The Majiayao culture was a group of neolithic communities who lived primarily in the upper Yellow River region in eastern Gansu, eastern Qinghai and northern Sichuan, China. The culture existed from 3300 to 2000 BC. The Majiayao culture represents the first time that the Upper Yellow River region was widely occupied by agricultural communities and it is famous for its painted pottery, which is regarded as a peak of pottery manufacturing at that time.
|Geographical range||upper Yellow River|
|Dates||c. 3300 – c. 2000 BC|
|Followed by||Qijia culture|
The archaeological site was first found in 1924 near the village of Majiayao in Lintao County, Gansu by Swedish archaeologist Johan Gunnar Andersson, who considered it part of the Yangshao culture. Following the work of Xia Nai, the founder of modern archaeology in the People's Republic of China, it has since been considered a distinct culture, named after the original site. This culture developed from the middle Yangshao (Miaodigou) phase, through an intermediate Shilingxia phase. The culture is often divided into three phases: Majiayao (3300–2500 BC), Banshan (2500–2300 BC) and Machang (2300–2000 BC).
The most distinctive artifacts of the Majiayao culture are the painted pottery. During the Majiayao phase, potters decorated their wares with designs in black pigment featuring sweeping parallel lines and dots. Pottery of the Banshan phase is distinguished by curvilinear designs using both black and red paints. Machang-phase pottery is similar, but often not as carefully finished.
The oldest bronze object found in China was a knife found at a Majiayao site in Dongxiang, Gansu, and dated to 2900–2740 BC. Further copper and bronze objects have been found at Machang-period sites in Gansu. Metallurgy spread to the middle and lower Yellow River region in the late 3rd millennium BC.
Scholars have come to the conclusion that the development of the Majiayao culture was highly related to climate changes. A group of scholars from Lanzhou University have researched climate changes during the Majiayao culture and the results indicate that the climate was wet during 5830 to 4900 BP, which promoted the development of early and middle Majiayao culture in eastern Qinghai province. However, from 4900 to 4700 BP, the climate underwent droughts in this area, which may be responsible for the decline and eastward movement of prehistoric cultures during the period of transition from early-mid to late Majiayao culture.
- Liu & Chen (2012), p. 232.
- Liu & Chen (2012), pp. 216, 232.
- Dong, G.; et al. (2013). "The spatiotemporal pattern of the Majiayao cultural evolution and its relation to climate change and variety of subsistence strategy during late Neolithic period in Gansu and Qinghai Provinces, northwest China". Quaternary International. 316: 155–161. doi:10.1016/j.quaint.2013.07.038.
- Neolithic period -- Princeton University Art Museum
- Valenstein (1989), pp. 6, 8.
- Bai (2003), p. 157.
- Liu & Chen (2012), p. 234.
- Liu (2005), p. 224.
- "Climate Change; Researchers from Lanzhou University Describe Findings in Climate Change". The Business of Global Warming. Feb 20, 2012.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Majiayao culture.|
- Bai, Yunxiang (2003), "A Discussion on Early Metals and the Origins of Bronze Casting in China" (PDF), Chinese Archaeology, 3 (1): 157–165, doi:10.1515/CHAR.2003.3.1.157.
- Liu, Li (2005), The Chinese Neolithic: Trajectories to Early States, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 978-0-521-81184-2.
- Liu, Li; Chen, Xingcan (2012), The Archaeology of China: From the Late Paleolithic to the Early Bronze Age, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 978-0-521-64310-8.
- Valenstein, Suzanne G. (1989), A Handbook of Chinese Ceramics (revised ed.), New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, ISBN 978-0-87099-514-9.