10 Surprising Discoveries Involving Ancient Pottery

At first glance, pottery shards appear the least glamorous items to come from a dig. But archaeologists love them. There are times when ceramics really don’t reveal anything. Then there are the flakes, imprints, designs, and content capable of returning lost knowledge or add interesting new mysteries. They can even expose how somebody died, surprising facts about the potters themselves, migrations, and unexpected ways this art form was used to keep society stable.

10. Oldest Pre-Alphabet Writing


During 2016, the archaeological site of Ad Putea delivered a historical surprise. Located in Northern Bulgaria, the fort used to be a Roman road station. The idea was to learn more about Ad Putea, but diggers unexpectedly came across an unknown settlement from the Copper Age underneath it. A few spadefuls into this era uncovered a ceramic fragment with markings. The 7,000-year-old shard appears to hold the world’s oldest pictographic writing, a picturesque way people recorded things important to them before the advent of the alphabet.

The symbols include a swastika. Once part of a clay vessel, the writing on the prehistoric piece is two millennia older than those of ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt. Some Bulgarian experts even go as far as saying that Sumer’s famous linear writing and Egyptian hieroglyphs developed from a proto-writing that started in Northwest Bulgaria. The intriguing signs remain undeciphered.

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