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Oracle Bone

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Object Number:65-2-8
Current Location: Asia Galleries
Currently On Display
Provenience: Anyang
Period: Shang Dynasty
Date Made: Shang Dynasty
Early Date: -1700
Late Date: -1100
Inscription Language:Chinese Language
Height: 8.2 cm
Width: 6.4 cm
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 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.

Current & Past Exhibitions:

China Gallery (22 Feb 2017) View Objects in Exhibition
Chinese Rotunda (1968 - 22 Feb 2017) View Objects in Exhibition


[Article] Mair, Victor H. 2001. "The Case of the Wayward Oracle Bone". Expedition: The Magazine of the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. Philadelphia. The University Museum. Vol. 43. no. 2. Actual Citation : Page/Fig./Plate: Fig. 5View Objects related to this Actual Citation

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