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 named 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 Bronze age during Majiayao culture. The Majiayao culture represents the first time that Upper Yellow River region was widely occupied by agricultural communities and it famous for its painting pottery which regarded as 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 Yangshao Culture and it derived from immigrant farmers of Yangshao in farther east and mixed with local indigenous foragers.[4] However, Xia Nai, the founder of modern archaeology in People's Republic of China, believes that there are lots of differences between Yangshao Culture and Majiayao Culture and he thought Majiayao site is one of the delegate of new culture in Gansu.

According to G. Dong, Majiayao culture originated in the westward spread of 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

Majiayao Culture's most representative artifacts are the painted pottery. Compared with Yangshao pottery, Majiayao potters used pure black color during the early Majiayao Culture, and then mixed black and red on pottery until late Majiayao Culture. 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 B.C., Qijia culture succeeded Majiayao culture at sites in three main geographic zones: Eastern Gansu, Middle Gansu, and Western Gansu/Eastern Qinghai.[6]

Climate changes[edit]

Scholars come to a conclusion that the development of Majiayao culture was highly related to climate changes. A group of scholars from Lanzhou University have researched climate changes during Majiayao culture and the results indicates that the climate was wet during 5830-4900 BP, which promoted the development of early and middle Majiayao culture in eastern Qinghai Province. However, during 4900-4700 BP, the climates were drought in this area, which maybe responsible for the decline and eastward movement of prehistoric culture 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]