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13 July 2006
3,000-year-old pellets might be missiles, archaeologist says

A large number of pottery pellets have been discovered in the famous Yin Ruins in central China, and now an archaeologist said they might have been used as catapult missiles more 3,000 years ago. The ancient pellets were found in pits and tombs of the Yin Ruins in Anyang, capital of the Shang Dynasty (1600 BCE-1100 BCE). The site were first discovered in 1928, and numerous findings have since been made.
     The pellets, made of red clay, were 1 centimeter in diameter, and most of them were polished, said Miao Xia, a researcher with the Institute of Archaeology under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. In one of the ancient tombs, several hundred pellets were unearthed. "The pellets were very hard. It seemed that the pellets had close connection with the daily life of the ancients," Miao said.
     The Yin Ruins are famous for the discovery of inscribed animal bones and tortoise shells, known as oracle bones. The inscriptions on bones and shells, used for divination by Shang emperors, are the earliest known examples of Chinese characters. In the pictographic inscriptions on bones and shells, experts found a character for bow was drawn as a bow with a pellet at the center. "We infer that the pottery pellets were catapult missiles used by ancient hunters," Miao said. Such kind of catapult was popular in ancient China. The hunters might have used the catapults and pottery bullets to shoot birds and animals in order to get furs intact, Miao said.

Source: People's Daily Online (10 July 2006)

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