Majiayao culture

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Majiayao culture
Majiayao map.svg
Geographical range upper Yellow River
Period Neolithic China
Dates c. 3300 – c. 2000 BC
Followed by Qijia culture
Chinese name
Simplified Chinese 马家窑文化
Traditional Chinese 馬家窰文化

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.[1] 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.


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.[1] 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.[1] The culture is often divided into three phases: Majiayao (3300–2500 BC), Banshan (2500–2300 BC) and Machang (2300–2000 BC).[2][3]

At the end of the third millennium BC, the Qijia culture succeeded the Majiayao culture at sites in three main geographic zones: eastern Gansu, central Gansu, and western Gansu/eastern Qinghai.[4]


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.[5]

The manufacture of large amounts of painted pottery means there were professional craftsmen to produce it, which indicates the appearance of social division of labor.[citation needed]


Bronze knife found in Dongxiang, Gansu

The oldest bronze object found in China was the a knife found at a Majiayao site in Dongxiang, Gansu, and dated to 2900–2740 BC.[6] Further copper and bronze objects have been found at Machang-period sites in Gansu.[7] Metallurgy spread to the middle and lower Yellow River region in the late 3rd millennium BC.[8]

Climate changes

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.[9]

The transition from Yangshao to Majiayao coincides, climatically, with the Piora Oscillation.[citation needed]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Liu & Chen (2012), p. 232.
  2. Liu & Chen (2012), pp. 216, 232.
  3. Lua error in Module:Citation/CS1/Identifiers at line 47: attempt to index field 'wikibase' (a nil value).
  4. Neolithic period -- Princeton University Art Museum
  5. Valenstein (1989), pp. 6, 8.
  6. Bai (2003), p. 157.
  7. Liu & Chen (2012), p. 234.
  8. Liu (2005), p. 224.
  9. "Climate Change; Researchers from Lanzhou University Describe Findings in Climate Change". The Business of Global Warming. Feb 20, 2012. |access-date= requires |url= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>


  • Lua error in Module:Citation/CS1/Identifiers at line 47: attempt to index field 'wikibase' (a nil value).
  • Liu, Li (2005), The Chinese Neolithic: Trajectories to Early States, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 978-0-521-81184-2.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • 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.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Valenstein, Suzanne G. (1989), A Handbook of Chinese Ceramics (revised ed.), New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, ISBN 978-0-87099-514-9.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>