On the emergence of the domestic chicken as seen from finds of bronze chickens in southwestern China

  • 1 Institute of Archaeology, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Beijing 100710.


This paper focuses on the bronze chickens unearthed in southwestern China dating back to the time from the Shang to the Han Dynasties. Among them, one bronze rooster from the pit No. 2 at the Sanxingdui Site looks similar to domestic chicken in appearance. Since it was unearthed together with bronze birds symbolizing the Sun, we may deduce that the bronze rooster probably symbolizes an idea that rooster crows at sunrise. In addition, most other bronze chickens unearthed in southwestern China are used as staff-head. This pattern perhaps is related to the fact that rooster crows and can be used for timing. The author concludes that the study of these bronze chickens, including their typology and archaeological background within the context of the biological habits of relevant animals as well as corresponding cultural phenomena, can to a certain extent help us identify the species of such animal-shaped artifacts and further supplement the identification criteria of domesticated animals.

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Chinese Archaeology is an annual periodical that publishes translations of the most important archaeological reports, preliminary findings, and research articles published in all major mainland Chinese journals that year. Chinese Archaeology is co-published by De Gruyter and the Institute of Archaeology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. De Gruyter is responsible for the sales and distribution of the journal outside of China.