Tortoise shell with oracular inscription (Part2 5241, R044772)

Tags: divination | oracle bone | Shang dynasty | turtle shell

Obtained in the Institute of History and Philology's 13th excavation in 1936, this is an oracle bone dug out from pit YH127, belonging to the first period. This is a unique shell in terms of its modified shape. The contents of the divination inscription are questions having to do with rainfall and receiving the harvest.
Tortoise shells were used relatively little for divination in the Shang dynasty, and this tortoise shell moreover belongs to the category of "modified tortoise shells." Furthermore, after the entire tortoise shell was cut in two, the extremities of each half – the spine, head, and tail parts – were sawed off. Finally, the shell was ground to a glossy polish and given an oval shape. In the middle was bored a hole, through which may be threaded a rope. Chen Mengjia regards this as possibly resembling the form of a bound book. 


Rubbing dimensions: length 12.72 cm, width 7.03 cm Object dimensions: length 12.9 cm, width 6.8 cm


Excavation date: 1936, 13th Xiaotun excavation
Place of excavation: Xiaotun, Anyang County, Henan Province


Institute of History and Philology, Academia Sinica
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