Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Archaeology Excavations at the Tomb of Fu Hao

In 1976, near Anyang, the last Shang capital, archaeologists uncovered a Shang tomb, the only one that has been found intact. Tomb 5 contained the burial of Fu Hao, referred to in the oracle bones as one of the consorts of Wu Ding, twenty-first king of the Shang. The tomb, though modest in size, contained more than fifteen hundred objects. In addition to Fu Hao's own lacquered coffin were the skeletal remains of sixteen humans and six dogs. Among the more than seven hundred jades were examples that date from the Liangzhu culture (see Jade cong), which must have been collected as antiquities. Many bronze vessels were found, some of which were probably used by Fu Hao during her life. Others, which bear her posthumous name (Si Mu Xin), were probably cast as burial goods. Six or seven thousand cowrie shells (which the Shang used as currency) had also been buried with her.

Among the grave goods were bone and jade hairpins, as well as objects normally associated with male burials, including more than ninety dagger axes and dozens of arrowheads. Oracle texts, which specifically refer to Fu Hao as a general, indicate that she participated in several military campaigns, including one in which she led 13,000 troops against the Qiang. It also appears that she was responsible for important rituals and controlled her own estate.

The tomb was a single large rectangular pit, oriented north-south, sunk to a depth of 7.5 meters. Burial niches in the east and west walls held sacrificial victims. Above ground was a large rectangular building, whose purpose is unclear but that may have been used as an ancestral hall where continued memorials and sacrifices could be made to Fu Hao.

The archaeology excavations at Anyang and the evidence on the oracle bones have confirmed the existence of the Shang dynasty. It had been recorded in the legendary histories written many centuries later, but in the early part of the twentieth century Chinese scholars had doubted that it had actually existed.

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