Kneeling Decapitated Skeleton was Ancient Chinese Sacrifice Victim

Kneeling Decapitated Skeleton was Ancient Chinese Sacrifice Victim

Kneeling Decapitated Skeleton was Ancient Chinese Sacrifice Victim

In Central China, archeologists have uncovered a decapitated skeleton still resting in its final kneeling position. Similar rituals have been referred to in ancient Chinese scripts,  but this finding is further proof of this particular sacrificial rite.

Xinhua, the largest state-owned news agency, reports that it was discovered at the site of Chaizhuang, in Jiyuan, in Chinese Henan province.

Archaeologists from the Henan Provincial Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology and the Jiyuan Municipal Cultural Relics Group have been digging through the site since 2019. To date, they’ve managed to search through 6,000 square meters (64,600 square feet) at Chaizhuang.

The site dates back to the Shang Dynasty, which ruled from around 1600 BC to 1046 BC. The site has found evidence of houses, water wells, stoves, roads, and a surprising number of tombs.

According to Xinhua, the archeologists have discovered various artifacts, including pottery, bones, jewelry, and even evidence of seafood and fireworks.

An ancient stove unearthed at the Chaizhuang site.

The team also uncovered a sacrificial pit with a decapitated victim still inside. The skeleton was found in its final kneeling position, its body facing north with arms folded in front. Looking very carefully at the photo, it even appears that the individual’s hands are still clasped together. Wow.

These grim remains are providing crucial evidence of the social and spiritual customs that were in place during this time period.

In particular, the skeleton affirms a suspected Shang Dynasty practice in which sacrificed individuals were buried in an upright position.

Evidence found at a different site, the Yin Ruins, suggested as much—specifically, the discovery of oracle bone inscriptions with glyphs describing the practice.

Known in China as “Jiaguwen,” these scripts, or glyphs, represent some of the earliest fully developed characters in ancient China. Glyphs were often etched onto human and animal bones and even tortoise shells, reports Xinhua.

An oracle bone remnant discovered at the Chaizhuang site.

Importantly, a piece of oracle bone bearing the “Kan” glyph was found at the Chaizhuang site, a symbol associated with the sacrificing of people or livestock in pits, reports Xinhua.

“This well-preserved human bone is shaped like the oracle bone inscription of the character ‘Kan,’” explained Liang Fawei, leader of the Chaizhuang site excavation project, to Xinhua.

During the Shang Dynasty period, the scripts “She,” “Shi,” “Tan” and “Kan,” were used to denote sacrificial activities performed at different rituals, with Kan depicting burials in an upright position, Liang explained to Xinhua.

The Kan glyph was somewhat of an oddity, given the prevailing archaeological evidence, as human sacrifices have primarily been found lying down.

The recent discovery of the kneeling skeleton is further proof of this sacrificial practice, which may have been common, given the dedicated glyph. As always, however, more evidence in the form of similar burials and more oracle bones would help to strengthen this argument.

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