|One of the ceramic figurine fragments (C1)|
While utilitarian pottery wares are now quite clearly determined to be a Chinese invention first of all (c. 20 Ka. ago), Europeans were toying with clay and cooking it even earlier, with terracotta art known to have existed in Dolní Věstonice and other places since the Gravettian period.
The site discussed in this new research is not as old but nevertheless it is interesting to mention because, as the authors say, it is becoming more and more clear that pottery was not a single punctual invention but that it was invented and maybe forgotten once and again in the course of human prehistory.
Rebecca Farbstein et al., First Epigravettian Ceramic Figurines from Europe (Vela Spila, Croatia). PLoS ONE 2012. Open access ··> LINK [DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0041437]
Vela Spila is just one of several Paleolithic sites with ceramic scattered through the geography of Europe and North Africa, as reflected in fig. 1:
The Croatian site's ceramics begin only c. 17,350 years ago (cal.), even if the occupation of the site is some two millennia older, and continues until some 14,400 years ago, when a tephra layer from the second Campanian Ignibrite eruption seems to mark a major hiatus in human habitation (the cave was later repopulated in the Epipaleolithic, c. 7400 BCE).
The authors think that the Vela Spina figurines are similar to those from Pavlov and Dolní Věstonice in the creation process and most conceptual notions. However there are also some differences like stylized foots, lack of anthropomorphic figures and no direct correlation with hearths, as happens in Gravettian Moravia.