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The Banpo Museum in Xi'an opened to the public in 1958. It was built right next to the excavations of the prehistoric Banpo village. That is where relics of a 6,000-year-old matriarchal community were unearthed that are now on display at the Banpo Museum. Our neolithic ancestors that once inhabited this site belonged to the Yangshao culture which is mentioned in the Prehistory section of this website. The Banpo people primarily used wood and stone tools. The men were mostly engaged in fishing while the women took care of most other tasks (incl. making pottery) while raising their kids.
It is estimated that the Banpo village was occupied from around 4800 BC to about 4000 BC. Most of the about 100 village houses were circular with sunken floors up to 1 meter deep. A few houses were square with rounded corners and there was also one large rectangular building that the Banpo people probably used for storage and gatherings. The village buildings were spread out over an area of 12.5 to 17.5 acres and a trench surrounded the village as a protective measure against dangerous wild animals and snakes.
The site of the ancient Banpo village was discovered by mere chance in October 1953 when workers of the Banpo work group excavated earth to make space for the foundations of a new factory building. After the remains of the neolithic village were discovered, the workers switched bosses and henceforth worked for the archeologists. As a way to honor the workers who had discovered it, the archeological site was eventually named Banpo. The Institute of Archaeology at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences took over responsibility for the excavations which were the largest at that time in China.
The Banpo Museum consists of two exhibition halls and a site hall that altogether provide about 4,500 square meters of exhibit space. In the two sections of the first exhibition hall, you will find the various prehistoric relics displayed that were unearthed at the Banpo site. These exhibits include both production tools and domestic tools that the Banpo people used back then (axes, chisels, sickles, stone and pottery knives) as well as artwork and adornments. The second exhibition hall is used for various temporary exhibitions that deal with topics such as ethnology, folklore and prehistoric art.
The 3,000 square meter site hall gives you a good view of the excavated sections of the Banpo site. You will be walking on elevated walkways that lead around each of the three excavation sections. There is a residential section, a pottery making section and a burial section. The residential section with its primitive huts is the largest of the three sections and the main part of this prehistoric village. In the pottery making section you will see the ancient kilns that were used to create pottery and the burial section displays the tombs of these ancient humans.