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Neolithic Era
Bowl with Engraved Symbols

The bowl, shown above and below, has symbols that are engraved into the upper band instead of painted symbols. The bowl was excavated at Kiangzhai, Lintong and is dated as between 5000 and 7000 years old, between 5,000 BC and 3,000 BC. These scratches excite archaeologists because by the Shang Dynasty (1554 BC to 1045 BC) the written form of Chinese was well on its way to development. Thousands of oracle bones and shells have been found dating to the late Shang Dynasty at Yinxu and at the middle Shang site of Huayuanzhuang, 2 miles north and on the other side of the Huan River. The writing on the oracle bones came from somewhere. The quest is to find the proto-writing that led into the symbolic forms used in the Chinese characters. This is harder than you might think. If you see a circle with a dot in the center on a pot, does that mean that the artist was symbolizing the sun and using it as a word, or does it mean that the artist drew a circle with a center? The sketch above could be an early symbol for man or just a nice geometric design. It could be an ownership mark, or the result of a tired child scratching a design onto his mother's best food bowl. Note that the bowl is displayed upside down, making the character look more like a man. If you flip it, it could be a tripod cooking vessel. The detail of the figure is shown below.

China Index >> Shaanxi History Museum >> Neolithic Era

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Last update: March 2010
© Marilyn Shea, 2010