Archaeology Magazine Archive

A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America

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Shandong Discoveries Volume 50 Number 5, September/October 1997
by Spencer P.M. Harrington

[image] Chariot burial at Qianzhangda (Tianlong Jiao) [LARGER IMAGE]

Two cemeteries at the Shang-period (ca. 1700-1100 B.C.) site of Qianzhangda, 15 miles south of Tengzhou in Shandong Province, eastern China, have yielded bronzes, jade, pottery, and intact chariots. Tianlong Jiao of the Shandong Archaeological Team of the Institute of Archaeology of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, excavated 70 tombs, three chariot burials, and sacrificial pits, all found atop six levels of earlier Shang-period storage pits. Rich and poor tombs were found together, and the excavators are not sure to which elite tombs the chariot burials belonged. Most of the elite tombs were dusted with cinnabar and contained a variety of bronze vessels, lacquerware, pottery smashed during funeral rituals, and sacrificial animals. One of the chariot pits contained the remains of a sacrificed driver and his two horses, bronze harnesses, and braids for the horses' hair. Another pit included two drivers, two horses, and one chariot; within the chariot cart was a bronze disk decorated with two circles of cowrie shells. So far excavators have not found any evidence of habitation near the cemeteries. Qianzhangda was the capital of the state of Xue in the late Shang period. The people of Xue are believed to have belonged to the Dongyi culture, whose struggles with the Shang royalty led to the dynasty's collapse ca. 1100.

Elsewhere in Shandong, and undisturbed first-century B.C. tomb of a provincial king, identified by inscriptions as Liu Kuan, has been excavated on Shuangru Mountain in Shandong Province. The tomb contained more than 2,000 artifacts, including bronzes, jades, lacquer, iron, pottery, gold ingots, and chariot and horse fittings. The 280-foot-long and 72-foot-tall tomb chamber was carved into the mountain. Among the most precious jade artifacts were a face mask of joined pieces and a pillow of nine jade plates in three layers decorated with jade tiger heads and bamboo blocks. Twenty gold ingots, together weighing more than nine pounds, were also recovered, as were the remains of five chariots, some decorated with gold and silver inlays depicting clouds, flying birds, and wild animals.

© 1997 by the Archaeological Institute of America