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Chinese Han Dynasty Lifan Pottery Amphora w/ TL

East Asia, Western China, Han Dynasty, ca. 2nd century BCE. A dark-grey earthenware vessel of an incredibly distinctive form. Panels of incised linear decorations adorn the neck, and raised, swirl-patterned circles are presented on the main body. The mouth opens in a distinct ovoid form, and wide strap handles flow down from its narrow rim and join the widest part of the body. The surface was likely once burnished to a fine grey hue which is still visible today. The amphora has a ringed base that is slightly inset. Size: 7" W x 6.625" H (17.8 cm x 16.8 cm).

This type of double-handled amphora was made in western Sichuan province in central China, and is known as "Lifan" after the particular area where vessels like it were found. The style is fascinating, very different from others created during the Han period, and seems to be an artistic callback to the elegant forms of the Chinese Neolithic period. These vessels are found mainly within rock-cut tombs and cist burials, with a few examples known from the more classically Han chambered brick tombs. This suggests that these vessels were made by immigrants or members of non-dominant ethnic groups within Han-controlled China, probably people who lived a nomadic lifestyle centered on husbandry while their Chinese contemporaries led more sedentary, agricultural-based lifestyles.

For a stylistically-similar example, please see The British Museum, museum number 1932,0216.1: https://www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/collection_object_details.aspx?objectId=260064&partId=1&searchText=lifan&page=1

This piece has been tested using thermoluminescence (TL) analysis and has been found to be ancient and of the period stated. A full report will accompany purchase.

Condition: Minor nicks to base, body, handles, and rim, with softening to some incised details, and fading to dark coloration, otherwise intact and very good. Light earthen deposits throughout. Three probe holes: one beneath base, and one beneath the top terminal of each handle.

Provenance: private Boulder, Colorado, USA collection; ex-Lotus Trading, Murrieta, California, USA

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