Storage jar with geometric and anthropomorphic designs

CULTURE:
Northwestern Regional Majiayao Painted Pottery
DATE:
3000–2000 BCE
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General Description

This storage jar from the Machang phase sited in the Qinghai province of northeastern China shows the typical buff pottery body painted with bold black geometric and anthropomorphic motifs. There is the suggestion of human hands and arms though the symbolism is not clear.

Ceramic traditions played a central role in shaping China's cultural history and formed an index of changing aesthetic taste. Reaching back to the Neolithic Age, approximately six thousand years ago, the earliest wares were soft pottery baked in low-temperature firings. These wares ranged over an enormous land mass; regional types were evident from the earliest phases, and regional distinctions were to remain a constant feature of ceramic development.

The painted pottery traditions were the earliest, and the Central Plains Neolithic Cultures, which developed near the confluence of the Yellow and the Wei rivers, were the first. This example from the Machang phase of the Northwestern Regional Painted Pottery Culture shows the typical buff pottery body painted with bold black geometric and anthropomorphic motifs. The symbolism is not clear but the suggestion of human hands and arms is undeniable.

Used as urns to hold grain or offerings in the burial site, and for storage in daily life, these vessels were hand built by coiling; the smooth, tapered profile suggests the use of a hand-turned wheel to finish the pot.

Excerpt from

Label text, 2012.