Pottery amphora

From Banpo village, Shaanxi province, central China
Yangshao culture, Neolithic period, around 4500 BC

Early pottery from China

Clay was first turned into pottery in China nearly nine thousand years ago, in the south-western area of China, near Guangxi and Guizhou. In northern China, ceramics of the Peiligang culture date to about one thousand years later.

The best-known phase of Neolithic culture is Yangshao, which included a large area of north and central China. It dates from between seven and five thousand years ago. The best preserved Yangshao site is at Banpo, near Xi'an, Shaanxi province, where a large riverside village has been excavated. It comprises a dwelling area with small, round houses and a community house; a craft area nearby with simple kilns, and a burial area, removed from the village.

The potters made an impressive range of wares: simple lidded jars for storage; bowls and cups for eating and drinking; tripod vessels for cooking, and narrow, thick-walled jars with pointed bases, such as this one, for fetching water. Banpo is most famous for the painted designs of fish and round human faces painted on red pottery. The decoration on this amphora is simple. The design was made by impressing something onto the clay - probably rope.

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More information


S.J. Vainker, Chinese pottery and porcelain, (London, The British Museum Press, 1991)

J. Rawson (ed.), The British Museum book of Chi (London, The British Museum Press, 1992)


Height: 31.700 cm

Museum number

Asia OA 1959.2-16.4


Acquired by exchange with the Institute of Archaeology, Academy of Sciences, Beijing


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