Oracle Bone


Location: On Display in the Asia Galleries

From: China | Henan | Anyang | Xiaotun

Curatorial Section: Asian

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Object Number 55-34-7
Current Location Asia Galleries - On Display
Culture Chinese
Provenience China | Henan | Anyang | Xiaotun
Period Shang Dynasty
Date Made Shang Dynasty
Section Asian
Materials Bone
Technique Inscribed
Inscription Language Chinese Language

Fragment of bone with ancient Chinese characters inscribed on it. Said to be one of a collection of oracle bones obtained by Langdon Warner in 1913-14 at the village of Xiaotun at the site of Anyang. 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 5.5 cm
Width 2.2 cm
Credit Line Exchange with Peabody Museum, Harvard, 1955
Other Number 15-44-60 - Peabody Number | D836 - Other Number

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