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Funerary Urn




Yangshao, Banshan phase (about 4000 B.C.E.)


Funerary Urn


Earthenware, black and red painted decoration


36.5 x 41.5 x 46.5 cm


Purchase, gift of F. Cleveland Morgan, inv. 1950.51.Dp.43


Archeology and World Cultures

The Neolithic period in China began about 10,000 B.C.E. and ended with the introduction of metallurgy in about 2000 B.C.E. With the emergence of farming communities along the Yellow and Yangtze Rivers, pottery made its first appearance. Yangshao ceramics were produced in the northwest, along the Yellow River; the vessels were shaped by coiling and then smoothed with paddles and scrapers. Painted waves evoke the waterway, along which fishing communities thrived. Despite its size, this pot is lightweight. Originally a utilitarian container, it was later placed in a tomb and filled with grains. This marked the status of the deceased, as the elite of subsequent dynasties would employ vessels made of bronze. Banshan-phase pots came into the spotlight when the first scientific excavations were being carried out in 1921 by J. G. Anderson, a Swedish geologist turned archaeologist who hailed these ceramics as the first archaeological evidence of Chinese Neolithic pottery. As a result, many similar vessels soon entered Western museums. Today, Yangshao Banshan is just one among at least thirty different ceramic cultures that evolved in mainland China.

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