The oldest ceramics in the world are small prehistoric sculptures dug up at an archeological site in the modern Czech Republic. The most famous piece is a four-and-a-half-inch high abstract female nude known as the Venus of Dolni that was discovered in 1925 and was created between 29,000-25,000 bce, in other words, up to 31,000 years ago. The Venus figure was made out of clay and thrown into a fi re where it became hard and burned black.
People have found other prehistoric figures sculpted from clay and preserved because they were placed in caves, but before the Venus of Dolni and the related Czech finds it seems no one had ever thought of making the clay hard by firing it. But why did this prehistoric sculptor think of throwing the figure into the fire in the first place? No one can know for sure, but one theory that some archeologists propose is that throwing the figure into the fire was a type of divination. Perhaps, the artist wanted to see how the figure would react in the flames and different reactions would have had different meanings, something like the Chinese method of divination in which they threw bones into a fire and interpreted the cracks that formed. Balls of clay might have been used first and then the figures were used to get a clearer message from or about that particular figure. If this is true, then these prehistoric figures are not only the oldest known ceramics but also the results of the oldest known divinatory practice and a type of interpretive divination.