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3,000-Year-Old Chinese Oracle Bone Printed in 3-D

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Chinese oracle bone CAMBRIDGE, ENGLAND—Researchers led by Dominic Powlesland of Cambridge University have created a 3-D print of one of the 614 inscribed Chinese oracle bones held in the Cambridge University Library. The oracle bones date to between 1339 and 1112 B.C., and are thought to be the oldest extant documents written in the Chinese language. The inscriptions are questions about warfare, agriculture, hunting, medical problems, meteorology, and astronomy, that were written on ox shoulder blades and the flat parts of turtle shells. The answers to the questions were sought through divination. “The oracle bones are three-dimensional objects, and high-resolution 3-D imagery reveals features which not only all previous methods of reproduction (such as drawings, rubbings, and photographs) have been unable to do, but which are not even apparent from careful examination of the actual items themselves,” Charles Aylmer, head of the Chinese Department at Cambridge University, said in a press release. “In particular, the reverse sides of the bones, which are crucial to understanding the process of divination but have hitherto been neglected because of the difficulty of representing them adequately, can now be studied in detail thanks to this new technique,” he said. For more, go to "Artifact: Oracle Bone."

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