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The Ernest K. Smith Collection of Shang Divination Inscriptions at Columbia University, and the Evidence for Scribal Training at Anyang

Smith, Adam Daniel

The C. V. Starr East Asian Library at Columbia University has a small but important collection of Late Shang (ca. 1300-1050 B.C.) divination inscriptions. The core of this collection was acquired in the 1930s by Ernest K. Smith, and has been present in the library since around that time. Smith‘s collection lacks a documented archaeological provenance, but the location where the inscriptions were discovered at the late Shang site near Anyang can nevertheless be determined with precision. The largest and most important of Smith‘s 62 pieces is a densely inscribed divination scapula (US414-415 = YiCun266+257) belonging to the so-called He Group of inscriptions. This item is often referred to in the scholarly literature, but rarely with reference to the context of its discovery, its relationship with other items in Smith‘s collection, or the fact that most of the inscriptions that appear on it are by scribal trainees. Its relevance to the question of late Shang scribal training has been overlooked. The presentation of these issues is preceded by a brief overview of divination and its written record at Anyang, and of late Shang scribal training.

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Archaeologies of Text: Archaeology, Technology and Ethics
Oxbow Books

More About This Work

Academic Units
East Asian Languages and Cultures
Published Here
January 9, 2012