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6,000-Year-old Banpo Village

Can you imagine what a primitive Chinese village was like and how our ancestors lived? This is all clearly depicted in Banpo Museum about seven kilometers east of Xi’an, the provincial capital of Shaanxi (Sheasi), bulb on the ruins of the 6,000-year-old Banpo Village. The remains of this primitive settlement were discovered in 1952 when worker were laying the foundation for a factory building. In 1958, after several years’ excavation, the site was built into a museum in two sections: the ruins of the settlement itself, and exhibition rooms. This ancient settlement, the largest ever discovered in China and the best-preserved, belonged to a maternal clan community and a hill. Nearly fifty thousand square meters in extent, it consists of a dwelling area, pottery center and a graveyard.

About four thousand square meters have been fully excavated and are now housed in a domed building. Every exposed surface was treated with sodium silicate or glassed over for preservation. Inscribed above the main entrance of the building are four gilded Chinese characters which, when translated, read as “Banpo Ruins”. These are in the calligraphy of Guo Moruo, archaeologist of world renown. The remains of the primitive settlement are skirted by raised platforms from where visitors view them. In the center of the area are the structural remains of 43 houses whose foundations and pillar holes show they were crowded together. Each house had a roof, walls, pillars, doorway and threshold. Some were square, others round. The square ones were dug hail way into the ground with one or two pillars at the center of the room which supported the canopy-like, mud- plastered thatched roofs. The dwelling space was low and dark, the door was wide enough to admit only one person at a time, this design apparently for safety’s sake.

The round house had a cone-shaped roof propped up on a circle of pillars. Round or square, all dwellings opened toward The south and had a hearth in the middle The largest and best- preserved house in the central living quarters is the12 meters square, the residence perhaps of the tribal chief or a public hail where the clan leaders met. Archaeologists have restored two of the dwellings-a round house, which resembles a Mongolian yurt, and a square one. Close by are storage—pits where grain and various utensils and tools Were kept. North of the living area and separated from it by a small ditch is a communal cemetery for adults only. The grave pits remain neatly arranged in rows. Among the burial objects are popery and ornamental articles, but no production tools. This is likely because farm tools were rare and precious and were the collective property of the community Some husk s of millet were discovered in a covered lar in one of the graves. This grain is still a staple food in the area today.

More than fifty jars containing infant remains were unearthed near the houses. Why did the primitive people bury their children next to their houses rather than in the cemetery? Archaeologist believe it may have been to protect the bodies of their young from wild animals.

On the east are the ruins of six pottery kilns each wot ha capacity of five or six vessels at a burning. Aside from their small size, however, they are similar to pottery kilns today.

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