Banpo is a typical site of the Yangshao Culture which belonged to China's Neolithic Age. Remains of the Culture were located mainly in the middle and lower reach of the Yellow River. The Yangshao Culture first came to light in Yangshao Village, Mianchi County, Henan Province in 1921. with painted red pottery as its chief feature, Yangshao Culture is also known as "the Painted Pottery Culture". More than 400 sites of the Yangshao Culture have been discovered in Central Shaanxi Plain of the Yellow River Valley. Thus the Yellow River Valley has always enjoyed the reputation of being the cradle of China's ancient culture.
Banpo Village remains were discovered accidentally in 1953 during the construction of Baqiao Power Plant. It is estimated that the village covers an area of 50,000 square meters and is divided into three sections: the Residential Section, the pottery- Making Section and the Burial Section. Five excavations between 1953 and 1957 have unearthed about a fifth of the total village (about 10,000 square meters). This discoveries include 46 house remains, two pigsites, 200 cellars, 174 adult tombs, 73 children's burial urns, 6 pottery kilns and many production and lives of the Banpo ancestors 6,000 years ago during the prosperous period of the matriarchal clan society. In 1958 the Banpo Museum, the first on-the-site museum in China was set up on the basis of the archaeological excavation. The museum consists of two exhibition rooms and a great hall that houses the remains of the village. The Banpo Museum is a historucal site designated for state protection.
The Banpo people's social organization was the matriarchal clan community led by women. Living in a primitive communist society, without pricate property, private ownership mentality, classes and exploitation, they worked together and enjoyed eauql distribution.
The Origin of Agriculture
Agriculture dominated the economic life of Banpo people. Through the long-term observation and experimentation in their daily activities, the Banpo women developed primitive agriculture. The early in habitants began to grow drought-enduring millet and vegetables some 6,000 years ago. The Banpo inhabitants used stone hoes, shovels of sharpened sticks to make holes in the reclaimed fields, and seeds were then sown. Agriculture provided them with food and other things that made it possible for them to settle down.
Domestic Animal Rearing
Domestic animal rearing, which developed from agriculture, formed one part of the life of Banpo people. There were a large amount of dog and pig remains unearthed at Banpo site. The discovery of two sites and animal bones revealed that the Banpo people had already known how to raise pigs and dogs. Dogs are easy to raise and they are good helpers for hunting.
Additionally, pigs are capable of quick breeding, providing meat and are easy to keep in pens, so they became the earliest domestic animals.
Besides farming, hunting was another occupation. Hunting implements were improved over the years. The Banpo inhabitants not only had stone spears and arrow heads, but bolas as well. The bola was made of two stone balls linked with a piece of leather. When wild animals were in sight, the hunter whirled the bola round and round, and then let go of it in the direction of the animal victim. This is how the Banpo hunters caught wild animals alive.
The fish-hooks, fish-ets and harpoons discovered at the site showed that the Banpo people already knew how to fish in the river. On display are fish-hooks, harpoons with barbs and weights on the net.
The First Exhibition Room mainly displays the production tools of the Bnapo ruins. Production tools such as the knife, axe, adze, and chisel, were mostly made of stone by means of grinding and polishing. There were also chipped stone implements and bone objects as well.
Pottery utensil baking
A complete vertical pottery-making kiln is kept in Banpo. It is the oldest pottery-making kiln discovered in China up to now. The pottery wares unearthed here total up to 50 to 60 kinds, including jars for cooking, tripods, the tip-bottomed bottles for holding water, gourd-shaped pots, narrow-necked flasks, pottery bowls, etc. Some of the pottery objects were decorated with colorful geometric designs, and some were decorated with the designs of fish with a big mouth, running deer and various types of painted signs were found on the unearthed pottery vessels, are these signs incantation characters , a kind of early characters or implying deeper meaning? This will be left for further investigation by the later generations.
A site which contains six pottery kilns and hundreds of pieces of pottery has been discovered at the Banpo ruins. It has been determined that the temperature of the kilns could reach as high as 800-1,000. At that time, earthenware was made with a technique known as "coiling of clay ropes". Basically the pottery clay was coiled into long round ropes, and then coiled into the desired shapes. After the coils were pressed together and the surface smoothed, they were then put into the kilns to be baked. There was a variety of earthen wares discovered at the Banpo site. They include fine-clay drinking utensils made of sieved clay and sand-mixed clay, and cooking utensils made of coarse-sand clay. Many of them were decorated with zoomorphic and geometric designs. They were the prototype of the world-famous Chinese porcelain.
The design of a fish with a human face
The design of a fish with a human face was masterpiece painting discovered on the site, and reflected the artistic attainment of these early inhabitants. Its lines were clear and graceful. On its head the hair was well-pinned and done into a knot. Two small fish were held in the corners of its mouth. This painting depicted their strong ties and special emotion with fish. It was most likely a totem of the Banpo people.
The tip-bottomed bottle
The tip-bottomed bottle is characteristic of the pottery unearthed at Banpo. It is a water-drawing device in which the law of gravity was skillfully applied. As soon as the bottle touched the water surface, it would automatically tilt and fill. Then if would stand upright after being filled with water due to the shifting of its centre of gravity. It had two advantages for holding water. The first is that it was potable and easy to carry on the back. The second is that the water would not spill out when it was carried from the river to the living place.
The burial custom
In the north of the site lies the communal cemetery. The adults and children were buried in different ways. The adults were found to be buried in various postures. Some were buried with their faces upwards; some were buried with their faces downwards; and "second burial" or "the washing bone burial" was also found. It is estimated that if one person died in a faraway place, his body was later removed to the cemetery of his tribe, hence its name. The heads of the deceased were directed to the west, probably because they believed the deceased would enter another world after death, and that another world existed in the direction of the sunset.
Children's burial jars
The Banpo people placed their dead children into burial jars. After their children's death, people first dug a pit into which they placed a pottery urn or jar, and laid the dead body in it; then they put an earthen bowl or a pottery basin on it. They usually drilled a hole in the centre. This was probably a passage for the soul of the dead to come in and out. Older children were buried in two pottery urns jointly connected and the burial place was usually chose around their houses. This shows the parents' affection for their lost children. So far 73 children’s burial jars have been excavated. Obviously, infant mortality was very high then because the natural conditions were poor. Their life was extremely arduous, and disease was wide spreading within their settlements.
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