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Earthenware was produced as early as the 5th millennium BCE in China. During the Neolithic period from 4000 to 2000 BCE, one of the first outposts of human civilization was in the Banshan region near the Yellow River in northern China. This pot, crafted by artisans of the Majiayao culture, comes from that area.

Suzanne Cahill is a professor of Chinese History and Bowers Curatorial Consultant of Chinese Art:


These jars come in all sizes from the size of a teacup to the size of a rain barrel. People used them for everything from child burials to storing food and wine, and also they used them for cooking and drinking vessels. It was sort of the all-purpose vessel of Neolithic China.


This pot was made from a series of long, thin coils of clay wound in a spiral. After the shape was set, craftsmen smoothed the outside surface, fired it, and painted on the design.


The painting is red and black, and that's quite typical of this culture.

The designs on the side of them, have to do with things that were probably important to the people. They have solar and astral symbols, they have cowrie shells, which we know they used for money, and then they have designs like this one. But since we don't have any writing from this period, we don't actually know what exactly they're representing.

Step28-Neolithic Chinese Pot

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