Research Project


The Spread and Social Significance of Scapulimancy in Early China during the Western Zhou period (ca. mid-11th-early 8th cc. BCE)

Dr. Maria Khayutina

The proposed project aims to investigate the social aspects of prognostication practices in Early China during the ca. 11-8 cc. BCE, as these are reflected in the archaeological record. It scrutinizes the relationships between the practice of scapulimancy, witnessed by the presence of oracle bones or turtle plastrons in tombs or settlement deposits, and social organization, economic inequality and cultural diversity in the early Chinese society of the so-called “Western Zhou period” (mid-11.-early 8th c. BCE). In contrast to the majority of studies that focus on inscribed divinatory media, it considers all finds related to scapulimancy in order to reveal who, apart from the highest elites (kings and their closest associates), engaged in this mantic practice, how its spread among the Zhou and other contemporary populaces was related to the earlier influence of the Shang, and how long it persisted in certain parts of China after the 8th c. BCE. It is hoped that this investigation will provide a better understanding of how prediction, mantic and divination practices gained their position as an integral part of life within Chinese Society.

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