Jomon Hand-Patterned, Hachi Vase / Gunma Prefecture
Fire and Clay
Only a few inventions have changed the course of history and set human culture upon a new trajectory. Some of these inventions are ancient and hardly dramatic at first glance. Such quiet creative breakthroughs of the human mind stand in contrast to the march of empires, kings and wars that often dominate the historical time line. The invention of pottery is one of these paradigmatic changes. The craft of making objects from fire hardened clay created a paradigm shift in culture after which history could never be the same.
Fire hardened vessels don’t leak unless cracked, and they often last a very long time. The evolution of diet and cooking dramatically accelerated when pottery vessels were available. New methods for food preservation and storage, cooking baking, boiling, and brewing fostered a great diversity in food preparation. Pottery also became both a ‘tablet’ and an artistic medium, upon which either daily records or sacred symbols could be recorded. Furthermore, fire hardened vessels bind the clan closer to village life because pottery objects are fragile and cannot easily integrate in large numbers with a nomadic, hunter-gatherer life style.