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HOME : Chinese Art : Neolithic Era : Neolithic Terracotta Vessel
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Neolithic Terracotta Vessel - H.883
Origin: China
Circa: 5000 BC to 1500 BC
Dimensions: 5.5" (14.0cm) high
Collection: Chinese
Medium: Terracotta

Location: United States
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Many thousands of years ago, our earliest ancestors were nomadic tribes that survived by foraging the wild for food and shelter. During the Neolithic era, human groups first began to settle down permanently, establishing villages and communities. However, without new technological innovations, this sedentary culture would not have been possible. Foremost among these discoveries were agriculture and tool-making, both of which enabled humans to transform their natural environment into a sustainable society. Many thousands of years ago, the area presently covered by modern China was made up of distinct regions each with their own unique cultural identity. Archaeologists have been able to discern some of these cultures from each other based upon the burial styles, architecture, and pottery, perhaps the most immediate remnant of this age.

When Neolithic mankind began to settle in areas further removed from sources of water, transportation of this vital fluid became a foremost necessity. After unsuccessful attempts to create water resistant vessel from wicker baskets caked in mud, pottery was invented. The creation of pottery in China dates back as early as 6000 B.C. when villagers first realized that the earth around fires became hard and impervious to liquid. From this realization came the birth of pottery, fulfilling the practical necessity of water transportation and allowing civilization to expand. While pottery was created to answer a need, it soon progressed to be more than functional: it was also beautiful. While Neolithic vessels would have been used to carry water or to store grains, they are also spectacular artistic creations.

While pottery was created to answer a need, it soon progressed to be more than functional: it was also beautiful. While this large, unadorned Neolithic vessel would have been used to carry water or other precious liquids, it is also the creation of an artist with a trained eye. The form of the work, built up from coiled clay, is elegant and refined. The gentle curves of the belly slope upwards into a wide neck and flaring concave rim. A rope would have once been inserted through the two handles, facilitating transportation. While other Neolithic vessels are covered in painted geometric patterns, this pot is left unadorned, allowing the orange hue of the earthenware to speak for itself. Furthermore, the lack of decoration focuses out attention of the form of the vessel. From this simple pot and others like it began the great tradition of ceramics in China, an art form that this country would become famous for. - (H.883)


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