Ritual or lethal? Bronze weapons in late Shang China
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Large-scale bronze production is one of the most salient features of late Shang China (c.1200–1050 BC). Copper-alloy weapons were cast in extraordinary quantities and varieties as shown by the rich burial assemblages known from the period. However, their practical usages are not yet well-understood, and scholars speculate whether the weapons were functional implements or symbolic/prestige items. The chapter discusses the first wear analysis ever undertaken on Chinese Shang weaponry. The analysis has revealed a number of marks, which shed light on the manufacturing process, use, deposition and post-recovery alterations of the weapons. It has also challenged traditional typological classification of Shang weapons and argues for a holistic approach to weapon studies in Chinese archaeology.