Digital Radioscopic Examination of Ancient Bronze Castings

Date
1991
Authors
Sturges, Derek
McQueeney, Kathleen
Avril, Ellen
Bonadies, Stephen
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The Chinese aristocracy of the Shang (circa 1550 to 1030 B.C.) and Zhou (circa 1030 to 221 B.C.) dynasties commissioned the casting of sumptuous vessels in bronze for making ritual offerings of food and wine to their esteemed ancestors. The technical sophistication and extravagant consumption of raw materials required to produce these vessels attests to their importance as symbols of power for the ruling class. Enormous wealth was expended on the furnishing of tombs, in part because Chinese nobles believed that reverence for the needs of their ancestors in the afterlife would ensure the continued success of the clan on earth. Indeed such extravagance also served to legitimize the status of the ruling clans within Shang and Zhou society. Whether or not commissioned for specific tombs, bronze ritual vessels sooner or later ended up in burials where they survived for thousands of years.

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