Wednesday, January 13, 2010


A little bit outside of Xi’an you can find the Neolithic Banpo (半坡) site. The site which belongs to the Yanshao culture has two phases, the earliest (Banpo phase) dates between 4800-4300 BC. Banpo was a village surrounded by a moat and consisting of 46 houses, a pottery making area with a kiln, and a cemetery with 174 burials. It was also the first large scale excavation in China, covering nearly 10,000 m².

Banpo was an agricultural community with millet its main staple, but hunting and fishing had been an important part of their life, too.

I was very excited about this site and was not disappointed at all. Although excavated in the 1950s the museum site was well laid out with sections of the moat, the kiln area, the houses (postholes) and some skeletons from the cemetery, all exhibited under a huge roofed area.
Here is the entrance area ot the museum, seen from the inside:

And a fountain showing a Banpo woman fetching water:

Typical vessel ornaments are black decorations in the form of fish or antropomorphic heads combinded with fish:

But there are also simpler vessels for cooking like this coarsely tempered pointed one:

Reconstructions of the huts and houses:

And a glimpse of their burial rites. Most burials were rich in grave goods, although some carelessly thrown in bodies also appear. A single burial:
A multiple burial:

There were even English descriptions (I am glad the little girl enjoyed her coffin uniquely):

The visit had its drawbacks though. In my blissfull strolling through the exhibition I was totally oblivious of modern things like stairs etc. which had the unwelcome consequence that I fell down a couple of steps, badly squeezed my ribs, ruined my face (luckily they are quite often wearing face masks in China, so I went unnoticed), broke my camera, and was completely covered in dust and loess. The loess part was quite interesting.
Anyway, they had books in English at the museum, so I was happy :)
On our way back we stopped at the 'Big Wild Goose Pagoda', a Tang Dynasty (7th century AD) Bhuddist pagoda:

Originally built with 5 stories, it was topped up to 10 stories during the Ming Dynasty, but an earthquake reduced it again to the now visible 7 stories:

And this is just for the beauty of it and to celebrate a splendid day in Xi'an:


  1. I read everything but cannot find any warning to non-archaeologists to avoid this museum in winter at any cost. The inside temperature was -2°C !
    Now imagine yourself being stuck there for hours...

  2. My dear CB,
    I'm really sorry about that. Fact is, I didn't notice that it had been cold back there. Must have been the utterly blissful joy I experienced.

  3. Fascinating, studied prehistoric archaeology and visited this site in 2010. Amazing insight into neolithic culture and customs. L x.