Oracle Bone


Location: On Display in the Asia Galleries

From: Anyang

Curatorial Section: Asian

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Object Number 65-2-9
Current Location Asia Galleries - On Display
Culture Chinese
Provenience Anyang
Period Shang Dynasty
Date Made Shang Dynasty
Section Asian
Materials Bone
Inscription Language Chinese Language

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 receiving 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.

Height 8.9 cm
Width 6.4 cm
Credit Line Exchange with the Rockhill Nelson Gallery, 1965

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