Weapons in Late Shang (c.1250-1050 BCE) China: Beyond Typology and Ritual explores the large quantities of bronze and jade weapons, such as dagger-axes, spears and arrows, found at the World Heritage site of Yinxu, the late Shang capital located near today’s Anyang city in central China.

Qin Cao’s innovative research presents new insights into these weapons, moving beyond perceptions of them being primarily symbols of power and rank. Through the lens of weapons, this book argues for the significance of martial prowess and leadership within late Shang society. The author considers Shang weapons from an object biographical perspective, tracing their life histories for the first time. This book synthesises archaeological data, scientific analyses, and inscriptions on oracle bones and bronzes, uncovering a more nuanced understanding of the complex roles weapons played in society. What traces of evidence can be detected on weapons that demonstrate their ability to cause bodily harm? Why were tens of thousands of weapons placed in tombs? What led to certain individuals, including high-ranking royal females, being buried with weapons?

This book will be of interest to academics, students (both undergraduates and postgraduates), and researchers in archaeology, particularly those focused on China, East Asia, or comparative studies, as well as a more general readership in Chinese archaeology.

chapter 2|22 pages

The Shang, the Anyang Site and Weaponry

chapter 4|13 pages

Metalwork Wear Analysis of Shang Weapons

chapter 5|24 pages

Forming Shang Weapons

chapter 6|83 pages

Providing for the Deceased

Weaponry Assemblages in Tombs and their Previous “Lives”

chapter 7|7 pages

Weapons in Late Shang Society