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The find in Yuchanyan Cave dates to as much as 18,000 years ago, researchers report in Tuesday's edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Patrick E. McGovern, an anthropologist at the University of Pennsylvania, noted that figurines have been found in what is now the Czech Republic that go back as far as 35,000 years. But those were not actual pottery vessels, he said.
"I agree that pottery was made by foragers in South China, but I also think pottery was produced more or less contemporaneously in several places in East Asia ... from Russia, Japan to North and South China by foragers living in different environments," Lu added.