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Identification and Creation
Object Number
Bird-shaped jar
Other Titles
Original Language Title: 馬家窯文化半山類型 彩陶鳥形壺
Work Type
Banshan phase, c. 2650-2300 BCE
Creation Place: East Asia, China
Neolithic period, Majiayao culture, c. 3300-2000 BCE
Persistent Link
Physical Descriptions
Earthenware with slip-painted decoration
H. 26.2 x Diam. 37.9 x W. 34.5 cm (10 5/16 x 14 15/16 x 13 9/16 in.) (across handles)
[J.J. Lally & Co., 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 a fund established by Ernest B. and Helen Pratt Dane for the purchase of Asian art
Accession Year
Object Number
Asian and Mediterranean Art
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Compressed, wide-bodied jar with open mouth, short, cylindrical, off-center neck, rounded shoulders, sides tapering inward to a small, flat base, two strap lug handles, and a small, wide tab below the shoulder, opposite the mouth and neck; buff earthenware lightly burnished and decorated with geometric designs painted in black slip before firing; decoration on the shoulders includes two large round cartouches, one with small squares and crosshatched rhombuses, the other with large dots set within a grid of crosshatched bands. Majiayao culture, Machang type. From the upper Yellow River valley region; Gansu, Qinghai, or Ningxia province.

This type of jar is said to resemble a squat waterfowl, with the jar’s neck, lug handles, and tab representing a bird’s head, wings, and tail, respectively.
Compare to:
(1) Jar of the same form with similar bichrome painted design excavated in 1977 from a Banshan site in Lanzhou, Gansu province, now in the Gansu Museum. See Zhongguo taoci quanji (The Complete Works of Chinese Ceramics), vol. 1: Xinshiqi shidai (Neolithic period) (Shanghai: Shanghai renmin meishu chubanshe, 2000), no. 99, pp. 133 and 279.
(2) Jar of the same form with similar bichrome painted design excavated in 1975 from a Banshan site in Hongchengsi, Yongjing county, Gansu province, now in the Linxia Hui Autonomous Prefecture Museum. See Zhang Pengchuan, Zhongguo caitao tu pu [Handbook of Illustrations of Chinese Painted Pottery] (Beijing: Wenwu chubanshe, 1990), no. 653.

Exhibition History

Prehistoric Pottery from Northwest China, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 05/21/2016 - 08/14/2016

This record has been reviewed by the curatorial staff but may be incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of Asian and Mediterranean Art at