The Paradox of Pottery in the Remote Kuril Islands
Archaeological research on pottery technology has traditionally emphasized the importance of agriculture, sedentism and population size to explain the adoption and use of ceramics (Eerkens, Neff and Glascock 2002). However, evidence accumulated in recent years disputes these traditional explanations by highlighting the widespread production and use of pottery by small-scale, semi-sedentary, hunter-gatherer communities (Jordan and Zvelebil 2009). This chapter contributes to the growing knowledge of hunter-gatherer pottery technology by investigating the manufacture and use of ceramics among maritime foragers in the remote Kuril Islands of Northeast Asia. In these islands, foraging populations produced pottery for nearly three millennia despite strong environmental limitations. This work explores the question of why Kuril populations continually produced and used pottery in this remote and challenging environment. Results of the research suggest that pottery was not only used in cooking activities but also served as an important technology for the production of marine oil and the economic livelihood of Kuril inhabitants.