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
Traditional Chinese 馬家窰文化
Simplified Chinese 马家窑文化

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,[1] China. The culture existed from 3300 to 2000 BC.

Earliest bronze[edit]

Neolithic bronze knife, 2900-2700 BC, from Dongxiang Autonomous County, Gansu; Majiayao Culture, National Museum of China

The archaeological site was first found by Swedish archaeologist Johan Gunnar Andersson in 1924. It was located near a village called Majiacun and thus named the "Majiayao culture". The earliest discoveries of bronze objects in China occur at Majiayao sites.

"A Majiayao Type bronze knife, 12.5 cm in length, a tin-copper piece cast in a joint mould,[2] dated to 2900–2740 BCE ... is the earliest known object made in cast bronze."[3]

This indicates that China entered the Bronze age during the Majiayao period. 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.

Yangshao Culture links[edit]

Painted pottery jar from the Majiayao culture, c 3100-2700 B.C. On display at the Shanghai Museum.

Many believed that Majiayao was a branch of the Yangshao Culture and it derived from immigrant farmers of the Yangshao farther east and mixed with local indigenous foragers.[4] However, Xia Nai, the founder of modern archaeology in the People's Republic of China, believes that there are lots of differences between the Yangshao and Majiayao Cultures and he thought that the Majiayao site is one of the delegate of new cultures in Gansu.

According to G. Dong, the Majiayao culture originated in the westward spread of the Yangshao culture (7000-5000 cal BP) to Gansu and Qinghai provinces from neighboring Central north China, blending with local cultures in Gansu and Qinghai Provinces, developing the local “Yangshao” culture with unique local characteristics (Yan, 1989).[5]


Painted pottery jar from the Majiayao culture

The Majiayao Culture's most representative artifacts are the painted pottery. Compared with Yangshao pottery, Majiayao potters used pure black color during the early Majiayao period, and then mixed black and red on pottery until the late Majiayao period. 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.

At the end of the third millennium BC, the Qijia culture succeeded the Majiayao culture at sites in three main geographic zones: Eastern Gansu, Middle Gansu, and Western Gansu/Eastern Qinghai.[6]

Climate changes[edit]

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.[7]

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

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Majiayao culture
  2. ^ findspot: Linjia 林家 Site, Dongxiang 东乡County in Gansu, F20:18
  3. ^ Bai Yunxiang (2003), A Discussion on Early Metals and the Origins of Bronze Casting in China. (PDF) Chinese Archaeology, Vol 3(1)
  4. ^ Hung, Lingyu. "Pottery Production, Mortuary Practice, and Social Complexity in the Majiayao Culture, NW China". Washington University in St. Louis. Retrieved 4 April 2014. 
  5. ^ 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. 
  6. ^ Neolithic period -- Princeton University Art Museum
  7. ^ "Climate Change; Researchers from Lanzhou University Describe Findings in Climate Change". The Business of Global Warming. Feb 20, 2012. 


External links[edit]