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Elite chariots and early horse transport at the Bronze Age burial site of Shijia

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  24 April 2023

Chengrui Zhang
Department of Anthropology, Harvard University, Cambridge, USA
Yongan Wang
Gansu Provincial Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology, Lanzhou, P.R. China
Junmin Zhang
Gansu Provincial Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology, Lanzhou, P.R. China
William Timothy Treal Taylor
University of Colorado Museum of Natural History, Boulder, USA
Feng Sun
Gansu Provincial Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology, Lanzhou, P.R. China
Zexian Huang
School of Cultural Heritage, Northwest University, Xi'an, P.R. China
Ruijing Qiu
Gansu Provincial Museum, Lanzhou, P.R. China
Furen Hou
Ningxia Provincial Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology, Yinchuan, P.R. China
Rowan K. Flad
Department of Anthropology, Harvard University, Cambridge, USA
Yue Li*
School of Cultural Heritage, Northwest University, Xi'an, P.R. China China-Central Asia Belt and Road Joint Laboratory on Human and Environment Research, Xi'an, P.R. China Ministry of Education Key Laboratory of Cultural Heritage Research and Conservation, Xi'an, P.R. China
*Author for correspondence ✉


Horses and chariots played a crucial social, cultural and military role in the emergence and development of early states in China. Little research, however, has explored the life histories of individual chariot horses or assessed their role as working animals. Here, the authors present a detailed zooarchaeological and palaeopathological study of eight adult male horses, used for pulling chariots, recovered from a single chariot-horse pit at the burial site of Shijia in north-western China. The characterisation of key osteological differences between chariot horses and ridden horses is offered as a contribution to the toolkit available for the archaeological investigation of human-horse interactions around the globe.

Research Article
Copyright © The Author(s), 2023. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of Antiquity Publications Ltd.

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These authors contributed equally to this work.


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