Climate Changes and . . .

February 26, 2010 at 5:28 pm 1 comment

We live short lives and our memories are even shorter. This is probably the reason why, although we see that the landscape has changed during the last years, we have difficulty imagining how very different it was once.  We find it strange to believe that if the climate had not become stable in the last twelve thousand years, there would have been no agriculture, no metal working, no civilization as we know it.

Photo J. Lindstrom

If extraterrestrials had caught a glimpse of our planet seven hundred thousand years ago, they would have seen a snowball. If they looked at it only thirty thousand years ago, they may have been surprised to find that the ice sheets still covered such large areas. For more than half the period, four hundred thousand years out of the seven hundred thousand of the Pleistocene–the geological period preceding our own – ice sheets, in some places one thousand meters (three thousand feet) thick, covered large parts of America, Europe, and Asia.

However, not only the cold impeded people from living in one place for longer periods, but during the last twenty-thousand-years the instability of the climate.

The ruins of the Pleistocene villages dated between 27 000 and 23 000 BC, near Dolní Vestoniçe and Pavlov, in the Czech Republic, show that as soon as the climate stabilized a little, people gathered there not only to hunt, but also to improve their pottery making and weaving abilities. These places must have meant something special to our ancestors because they kept returning until the climate abruptly changed and made it impossible. Richard Alley of The National Academy of Science, makes the allegory that the climate behaved as “a light switch being toyed with by an impish three-year-old.” During the warm periods the snow and ice melted and the rain never stopped and then the droughts arrived with the cold that went on and on killing animals and people. It continued for ten thousand years and every time a beginning was made, it either dried out or was washed away. To me it seems a miracle that anybody survived.

Earlier I was convinced that the close link between the two works of transformation, that of  spinning and weaving and that of making pottery, was a result of them having been invented more or less at the same time. That was the only way I could understand the finds of thirteen thousand years old pottery along the Amur river in easternmost Siberia, on Hansu island in northern Japan, and in three caves in Jiangxi province in southern China:  The thirteen- thousand-years-old shards found in the Amur basin show that the still wet vases were covered with fine nettle cloth before being fired and in all three countries some pots had been combed. From the beginning the weaver and the potter thus collaborated to widen and deepen the symbolism inherent in the  transformation of one substance into another.

Eleven thousand years later, the potters on the island of Cyprus went one step further and made unusable combs out of pottery. The comb and the pottery are so intimately linked that in order to understand something about the comb we must understand something about the symbols inherent in the pots.

ceramic combs from Cyprus


Entry filed under: Combs, Dolni Vestonice, Pottery, Weaving.

Crouching Tiger What Pottery Symbolizes

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. anna carpenter  |  February 26, 2010 at 10:24 pm

    yes, it is amazing that humans survived through all that ice! The neanderthals died out… even though they were much stronger in body.


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