Oldest pottery shards so far are found in a cave, date to 20,000 years ago. The pottery making site hasn't been found yet. Given where the pottery shards were found (in a cave in China) and that East China lost land to rising water equivalent to the land mass of India, the most likely site for the origin of pottery appears to be in China underwater. Given that bread making was done 23,000 years ago in the middle east and pottery shards were found in China... could a sort of civilization of many cultures (like today) have existed around the coastlines in 20,000 BCE? Both bread making and pottery existing 20,000 years ago means a proto-agricultural settlement probably existed at the time in the best real estate of that time, which is now all underwater.
20,000-year-old discovery helps dispel conventional theories that hunter-gatherers did not use pottery
The source for pottery in a cave is most likely the continent sized area of land - in China and Indonesia - lost to the sea over the last 20,000 years (screen shot from discovermagazine)
Areas in red is land lost to the sea since 20,000 BCE.
Close up of China and Indonesia shows they have both lost land equivalent to India since 20,000 BCE.
Whole civilizations could have been wiped out in the area that went under the sea. Pottery making is something people living in settlements tend to make. River valleys make great locations for clay and the development of pottery. So the source of the clay pottery of 20,000 years ago is most likely underwater.
Pots and Crocks
The invention of pottery allowed for more secure storage of food than was provided by baskets or hide pouches, and the vessels could also be used in cooking. The earliest pottery has been thought to have appeared in China and Japan ∼18,000 years ago, several thousands of years before the advent of agriculture. Wu et al. (p. 1696); see the Perspective by Shelach) have now dated broken pieces of pottery from a cave in China, the earliest of which date to ∼20,000 years ago, the time of the Last Glacial Maximum. Scorch marks on many pieces imply that the pottery was used in cooking.
The invention of pottery introduced fundamental shifts in human subsistence practices and sociosymbolic behaviors. Here, we describe the dating of the early pottery from Xianrendong Cave, Jiangxi Province, China, and the micromorphology of the stratigraphic contexts of the pottery sherds and radiocarbon samples. The radiocarbon ages of the archaeological contexts of the earliest sherds are 20,000 to 19,000 calendar years before the present, 2000 to 3000 years older than other pottery found in East Asia and elsewhere. The occupations in the cave demonstrate that pottery was produced by mobile foragers who hunted and gathered during the Late Glacial Maximum. These vessels may have served as cooking devices. The early date shows that pottery was first made and used 10 millennia or more before the emergence of agriculture.
Notice that we know people were gathering cereal and making bread 23,000 years ago, so its possible that the beginnings of agriculture are underwater and the writer and/or archaeologists simply haven't put 2 and 2 together yet. If people are processing cereal, making bread AND pottery 20,000 years ago... then maybe the origins of agriculture is in the lands lost to the sea, with its later - possibly more involved - development in the post flood years when the weather was warmer.
Note: Clay sculptures may have been common at onetime as well.
A closed cave system dated to 13,000 BC has revealed to us a clay sculpture by an ice age clay sculpture. Clay sculptures are the least likely to survive the climate and cultural turmoil of 13,000 years. We only found this one because the cave system has been close to the outside for 13,000 years.
We know heat was being used to temper and make stone tools going back over 75,000 years minimum. Its not that big of a leap to put clay in the fire in clay rich areas, such as river valleys that are now underwater. Clay artifacts probably abounded at one time and its earliest more prolific sites seem likely to be underwater in our time.