This post shows clay beads of unknown age that were found together in an old wadi in the Mauritanian desert. It seems that these objects appeared together with the first “hunter- pastoralists” in the Sahara and Sahel during the early/middle Holocene.
“The Play Element of Culture” Homo Ludens” or “Man the Player” is a book written in 1938 by the Dutch historian Johan Huizinga. It discusses the importance of the play element in culture and society. Inventions and innovations often begin in the sphere of play, art and ritual only to reappear later in the utilitarian sphere. It would be interesting of elucidating the connections between these spheres in prehistory. One possible theme for such an essay could be the invention of ceramics.
The oldest ceramics are known from Gravettian / Pavlovian sites in Moravia and Lower Austria which are dated to c. 27 k.a. BP. At the Pavlovian sites the ceramic technology was used to make figurative “art” (mainly zoomorphic figurines but also representations of the human body), clearly connected with the non-utilitarian sphere. Recent finds of 36 ceramic artifacts from the archaeological site of Vela Spila, Croatia, offer the first evidence of ceramic figurative art during the late Upper Paleolithic Europe, c. 17-15 k.a. BP.
The oldest pottery fragments have recently found at the Xianrendong site, layer 3C1B (China). Ten radiocarbon dates from this layer range between 17,4-19,5 k.a. cal BP. Up until recently, the earliest known ceramics came from the island of Japan, associated with Jomon hunter-gatherers of around 13 k.a. BP.
During the Early Holocene the climate of Northern Africa and the Sahara was considerably more humid than today. The last Saharan humid phase dates between approximately 10 and 4,5 k.a BP and is associated with a stronger monsoon driven by more intense solar heat at mid-latitudes. This phase was interrupted by a number of arid episodes.
The oldest ceramics currently known in sub-Saharan Africa were found from phases 1 and 2 at Ounjougou near the Unesco-listed Bandiagara cliffs in central Mali dating back to at least 9,4 k.a. BC. In our present state of knowledge, this pottery at Ounjougou may have resulted from a center of invention in the current Sahelo-Sudanian zone with exportation somewhat later toward the Central Sahara, where it is known from the 9th millennium BC. The pottery types at Tagalagal in Niger, the earliest known for this region, were already quite diversified when they first appeared, perhaps confirming the adoption of the use of pottery from another place of origin.