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Unformatted text preview: and chickens. Game was also plentiful, and
hunting continued to be important to the village economy.
In excavated village garbage heaps of ancient China are
found the bones of deer, wild cattle, antelopes, rhinoceros,
hares, and marmots. Grain was stored in pottery painted in
bold, geometric designs of red and black. This pottery gave
way to a harder, thin black pottery, made on a potter’s wheel,
whose use spread west along the Yellow River and south to
the Yangtze. The tripodal shapes of Neolithic pots prefigure
later Chinese bronzes.
The earliest cultivators lived in wattle-and-daub pit
dwellings with wooden support posts and sunken, plastered
floors. Their villages were located in isolated clearings along
slopes of river valleys. Archaeological finds of weapons and remains of earthen walls suggest tribal warfare between villages.
Little is known of the religion of these people, although some
evidence suggests the worship of ancestral spirits. They practiced divination by applying heat to a hole drilled in the shoulder bone of a steer or the undershell of a tortoise and then interpreting the resulting cracks in the bone. They buried their
dead in cemeteries with jars of food. Tribal leaders wore rings
and beads of jade. Early Bronze Age: The Shang
The traditional history of China tells of
three ancient dynasties: Xia (2205–1766
B.C.E.), Shang (1766–1050 B.C.E.), and Zhou (1050–256
B.C.E.). Until early in this century, historians thought the first
two were legendary. Then, in the 1920s, archaeological excavations at “the wastes of Yin” near present-day Anyang uncovered the ruins of a walled city that had
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been a late Shang capital (see Map 1–6).
The Shang Kingdom
Other Shang cities have been discovered
more recently. The ruins contained the archives of the department of divination of the Shang court, with thousands
upon thousands of “oracle bones” incised with archaic Chinese writing. The names of kings on the bones fit almost perfectly those of the traditional historical
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record. This evidence that the Shang acAn Inscribed Oracle Bone
tually existed has led historians to suggest that the Xia may also have been an actual dynasty. Perhaps the Xia was a late Neolithic black-pottery kingdom;
perhaps it already had bronze and was responsible for the
earliest, still missing stage of Chinese writing.
The characteristic political institution of Bronze Age
China was the city-state. The largest city-state was the Shang
capital, which, since it frequently moved, lacked the monumental architecture of Egypt or Mesopotamia. The walled city
contained public buildings, altars, and the residences of the
Hear the Audio at MyHistoryLab.com The Birth of Civilization 31 aristocracy; it was surrounded by a sea of Neolithic tribal villages. By late Shang times, several such cities were spotted
across the north China plain. The Shang kings possessed political, economic, social, and religious authority. When they
died, they were so...
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This document was uploaded on 04/03/2014.
- Spring '14