Discovered in 1921 by a Swedish geologist. Recent research indicates YangShao may have been the origin of languages, and many discoveries have orginated there.
This neolithic culture is named after the village of Yangshao, where the first artifacts were discovered. Living in the middle reaches of the Yellow river valley. The Yangshao people became skilled at farming and pottery.
The Yangshao culture is conventionally divided into three phases:
1) Early period or Banpo phase, 7000 to 6000 years ago: is represented by the Banpo, Jiangzhai, Beishouling and Dadiwan sites in Wei River valley in Shaanxi.
2) Middle period or Miaodigou phase, 6000 to 5500 years ago: expansion of the culture in all directions, and the development of hierarchies of settlements in some areas, such as western Henan.
3) Late period 5500 to 5000 years: greater spread of settlement hierarchies. The first wall of rammed earth built around the settlement of Xishan (25 ha) in central Henan (near modern Zhengzhou).
Note: Majiayao culture 5300-400 years ago: to the west, is now considered a separate culture. Developing from middle Yangshao through an intermediate Shilingxia phase.
Great evidence of agriculture and livability were found here. Many signs were millet and good clean sources of water. Including foxtail and proso millet. There was also evidence of rice. Though debatable, it seems YangShao practiced small scale agriculture. Versus others, intensive agriculture in permenant fields. This way, once soil was exhausted, residents could pick up their things, and move to new lands. One such example was Jiangzhi. It contained dual floor buildings. They could have been used for storing surplus grains, tools or supplies. Many of the sites had extensive signs of lithic technology. Including art, grinding stones and scraping and carving tools. For things like farming, ranching, hunting and fishing.
The Yangshao kept pigs, dogs and chickens. Sheep, goats and cattle were found but more rarely. They probably practiced sericulture and had highly specialized stone tools. They hunted wild animals and fished.
The Yangshao culture is known for its distinctive pottery, which was made by coiling long strips of clay into the desired shape and then smoothing the surface. The pottery was usually decorated with intricate designs using white or black pigments. Sometimes even red was used. The pottery was often painted with human facial, animal, and geometric designs. Excavations found that children were buried in painted pottery jars. Kind of like modern cremations but disturbing too since it may have been more than 6000 years ago.
Did you know? Pottery of the LongShan community, (at the end of the yellow river in east), and culture became more well known. It was less dense and elaborately decorated. It was manufactured using more sophisticated methods. According to archaeologists, pots made by LongShan are often found within the Yangshao and eventually. Spread all over northern China.
Archaeological evidence suggests that the Yangshao people lived in small villages of round, semi-subterranean houses. Houses were built by digging a rounded rectangular pit around one metre deep. Then they were rammed, and a lattice of wattle, was woven over it. It was then plastered with mud. And, coned roof framework was done, thatched with millet stalks.
Most places had a little furniture, a shallow fireplace in the middle with a stool, a bench along the wall, and a bed of cloth. There was a pen outside for animals. And, most villages were 10-14 acres. Housed with central square. Like many others, they built a ring around village for preditors and attackers.
Around 7000 to 6000 years ago. Huangdi ⻩黄帝 (huáng dì) and Yandi 炎帝 (yán dì) begin as mythological chieftains of the tribes along the Yellow River. Huangdi has been described as requesting the creation of Chinese characters, the calendar and arithmetic. Many inventions have been connected to each, including medicine, agriculture, vehicles and building skills. Han Chinese people still refer to themselves as being descendants of Huangdiand Yandi or 炎⻩黄子子孙 (yán huáng zǐ sūn).
Dating back to the neolithic period, discoveries in communities and tombsites, show primitive characters etched on bone objects. Village planning also showed knowledge of mathematics. And, pot kettles shaped like ships, were also found, at Banpo suggesting knowledge of shipbuilding.
Matriarchy to patriarchy debates counter on interpritations of burial practices. The discovery of a dragon statue dating back to around 4000 BC in the Yangshao culture makes it the world’s oldest known dragon depiction. Han Chinese continue to worship dragons to this day.
Banpo Village and the Yangshao
Banpo Village 半坡村 (bàn pō cūn) found near Xi’an ⻄西安 (xīān), is dated back to 4500 to 3750 BC. From studying tombs, evidence of a hierarchical society was found. Based on studies there, YangShao appear to have been a matriarchal society, with 走走婚 (zǒu hūn) ‘walking marriages’. Like in China today, there is only one surviving society. Data is still being analyzed and subjectivized.
Banpo and Jiangzhai archaeological sites may have had writing. Banpo is perhaps the best studied settlement of the Yangshao. Jiangzhai too. Both had incised marks on pottery which a few have interpreted as numerals or perhaps precursors to Chinese characters.
Overall, the Yangshao culture was an important precursor to the development of Chinese civilization, and its influence can still be felt in modern-day China.
Bibliography: Woon, Wee Lee (1987). Chinese Writing: Its Origin and Evolution. Joint Publishing, Hong Kong.
Qiu Xigui (2000). Chinese Writing. Translation of 文文字學概論 by Mattos and Jerry Norman. Early China Special Monograph Series No. 4. Berkeley: The Society for the Study of Early China and the Institute of East Asian Studies, University of California, Berkeley. ISBN 978-1-55729-071-7
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.
Roy, Kartik C.; Tisdell, C. A.; Blomqvist, Hans C. (1999). Economic development and women in the world community (https://books.google.com/books?id=EwoVk0ar1M8C&q=Yangshao+culture+matriarchal&pg=PA27). Greenwood. p. 27. ISBN 978-0-275-96631-7.
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