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Two Ear Vase with Whirlpool and Round Dot Design Majiayao Culture 马家窑文

Two Ear Large Vase with Whirlpool and Round Dot Design
Painted Pottery of the Majiayao Culture 马家窑文化彩陶

The Majiayao Culture was distributed along the rivers in Bansu Qinghai and Ningxia Autonomous Region. While most settlements were along the upper reaches of the Yellow River, sites have also been found along the Yao River, the Huangshui river and the Daxiahe River. The region of the Majiaoyao overlaps with both the Yangshao culture and the Longshan culture. It developed later than the Yangshao culture and succeeded the Miaodigou. Dates for any of these cultures are approximate and various sources give 3400 - 2000 BC (the museium) or 3100 to 2700 BC (Liu Li, The Chinese Neolithic). The earliest metal work objects were found within the Majiaoyao precincts. Their location near the mountains of Gansu which have rich metal deposits as well as the cultural diversity of the Yellow River basin combined to give them a head start on the bronze age.

There are four subcultures within the Majiayao culture; Shilingxia, Maojiayao, Banshan and Machang. Each has variations in its pottery and cultural artifacts but they share a commonality of pattern, design, and technique. While a superficial glance at the different Neolithic potteries from different cultures might group them as a whole, there is a distinct and consistent difference in the design characteristics that allows identification of the cultural source.

The swirls and smooth intertwining of curved lines and large circles is characteristic of Majiayao culture. They used a heavy black paint and on many of their pots the majority of the pot was painted black with the reveal creating the design (see the bottom left corner of the picture).

China Index >> Historical Beijing in Pictures >> Neolithic and Early Dynasty Pottery and Roof Tiles

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Last update: September 2013
© Marilyn Shea, 2013