Chariot Burials

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(China). Chariots and chariot burials provide the earliest generally acknowledged evidence of foreign influence on Chinese Bronze Age civilization. The first Chinese chariot burials are at the Anyang site (at Xiaotun, Dasikongcun, and Xiaomintun) and belong to the latter part of the Shang dynasty. The large Anyang tomb Wkgm 1 near Wuguancun, dating from the 13th century bc, lacked clear evidence of chariots but contained skeletons of 27 horses. Shang chariot burials usually include horses and charioteers, and often also contain certain distinctive bronze fittings (‘bow-shaped ornaments’) and knives that, like the chariot itself, have not yet been found at pre-Anyang sites. Chariot burials occur throughout the Zhou period, at Baoji, Beijing, Lingtai, Xincun, and Zhangjiapo in Western Zhou, and at Liulige, Luoyang and Shangcun-ling in Eastern Zhou. At Liulige, 19 chariots were buried in a single pit. The mausoleum complex of Qin Shi Huangdi (r.221-210 bc) included not only burials of real chariots drawn by pottery horses but also a pair of nearly life-sized four-horse chariots, the horses, chariots, and drivers all made of bronze. Chariots thus seem to have arrived in China midway through the Shang period, perhaps in the 13th century bc. Thereafter they formed an important part of Chinese armies; the power of an Eastern Zhou state was measured in chariots. In Chinese histories the abandonment of chariots in favour of cavalry is associated with a king of the northern state of Zhao (r.325-299 bc) who adopted tactics and equipment from his steppe-nomadic adversaries; the Qin state’s reliance on large armies of infantry may, however, have been a more significant change. Lavish bronze chariot fittings, during Eastern Zhou often inlaid with gold and silver, hint that in addition to their military function chariots always had a role in ceremony or pageantry. In this role they survived to later periods, as shown for instance by bronze miniatures of chariots found in Han tombs (see Wuwei).

The Macmillan dictionary of archaeology, Ruth D. Whitehouse, 1983Copied