The discovery of the oracle bones in China goes back to 1899, when a scholar from Peking was prescribed a remedy containing "dragon bones" for his illness: "dragon bones" were widely used in Chinese medicine and usually refer to fossils of dead animals. The scholar noticed some carvings that looked like some kind of writing on the bones he acquired from the local pharmacy. This lucky find led eventually to the discovery of Anyang, the last capital of Shang dynasty where archeologists have found an enormous amount of these carved bones.
The inscriptions on these bones tell us that by 1200 BC Chinese writing was already a highly developed writing system which was used to record a language fairly similar to classical Chinese. Such a complex and sophisticated script certainly has a history but so far we found no traces of its predecessors.
The oracle bone inscriptions received their name after their content which is invariably related to divination. The ancient Chinese diviners used these bones as records of their activity, providing us with a detailed description of the topics that interested the Shang kings. Most of these divinations refer to hunting, warfare, weather, selection of auspicious days for ceremonies, etc.
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