Banpo is a village near Xi'an in China, and after the terracotta army there it is the best known ancient finding in the Shaanxi Province. It is a Neolithic village, inhabited from about 4500 to 3750 BC, and located by the modern village of Ban-po-ts'un from which it has its name. Although not the oldest settlement in China, Banpo is the best studied one and a prime example of early town formation. The settlement was discovered in 1953 and a few years later, a museum was built there - the first on-the-spot museum in China.
The village consisted of about 100 houses surrounded by a moat which protected it from wild animals and floods. The houses were both circular and square in shape,
and were partially dug into the ground. Because of the long period of habitation at the site, the houses were improved and remodeled, so that many of them have several layers. Today, about 45 ruins are left.
There is a cemetary north of the settlement where adults were interred separately, but accompanied by a collection of pottery and jewelry. Young children and infants were buried in large jars near the houses, which may be because they were not regarded as proper persons yet. The most elaborate grave belongs to a child, however, who was buried with a jade pendant, three stone pellets, four ceramic vessels, and dozens of beads made from disk bones.
About 500,000 pieces of red pottery have been discovered in the area. Items to eat and drink from were made from fine clay and decorated, both by impressions (from cords, baskets, cloth and fingernails) and painted designs. Geometric patterns as well as images of people and animals were painted in black pigment; in particular the fish is so ubiquitous that the people of Banpo may have worshipped it. On certain pieces, twenty-two kinds of marks have been found, suggesting a primitive script.
The culture is thought to have been a matriarchal society. Women worked and ruled in the village while men spent time away from it, hunting and fishing. Women were also buried with more items than men. The food was stored centrally, which suggests a communist system (in its true form, that is).
The Banpo people made beautiful tools mostly out of stone and bone. Their diet consisted mostly of grain, but was supplemented with nuts and meat from both wild and domesticated animals. They held pigs and dogs in particular, but cattle, sheep and goats have also been found. In this they can truly be said to have lived in the middle of the agricultural revolution, still hunting and gathering, but relying more and more on farming.
For clothing, the people produced both hemp and, surprisingly, silk, at least according to the finding of a neatly sliced silkworm cocoon.