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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
View this object's location on our interactive map
Physical Descriptions
Black earthenware
H. 16.2 x Diam. 8.1 cm (6 3/8 x 3 3/16 in.)
[Nicholas Grindley, London, April 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 Ernest B. and Helen Pratt Dane Fund for the Acquisition of Oriental Art
Accession Year
Object Number
Asian and Mediterranean Art
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Cup with flared, everted rim supported on an elaborate hollow stem with bulb-shaped midsection perforated with four rows of vertical slits; thinly potted, lightly burnished blackened earthenware with incised and openwork decoration. Longshan culture; from Shandong province.
Compare to:
(1) Black earthenware stem cups of closely related form, with sharply articulated feet, similarly shaped and perforated stems, and wide, flaring mouths excavated in 1975 from a Longshan site at Donghaiyu, Rizhao county, Shandong province. See Kaogu 6 (1976): 380, fig. 2 and pl. 6.3.
(2) Black pottery stem cup of closely related form excavated in 1976 from a Longshan site at Chengzi, Zhucheng county, Shandong province, now in the Arthur M. Sackler Museum of Art and Archaeology collection, Beijing. See Treasures from a Swallow Garden: Inaugural Exhibit of the Arthur M. Sackler Museum of Art and Archaeology (Beijing: Peking University, 1992), cat. 30, p. 82-83.
Exhibition History

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

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