Arrow-shaped ‘clan badge’ discovered at Shang Dynasty settlement in Hebei
Published: Jun 08, 2023 10:19 PM
Photo: screenshot

Photo: screenshot

A Shang Dynasty (c.1600BC-1046BC) settlement, covering 220,000 square meters, was recently discovered in Handan, North China's Hebei Province, providing more insight into the cultural beliefs and lives of people at the time. 

The settlement was discovered at the Zhaoyao Site, which archaeologist Wang Meng describes as a Shang Dynasty archaeological spot with "threaded historical narratives and an abundance of relics."

The Zhaoyao Site has produced archaeological discoveries dating to the Xia (c.2070BC-c.1600BC), Shang and Zhou (1046BC-256BC) dynasties. Pottery wares resembling later bronzewares and a bone carved with a phoenix design have been discovered at the site.

"They reveal ancient Chinese people's creative wisdom and 'sense of cultural etiquette,'" Xu Shuming, a cultural researcher, told the Global Times.

An upturned arrow-shaped mark was engraved on some of the pottery wares. Song Dingguo, an expert on the Shang Dynasty, told the Global Times that the mark could have been a clan badge for the people who once lived at the site. 

According to the large scale of the Zhaoyao Site, it was likely a central settlement for the Shi tribe, a Shang princedom state that was largely centered in what is today's Shaanxi Province and later spread to other regions in China. 

Other than handicrafts, two types of structures - residences and tombs - have also been identified by researchers at the site. 

The remains of pits, pottery kilns, circular ditches and stone waterways were found around the structures. 

Wei Shuguang, an archaeologist at the Hebei Provincial Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology and the project's head, said that archaeologists also discovered that the residences were designed with indoor thermal circulation in mind. "Such different heating approaches shed light on the study of environmental changes during the Shang Dynasty and ancient people's strategies for keeping warm in the winter in northern China," Wei noted. 

Including the Zhaoyao Site, other important Shang ruins such as the Zhoujiazhuang Site have been discovered in Hebei Province, a "pivotal region" for early Shang civilization archaeology, Wang said.