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Pottery use by early Holocene hunter-gatherers of the Korean peninsula closely linked with the exploitation of marine resources

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JournalQuaternary Science Reviews
DateAccepted/In press - 28 Jun 2017
DatePublished (current) - 15 Aug 2017
Volume170
Number of pages10
Pages (from-to)164-173
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

The earliest pottery on the Korean peninsula dates to the early Holocene, notably later than other regions of East Asia, such as Japan, the Russian Far East and Southern China. To shed light on the function of such early Korean pottery and to understand the motivations for its adoption, organic residue analysis was conducted on pottery sherds and adhered surface deposit on the wall of pottery vessels (foodcrusts) excavated from the Sejuk shell midden (7.7–6.8ka calBP) on the southeastern coast and the Jukbyeon-ri site (7.9–6.9ka calBP) on the eastern coast of the Korean peninsula, that represents the earliest pottery assemblages with reliable radiocarbon dates. Through chemical and isotopic residue analysis, we conclude that the use of pottery at these sites was oriented towards marine resources, supported by lipid biomarkers typical of aquatic organisms and stable carbon isotope values that matched authentic marine reference fats. The findings contrast with other archaeological evidence, which shows that a wider range of available food resources were exploited. Therefore, we conclude pottery was used selectively for processing aquatic organisms perhaps including the rendering of aquatic oils for storage. Early pottery use in Korea is broadly similar to other prehistoric temperate hunter-gatherers, such as in Japan, northern Europe and northern America. However, it is also notable that elaborately decorated red burnished pottery excavated from isolated location at the Jukbyeon-ri site had a different usage pattern, which indicates that division of pottery use by vessel form was established even at this early stage.

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© 2017 Elsevier Ltd. This is an author-produced version of the published paper. Uploaded in accordance with the publisher’s self-archiving policy.

    Research areas

  • Aquatic biomarkers, Ceramic vessels, Coastal adaptation, Eastern Asia, Lipid residue analysis, Specific-compound stable isotope analysis

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