University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology

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Object Number: 65-2-9
Current Location: China Gallery
Currently On Display
Provenience: Anyang
Period: Shang Dynasty
Date Made: Shang Dynasty
Early Date: -1200
Late Date: -1050
Height: 8.9cm
Width: 6.4cm
Credit Line:Exchange with the Rockhill Nelson Gallery, 1965


Curved bovine shoulder bone with incised characters on outer face. Shang Dynasty kings used oracle bones as a form of divination to seek supernatural guidance about important political, social, and personal issues. Usually created from cattle shoulder blades and the underside of turtle shells, the bones were smoothed and then heated until they cracked. By interpreting the cracks, royal diviners believed they were recieving insight that allowed them to answer questions about the future. In many cases, a record of the reading was written on the bones. These texts provide invaluable information about early chinese religion, politics, and elite life.


[Article] Mair, Victor A. 2001. The Case of the Wayward Oracle Bone. Expedition: The Magazine of the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. 43 (2) : Page/Fig./Plate: Fig. 4View Objects cited in this Publication

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