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The Zhuangqiao inscriptions

July 11, 2013

Various news media (such as this report) are reporting on a conference in Zhejiang province held on more than 200 objects at the Zhuangqiao archeological site dating back to Liangzhu culture.  The objects are 5,000 years old. 

Consider this stone implement:

Front

Here are the inscriptions on the front

Front drawing

Here is a portion of the back of the same object

Back (detail)

Here are the inscriptions on the back of the stone implement:

Back drawing

Or, consider the inscriptions on this stone axe:

Stone axe

Now remember up until now, the oldest evidence of Chinese writing that we have are oracle bones dating back to about 3,600 years ago.  These artifacts, dating back a millennium and a half further, appear roughly contemporaneous with the oldest Sumerian cuneiform tablets that we have.

Now, admittedly, the complexity of the inscriptions does not approach the complexity of early cuneiform tablets.  But it does suggest that Chinese writing may have started much earlier than we previously believed.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. July 13, 2013 7:26 am

    The line drawings to interpret the grooved writing on the stone are interesting. How certain are the interpreters that they’ve copied or re-mediated correctly?

  2. July 14, 2013 11:33 pm

    Well, I’m not a paleographer, but from the photographs it seems they’ve done a reasonable job.

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