Excavation of 5600-Year-Old Tinder Box in China

August 4, 2007 Updated: August 4, 2007

TAIPEI—In Luoyang, China, archaeologists have recently excavated a 5600-year-old vessel used by ancient humans to keep tinder. With this new finding, the mystery of Neolithic tinder preservation has been revealed. News agencies report that this excavation marks the first Neolithic discovery in China.

According to a Luoyang Daily report on July 28, Lee Defang, a researcher at the Archaeology Research Center in Luoyang City, said archaeologists have revealed a hand-made thick bisque vessel made of sandy red clay. Archaeologists unearthed the object from a 5600-year-old Neolithic site known to have once been the home of the Yangshao culture.

Yan Wenming, a professor at the School of Archaeology in Peking University, believed that the unearthed object was a container specifically designed to preserve flammable materials used to start fire. Observing the location of its excavation, its clay quality, and features of the bisque, Yan believes that this special vessel was endowed with the ability to resist high temperatures, safely containing the tinder inside.

The vessel was found next to a stove in a burnt and long deserted living quarters. Other household items such as axes and basins, and tools necessary for making fire, were found nearby.

The vessel possesses a narrow opening which served to hold tinder, enclose fire, and release smoke. Two symmetrical holes on the belly of the vessel allowed air to circulate, giving oxygen to the flame. At the uneven base of the object, one finds a hole used to both discard ash as well as allow more air to enter the vessel and stoke the fire within.

According to several experts this vessel's characteristics allowed it to serve much like a modern stove.