Fairbank Center: The Social Life of Pots: Migration, Diffusion, and Trade in Neolithic NW China


Tuesday, October 13, 2015, 12:00pm to 1:30pm


CGIS South S153, 1730 Cambridge Street, Cambridge, MA

Speaker: Ling-yu Hung, 2015-16 An Wang Postdoctoral Fellow, Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies.  Assistant Professor of Anthropology, Indiana University Bloomington.  .

The Majiayao culture complex (ca. 3300–2000 BC) in Gansu and Qinghai Provinces has yielded tens of thousands painted pots, now among the most popular of Chinese cultural relics exhibited at museums worldwide. In this talk, I explore the social and economic dimensions of this icon of ancient Chinese Civilization. I use Majiayao ceramics as a window to study the dynamics of population movement, cultural and technical diffusion, and exchange of artifacts in prehistoric NW China. By conducting new ceramic analysis and examining archaeological data, I exemplify how a specific material product gained prominence and underwent a series of changes in its technical manufacture, economic role, and social value over a broad region and 1300-year sequence. The socioeconomic patterns revealed in this study further demonstrate that the non-state-level Majiayao communities played an important role in initiating early trans-Eurasian interactions.