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Neolithic storage jars

Unknown, 'Storage jar (kuan)', Neolithic period, Yangshao culture, Majiayao phase (3500-3000 BCE)

left:
Yangshao culture, Majiayao phase
China
Storage jar (kuan) Neolithic period (3500-3000 BCE)
Swelling earthenware shape, narrowing to the base, with narrow neck and two lugs set vertically at the maximum diameter, painted with black pigment
42.2 x 38cm (diam.)

right:
Yangshao culture, Banshan phase
China
Storage jar (kuan) Neolithic period (3000-2500 BCE)
Swelling earthenware shape, narrowing to the base, with flared mouth and two lugs set vertically at the maximum diameter, painted with black and maroon pigments
41.3 x 40.6cm (diam.)
Gift of Wellington and Virginia Yee through the Queensland Art Gallery Foundation 2004
Collection: Queensland Art Gallery

Yangshao culture

Storage jars (kuan) Neolithic period

The boldly patterned unglazed earthenwares associated with the later phase of Yangshao material culture are among the most striking of China's late Neolithic ceramics.

The term Yangshao encompasses a number of distinct cultures that flourished in northern and central China, between seven and three thousand years ago, in regions which roughly correspond with the middle course of the Yellow River. Two of the most important centres associated with this region were Majiayao and Banshan.

Both decorated and undecorated wares have been uncovered at these sites. While archaeologists initially assumed that all decorated objects were funerary urns or grave goods, it is now generally accepted that these items also functioned domestically as utilitarian wares for owners of an elite status.

Decorated earthernwares of a superior type are typically hand built from fine-grained clay. This clay was gently burnished before being decorated with wide concentric bands of bold geometric or curvilinear patterns painted in red, brown, black, maroon or white pigments. The lower parts, though, were left undecorated, probably as they were partially buried in the ground for stability.