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276. Neolithic Jar

China, Yangshao Culture (5000-1500 BC)
Height: 36 cm
TL Tested by Oxford Authentication Ltd.

The large jar rises from a narrow and flat base, becoming gradually wider reaching its greatest girth slightly below the middle, where two loop handles are attached. The jar is a buff-orange colour, with the upper part of the body painted with dynamic designs of black and purple zoomorphic figures bearing four limbs with rudimentary fingers or paws.

This type of jar - probably employed to store grain - has been excavated from both burials and dwelling sites, therefore appearing to have served both a functional and a ritual purpose . Its ubiquity in the area with other storing and serving vessels, suggests that agriculture may have been an important foundation for this early society. The meaning of the primitive designs on the jar remains unexplained, though previous scholarship attempted to interpret it as abstract, natural creatures, or even shamans transforming during rituals to ward off evil. It has also been referred to as a frog motif.

The distribution across a large area (spreading east of Qinghai and west of Gansu of Machang) of these types of vessels, are clear indicators of interregional relations and homogeneous society. The excavated area around these pots indicate there were diversified burials for men and women. The former furnished with tools such as axes, adzes and chisels, the latter with items such spinning wheels. This suggests a settled and advanced society characterised by a division in social roles.

Comparable examples can be found in the Metropolitan Museum (New York), Avery Brundage Collection (San Francisco), Meiyantang Collection, Rietberg Museum (Zurich) and the British Museum (London).

Early Chinese Ceramics Catalogue 2014, no. 1


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