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BANPO-The Neolithic Village

The ruins of this 6000 year-old village represents the earliest signs of human habitation around Xian. The village was discovered in 1953 and is situated on the eastern bank of the Chan River in a suburb of Xian. A large hall has been built over what was part of the residential area of the village.

The earliest known agricultural villages in China have been uncovered in the North of the Qinling Mountains near the eastward bend of the Yellow River where it is joined by the Fen and the Wei Rivers. Since the first example to be found was near Yangshao Village, the term "Yangshao Culture" has been used as a type name. The oldest Yangshao-type village is that of Banpo, and it appears to have been occupied from 4,500 BC until around 3750 BC. Pottery found south of the Qinling Mountain has suggested that even earlier agricultural village may have existed there, but this is only speculation at present.

The Banpo ruins are divided into three areas: a residential area, a pottery-manufacturing area and a cemetery. These include the remains of 45 houses or other buildings, over 200 storage cellars, six pottery kilns and 250 graves (including 73 for dead children who were buried in earthen jars).

The earlier houses are half underground, in contrast to the later houses which were built using a wooden framework and stand one ground level. Some huts are round, others square, with doors facing south in both cases. There is a hearth or fire-pit in each house. The main building materials were wood for the framework and mud mixed with straw for the walls.

The residential part of the village is surrounded by a man-made moat, 300 meters long and about tow meters deep and two meters wide, protecting the village from attacks from wild animals and from the effects of heavy rainfall in what was originally a hot and humid environment. Another trench, about two meters deep, runs through the middle of the village. To the east of the residential area is the village lies the cemetery where the adult dead were buried along with funerary objects like earthen pots. The children were buried in earthen pots close to the houses.

The villagers lived by hunting, fishing and gathering, but had also started farming the surrounding land and kept domestic animals. The tools and utensils used by the villagers were made of stone and bone and included stone axes, chisels, knives, shovels, hewing instruments, millstones, arrowheads, and fishing-net sinkers. The bone objects included needles and fish hooks. Earthenware pots, bowls, basins and jars were used for the storage of food and water, cooking, or storing utensils. There was even a simple earthen vessel for steam cooking. The materials vary from fine clay to clay mixed with fine or coarse sand. Much of the pottery is colored and illustrated with geometric patterns as well as a few zoomorphic figures like fish with gaping mouths or galloping deer. Personal ornaments like hairpins, beads, rings, earrings and other artifacts are made of bone, stone, animal tooth or shell and there's even a carved pottery whistle. Some of the pottery vessels have symbols carved on their outside edges- these consist of simple strokes, but in regular shapes and appear to be some primitive form of writing.

There's a museum at the site which displays the artifacts excavated from the village and there's a book on sale here entitled Neolithic Site at Banpo near Xian which describes the objects on view.


Terracotta cavalryman and horse
Terracotta cavalryman and horse
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