circa 3800 to 4000 years ago.

Stallings pottery was part of Woodlands culture in South Carolina some 4,000 years ago. Compare Jomon and Canadian Yukon pottery, above.

Prehistoric ceramic types of Northwest Florida, illustrated, including check-stamped pottery from Late Archaic and Early Woodlands periods. The transition is dated to ca. 4000 years ago. Some say the first pottery east of the Mississippi River was from the Gulf Coast, 4000 BP.

Mid-Atlantic & Northeastern United States:
Adoption of conoidal-shaped pottery vessels to replace soapstone vessels occurred ca. 3000 BP in Maryland. See Selden Island, Coulbourn, others for illustrations of cord or net impressions on the exterior.

The transition from soapstone to pottery vessels in southern New England occurred ca. 3200 and 3000 uncalibrated years BP. The pots were conoidal, with pointed not flat bottoms. The surface of the pottery had a cord-marked pattern. These style features have parallels in east Asian pottery starting thousands of years earlier. Includes sketches.

See characteristics of ancient ceramic vessels including conoidal shape, ie. cone-shaped base. This early pottery is part of the Windsor tradition of prehistoric ceramics detailed in chronological order.

Midwestern United States:
Southern Minnesota's native people made Fox Lake pottery 2,200 years ago, including a cord-marked variety made with a cord-wrapped stick, while northern Minnesota's native people made Laurel pottery that included a dentate stamp decoration

Explore 30+ North American pottery types, from the Midwest and Southwest regions from Allamakee Ware to Weeden Island Ware

Southwestern United States:
History of Native American Pottery: emphasizing the West, Southwest

Some say coastal California's native peoples did not use pottery, but near San Diego and in Baja California they made pottery 2,500 years ago, using different styles and clays depending on coastal or inland locations. One type is Kumeyaay Pottery, made with paddle and anvil technique. Few native Californians besides the Kumeyaay and neighbors had pottery.

Foothill Yokut Indians of the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada mountains in the San Joaquin Valley of Central California made rough, unglazed pottery using the coil method.

Southwest pottery is more than 2000 years old, with Hohokam pottery found as early as 200 B.C. plus more on history of Southwest Pottery.

Gila Pottery - the earliest pottery in New Mexico's Gila River area is Gila Plain of the Hohokam people, 150 A.D. Mogollon, Mibres and Salado pottery followed. Anasazi ceramics influenced Southwest ceramic styles, as see in this collection of Anaszi wares.

Some 1500 years ago, pottery reached native people southern Idaho from the Fremont and Anasazi of Utah which touches Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado at the Four Corners. [Scroll down both pages]

Prehistoric pottery may have arrived  in Central Texas ca. 800 years ago from the east and north, for use in boiling or cooking food over a fire.

Making cordmarked pottery by adding coils of clay and working the shape with an anvil rock and a cord-wrapped paddle is illustrated with many color photos. Native cordmarked pottery of Texas Panhandle is shown.

Pottery of the Ancient Pacific Islands    [ Top ]

About 3,500 years ago, people likely from southeast Asia moved into an arc of Pacific islands stretching from New Guinea to Fiji and Samoa, bringing their distinctive Lapita pottery with stamp impressions.

Study of ancient pottery shards found in Tonga support the idea this Lapita ceramic tradition was imported from the west.

Pottery of Ancient South & Central America    [ Top ]

Candidates for South America's oldest ceramics include:
· Fiber-tempered, elaborately decorated pottery created ca. 5900 B.P
   at the San Jacinto I site in Colombia
· Pottery made at
Valdivia on Ecuador's Santa Elena Peninsula, dating
   to ca. 5000-4500 BP. Ceramics-making appeared
there [map]
   suggesting it came from Jomon-era Japan, a controversial idea [pdf]
   with scholars
and con. Valdivia pottery reveals ancient textiles.
· Or pottery made at Puerto Hormiga on Colombia's north coast at
   about the same time as the Valdivia ceramics

Some of Central America's earliest pottery is from the Santa Rita site in Belize, dated to 4,000 BP, while pottery is usually found at sites dated to 2500 BP such as the Mayan site of Lamanai in Belize.

In northwest Honduras, the earliest pottery is from the pre-Olmec period, dated to 3600 BP with artifacts found at the Puerto Escondido site including small drinking vessels for sipping a chocolate drink

Pottery-making, a new technology, arrived in eastern Canada ca. 3,000 BP after diffusing north from southeast United States, where it perhaps had arrived from South America via the larger Caribbean Islands, the Greater Antilles. Likely sources were the Orinoco region and northern Venezuela. However, that pottery is quite different from Woodlands culture pottery.

By the Classic Maya Period, ceramics were colorfully painted as seen in these examples from Guatemala and Mexico. Other examples from South and Central America include:
· Maya ceramic tripod bowl from El Salvador, about 550 AD
Large ceramic storage vessel from Peru, about 1200 AD

More about Pottery & Ceramics

Ancient Pottery Techniques:  coil method, paddle and anvil method
Ancient Pottery Vessel Types including early conoidal pots
Ancient Pottery - Pithos: early Greek pottery included oval-shaped pithos contained meant to be half-buried in the ground, amphora, other forms
Amphora, an ovoid vessel originally pointed on the bottom and meant to be pressed into sand or soil to hold it upright

East Asia's Pottery Centers were China, Japan and Korea, with a look at pottery-making techniques including coils and paddles, periods and styles

Ceramics Resources from ArchNet - by continent

Dogs in Pottery & Ceramics: A Sampling

Han Dynasty Pottery Dogs - one seated, one standing, plus hores, human figures, from 200 B.C. China

Chinese Fu Dog - in colorful ceramics, plus a pottery Colima dog vase from Mexico and more on dogs in mythology and folklore

PreColumbian Colima Dog - canine figure from Mexico in museum

Ceramic Colima Dog - figure of plump dog from Mexico with ear of corn in its teeth, a museum replica

Staffordshire Pottery Dogs - breeds such as spaniels, pugs, poodles, hounds, whippets, in famous English pottery

Victorian Staffordshire Pottery Dogs - breeds such as spaniels, poodles, Dalmatians and more, from the 1800s

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Ainu: of Hokkaido, Sakhalin Island & Kurile Islands, and Arctic Studies Center online exhibit: Ainu: Spirit of a Northern People

Alaska's Native Peoples: Aleuts, Eskimos, Tlingit, Haida and Tshimsians of the coastal areas, Athabaskans of the interior

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Canada's Native Peoples:  including ancient links to Beringia, Asia
· Paleoarctic or Beringian Tradition: a culture linking Siberia, Alaska
   and the Yukon as early as 13,000-10,000 BP
· Early Paleo-Eskimo Cultures: culture dated to 2,500 BC in Canada,
   with origins rooted in cultures of Neolithic northeastern Siberia
Middle Paleo-Eskimo or Dorset Culture: 1,000 B.C. to 500 A.D., an
   era of reduced caribou hunting, increased marine mammal hunting
· Thule or Inuit: northern maritime hunters who moved out of northern
   Alaska across the Canadian Arctic about 1,000 A.D.

Chukchi & their Neighbors: what anthropology and history tell us about the Chukchi, Koryak, Siberian Eskimo, from WorkingDogWeb

Circumpolar History Timetables: charts showing glacial periods, human migrations for Eurasia and North America, 140,000 BP to the present

Early Arctic & Subarctic Cultures: origin times, details, maps of cultures -- PaleoArctic, Arctic Small Tool Tradition Independence I [non-toggling harpoons], Aleutian [elaborate bone harpoon heads], Pacific Coast [multibarbed harpoons], Maritime Archaic of Eastern Canada [socketed toggling harpoons], then Norton, Dorset & Thule with toggling harpoons

Eskimos: native peoples found on two continents and in four countries, Siberia, Alaska USA, Greenland and Canada, with maps

Eskimo Peoples: native inhabitants of the seacoasts of the Arctic and sub-Arctic areas of North America and the northeastern tip of Siberia

Eskimo Peoples of North America: including archaeology, history, and a look at the Inuit of Canada and ancestors, the Dorset and Thule people

Greenland Eskimo Cultures: starting with Independence I, 2500 BC

Inuits: preferred name for Eskimo, how they fished, hunted and lived

Jomon: early people of Japan, likely ancestors to the Ainu, with an impressive pottery, extensive trade networks, and more on the Jomon, an affluent hunter-gatherer people with early use of pottery [see below]

Paleolithic Origins of the Chukchi: and their Siberian neighbors as well as the Native peoples of the Americas, from WorkingDogWeb

Siberia's Northern People from Crossroads of Continents: Nanai, Itelmen, Koryak and Chukchi

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Chukchi   [ Top ]

Chukchi & their Neighbors: what anthropology and history tell us about the Chukchi, Koryak, Siberian Eskimo, from WorkingDogWeb

Chukchi Origins: what genetics tell us about the Chukchi, Koryak, Siberian Eskimo, from WorkingDogWeb

Peoples of the Russian North and Far East:  resources about the North Pacific peoples including the Chukchi, Koryak, Evenki and more

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