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Rare Inscriptions Unearthed

Archeologists have unearthed four ancient inscriptions, known as "oracle bones", dating to the Shang Dynasty (16th - 11th centuries BC), at the Daxinzhuang Ruins in Jinan City, capital of east China's Shandong Province.


It was the first time Shang oracle bones had been found outside the dynasty's 3,300-year-old capital, Yinxu Ruins in Anyang City in central China's Henan Province.


Oracle bone inscriptions, widely known as Jiaguwen in Chinese, referred to words inscribed on tortoise shells or animal bones.


The shells had been dug out exclusively in Yinxu, and the latest finding could provide key clues on formation of the dynasty and indication that the ruins might have been an important cultural center, said Zhu Fenghan, deputy-curator of National Museum of China.


Among the cache, three bones bear only one or two words, still not deciphered.


The other is a large tortoise shell with 34 words, telling of three methods to offer sacrifice to gods or ancestors.


Jiaguwen were first discovered by Wang Yirong in 1899 and are the earliest systematic characters ever found in China.


There are about 5,000 Jiaguwen words, half of which can not be deciphered, said Fang Hui, vice-director of Oriental Archeology Research Center with Shandong University.


The Daxinzhuang Ruins was first discovered in 1936 and has yielded many bronze pieces, jade articles and about 400 pieces of tortoise shells.


The ruins shares similar traits with the ancient capital of Yinxu, including pottery, bronze and jade, and the finding of similar Jiaguwen proved that they were using similar words.


The culture had spread from the ancient capital in central China's Henan Province to eastern areas, Fang said.


(Xinhua News Agency January 15, 2004)

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