7. Ancient Oracle Bones

Oracle bones, China, ca. 1600–1046 BCE, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of A.W. Bahr, 1923

The Chinese oracle bones are the oldest artifacts in the exhibition. Possibly dating all the way back to 1600 B.C.E., these bones are divination tools used during the Shang Dynasty. A question would be engraved into the bone and then a hot metal rod would be inserted into pre-carved holes. The resulting pattern of fractures would be read by a shaman who would divine an answer to the question posed.