Scientist explores connection between Shang Dynasty China and ancient Peruvian cultures
Similarities in ancient art and artifacts found in China and Peru have led some scholars to suggest an ancient link between the two cultures. Now a Chinese scientist will be undertaking genetic testing of remains of ancient Chinese people and Peruvians to determine whether South America was visited by Shang Dynasty people beginning around 1,000 BC.
The Shang Dynasty collapsed around 1046 BC. Scholars are saying Chinese people made contact with indigenous people of the Americas around then, long before the Europeans arrived in 1492 AD, or earlier when Vikings may have made landfall in the far north of North America around 1000 AD.
Chinese scholars say a link is worthwhile exploring because it’s possible to recognize Chinese influence and even characters in ancient geoglyphs, pottery, artifacts, carpets and garments of ancient American Mochica, Nazca, Paracas and Inca people, says an article in El Comercio.
Left: Feline vessel (Moche culture, 100 – 800 AD, Peru). Right: Feline vessel (Warring States Period, 481 - 221 BC, China)
Creatures with bird, snake and cat features have been found depicted on artifacts from Shang, the ancient Chinese Sanxingdui culture, and pre-Inca artifacts.
In the Chavín culture of Peru “many of the apparently religious images involve a creature with a combination of human, cat, bird, and snake features. Most have fangs and appear to be snarling and ferocious,” says an article on GaleGroup.com.
Feline with snake tail gripping a trophy head in its paws. Ceramic, Moche culture, 100-700 AD, from Huaca de Tantalluc, Peru. (Wikimedia Commons)
A creature that looks like a mix of dragon, phoenix and snake is found on bronze vessels of the Shang and Sanxingdui peoples.
“It is said that when the Shang Dynasty collapsed, the dynasty’s prince, Prince Yin, left China and headed east with his army. Chinese experts claim this group is the spark that ignited so many cultures of the Americas, including the Chavín and Mochica of Peru,” says another article, in Peru This Week. Chinese experts say the end of the Shang Dynasty corresponded in time to the beginnings of meso-American cultures and civilizations.
Other scholars have posited a link between ancient cultures in China and what is now South America. Wang Dayou and Song Baozhong have been studying this field for 20 years. One particular focus is the Chavin culture. In 2006 they visited Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia to retrace “the journey of Yin to the East.”
Chinese experts claim some peoples of South America developed their cultures through Chinese influence, a claim that may not be received well by Native American cultures, who take pride in thinking of people who arrived in the Americas in pre-historic times and later independently developed original and highly evolved cultures and civilizations.
Moche Pot with dragon depiction, similar to those seen in ancient Chinese art, Larco Museum, Peru (genesispark.com)
But some Chinese experts say clans that developed cultures of Mexico and Peru are direct descendants of the Shang, also known as the Yin Dynasty. The last stage of the Shang dynasty may have coincided in time with the first stage of the Chavin culture, says El Comercio. They say there may have been further contacts between peoples of the two continents after the Shang people supposedly first made their way to Peru.
The Shang civilization was highly advanced. Shang kings appointed local governors and there was a class of nobles. The people’s main work was in agriculture, Encyclopedia Britannica says. Shang people had musical instruments, wattle and daub houses, advanced pottery, bronze metalworking, jade carving, chariots, sculptures and paintings, elaborate burials, and pictograph, idiogram and phonogram types of writing.
"The history of writing in China began in the Shang,” Chinese scientist Tang Jigen told El Comercio. “The oracle bones are evidence that this is one of the oldest systems of writing world.” Inscriptions have been found on animal bones and tortoise shells, sometimes with a brush.
Cultures of ancient South America were similarly advanced, though evidence of writing systems has not been found for all of them.
Tang is with the Academy of Social Sciences. He says his institution will finance genetic testing, and it could be carried out by labs in the United States or Canada. A link between the peoples of the New World and China can only be established definitively through genetic testing, Tang says.
Featured image: Gold Mochica Headdress (1 – 700 AD) representing a feline deity with fangs and condor ornaments. Credit: Lyndsay Ruell (Wikimedia Commons)
By Mark Miller