Dogs Buried Alive, Wine Vessels, a Dagger-Axe & a Gold Mask- Just A Few of 200+ Relics Discovered at Shang Dynasty Site

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Recently, at the Shangdu site in Zhengzhou, more than 200 relics were discovered. Discoveries included several gold coverings and a large amount of gold." The site where the archaeological find occurred was discovered in 2021 and is "a Shang Dynasty noble burial area in the south of East Street, east of Zijingshan Road, and north of Shuyuan Street in Zhengzhou City." [i]

The main tomb revealed more than 200 "funerary objects." This included 20 bronze pieces, 11 jade, five gold, 50 arrowheads, and over 120 shell coins and plaques with turquoise inlays and gold foiling. Six dog sacrifices were also found at the bottom of the main tomb. [vii]

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Buried canines were discovered at the main tomb of the Shang Dynasty site.China News Service

The Shang Dynasty

The Shang Dynasty ruled the Yellow River Valley between 1600 B.C. and 1046 B.C. Animal and human sacrifice were common practices throughout the Shang Dynasty. Sacrificial remains were disposed of in burial pits or were laid to rest in the tombs of the dead." [i]

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Shangqiu temple honors legendary Shang Dynasty ancestor of business.Gary Todd/Wikimedia Commons

Dogs Buried Alive

One of the many discoveries at the site in China's Henan Province included dogs that had been buried. Previous research has indicated that the Shang Dynasty sacrificed dogs, many of which were just puppies and had been buried alive. [iii]

Archaeologist Roderick Campbell stated that dog burials in China date back 9,000 years to the "Neolithic settlement of Jiahu." He proposes that dog sacrifices may have "made a cheaper alternative" for the less well-off than humans. [ii]

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A bronze age dog was buried with a bell around its neck at the Sipanmo site in Anyang, China.Roderick Campbell

Jade Dagger-Axe

A jade dagger axe was also discovered at the archaeological site. According to previous research, the dagger-axe is a non-utilitarian tool. This indicates that it was more for ornamental use. Ritual objects are carefully made using specific, "often hard-to-obtain raw materials." [iii]

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A jade dagger axe was discovered at the Shang Dynasty site.China News Service

Additionally, the tool first appeared in the "middle and late Neolithic," making it the oldest jade weapon type. The dagger-axe is "the most common jade artifact, has the longest period of use, and has the most obvious ritual function." See below for the evolution of the jade dagger-axe. [iv]

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The evolution of the jade dagger-axe.Cheng Xue, Yingzhi Zu/Scientific Research

Bronze Wine Vessels

Among the relics were also bronze wine vessels. Some Chinese ritual bronze vessels, like the one discovered, were known as lei's. A lei was "used to drink wine or to offer ritual libations." [v]

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A bronze wine vessel was unearthed at the Shang Dynasty site.China News Service

A libation is a ritual during which liquid or grains are poured out "as an offering to a deity or spirit, or in memory of the dead." Another Chinese bronze vessel is known as a gu. A gu was "tall and slender, with a slightly flared base," as seen in the photo below. [vi]

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A gu from the Shang Dynasty.Gary Lee Todd, Ph.D./Wikimedia Commons

Gold Mask

Finally, a gold mask was one other relic that was recently discovered. Based on its size, the gold mask is said to belong to an adult. Experts intend to expand their research on golden masks and how they relate to "the dynasty's burial rituals and gold culture." [viii]

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A gold mask was discovered at the Shang Dynasty site.China News Service

References

[i] Stephanie Pappas, Dogs Sacrificed by Shang Dynasty Were Just Pups. Some Were Even Buried Alive. (May 7, 2019)

[ii] Id.

[iii] Xue, C. and Xu, Y. (2017) On the Origin of Early Jade Dagger-Axe: A Brief Analysis. Archaeological Discovery, 5, 178-186. DOI: 10.4236/ad.2017.53011.

[iv] Id.

[v] Wikipedia, Gu (vessel), (2022)

[vi] Id.

[vii] Teller Report, Gold cladding found at the Shangdu site in Zhengzhou, (Sep. 16, 2022)

[viii] Ewing, Archaeologists in China Find Ancient Golden Funeral Mask, (Sep. 16, 2022)

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