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Gallery Text

Although there is evidence of the minor presence of copper artifacts among several late Neolithic cultures, by the dawn of the second millennium BCE, societies in northern China appear to have begun using bronze (an alloy of copper and tin) in earnest. Excavations at several Longshan culture sites along the middle and lower Yellow River valleys have yielded tools, ornaments, and vessel fragments made of bronze. Longshan black pottery vessels with design elements reminiscent of hammered metal also imply the influence of metalwork during the latter part of this otherwise Neolithic culture. Following closely after the Longshan period, Erlitou culture sites in Henan and Shanxi provinces reveal a complex, hierarchical society that produced bronze tools, weapons, vessels, and turquoise-inlaid plaques (such as those displayed here) of astonishing sophistication. The presence of such artifacts, along with the remains of bronze-casting molds at Erlitou, confirms that China had fully entered its Bronze Age by the second millennium BCE.

Identification and Creation

Object Number
Stem cup
Other Titles
Original Language Title: 山東龍山文化 黑陶高柄杯
Work Type
c. 2600-2000 BCE
Creation Place: East Asia, China, Shandong province
Neolithic period, Shandong Longshan culture, c. 2600-2000 BCE
Persistent Link


Level 1, Room 1740, Early Chinese Art, Arts of Ancient China from the Neolithic to the Bronze Age
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Physical Descriptions

Black earthenware
H. 17.2 x Diam. 11.9 cm (6 3/4 x 4 11/16 in.)


Recorded Ownership History
[Kaikodo, New York, October 1999] sold; to Walter C. Sedgwick Foundation, Woodside, CA (1999-2006), partial gift; to Harvard University Art Museums, 2006.

Acquisition and Rights

Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Partial gift of the Walter C. Sedgwick Foundation and partial purchase through the Louise Haskell Daly Fund
Accession Year
Object Number
Asian and Mediterranean Art

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Stem cup with wide, everted, dish-form mouth, cylindrical body, and hollow cylindrical stem perforated with small horizontal quadrilateral openings; thinly potted, lightly burnished blackened earthenware with incised and openwork decoration. Longshan culture; from Shandong province.
Compare to:
(1) Black pottery stem cup of very similar form excavated at a Longshan period site at Sanlihe, Jiaoxian, Shandong province. See Zhongguo shehui kexueyuan kaogu yanjiusuo [Institute of Archaeology, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences], Jiaoxian Sanlihe [Report on the Excavation of the Sanlihe Site] (Beijing: Wenwu chubanshe, 1988), pl. 82.3.
(2) Several thinly potted black pottery stem cups with similar wide, dish-form mouths dating to the Longshan period excavated at the same site as above. See ibid., pl. 76-77.

Publication History

  • Kaikodo Journal, Vol. 12 (Autumn 1999), auct. cat., Kaikodo (New York, 1999), no. 41, pp. 182-183 and 296-297

Exhibition History

  • 32Q: 1740 Early China I, Harvard Art Museums, 11/16/2014 - 01/01/2050

Subjects and Contexts

  • Sedgwick Collection

Verification Level

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