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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
Elongated Tripod Ewer with Short Spout and Long Strap Handle, the Handle Braced with Struts
Work Type
Erlitou culture, 1900-1350 BCE
Creation Place: East Asia, China
Neolithic period to Shang dynasty
Level 1, Room 1740, Early Chinese Art, Arts of Ancient China from the Neolithic to the Bronze Age
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Physical Descriptions
Variegated buff and light gray earthenware with incised decoration on the handle. Middle and Lower Yellow River Valley area; probably from northwestern Henan or southern Shanxi province
H. 53.5 x W. 17 x D. 14.6 cm (21 1/16 x 6 11/16 x 5 3/4 in.)
[J. J. Lally & Co., New York, 2003] sold; to Walter C. Sedgwick Foundation, Woodside, CA (2003-2006), 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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Publication History

Stephan Wolohojian, ed., Harvard Art Museum/ Handbook, Harvard Art Museum (Cambridge, MA, 2008), p. 2

Harvard University Art Museums, Harvard University Art Museums Annual Report 2006-7 (Cambridge, MA, 2008), p. 12, repr.

Exhibition History

Re-View: S228-230 Arts of Asia, Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, 05/31/2008 - 11/23/2008

32Q: 1740 Early China I, Harvard Art Museums, 11/01/2014 - 01/01/9999

Subjects and Contexts

Collection Highlights

Google Art Project

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 am_asianmediterranean@harvard.edu