Eclipses of Sun inscribed in turtle shells
07-01-2015 CAB IN THE MEANS (

Thirteen mentions of eclipses in oracular bones (seven moles and six suns), dated between the 14th and 12th centuries BC have been identified with certainty.

The 'bones of the oracle' or 'oracular bones' They are relics with more than 3,000 years old. They date back to the second half of the Shang Dynasty era that reigned in central China between about 1550 and 1050 BC. These are pieces of animal bones and turtle shells inscribed with a primitive form of Chinese writing. The fortunetellers of the court used them to make prophecies by consulting the ancestral spirits, because they were given the power to influence the living. To do this, the surfaces were prepared by polishing the animal bones or the lower part of the turtle shells, and the fortune-tellers asked the ancestors and interpreted the responses from the cracks that appeared when applying heat with an incandescent metal. The question and the answer were inscribed in the bone, hence the name of oracle bones.

It was not until 1899 when the academic Wang Yirong (1845-1900) discovered the oracular bones and realized that its importance. It happened in an apothecary. They were sold as 'dragon bones' to those who, reduced to dust, were credited with healing properties. Wang Yirong noted that some of them had inscriptions that he identified with ancient Chinese script.

Since then more than 150,000 fragments have been unearthed near the present city of Anyang, where the capital of the Shang dynasty was between approximately 1360 and 1050 aC. The contents of the inscriptions (not all have them) are varied: rites and religious sacrifices, war, hunting, royal trips, etc. There are those that contain records about astronomical phenomena, such as comets, eclipses, and even sunspots! In one of these bones the inscription mentions that "three flames ate the Sun and great stars were seen". It is an allusion to an eclipse of the Sun. The flames probably refer to the solar corona, which can be observed with the naked eye only during the phase of totality of a solar eclipse. Seeing stars simultaneously with the Sun can not be explained in other circumstances either.





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