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A more reasonable explanation is that the two peoples independently thought up somewhat similar solutions to somewhat similar problems.

It is underlying principles, not the superficial outward form of symbols, that should occupy most of our attention.

Toward the end of the last century peasants working their fields in the district of Anyang, located in the northern part of Honan province a bit north of the Yellow River, turned up fragments of bone, some of which bore markings that Chinese scholars recognized as characters of an older form than any yet known.

Owing to the turmoil attending the collapse of the imperial regime in 1911, it was several decades before scientific excavations could be conducted in the area.

Moreover, it seems to me that while some of the principles underlying Chinese writing are in fact similar to those underlying Sumerian writing, in all probability the reason for this is not that one was influenced by the other.

The distances in time and space, unlike the Sumerian-Egyptian and Phoenician-Greek situations (discussed in chapters 4 and 5, respectively), militate against such a hypothesis.

In the meantime large numbers of inscribed bone fragments found their way into the hands of scattered Chinese and foreign scholars.

Scientific excavations began in 1928, were interrupted by the Sino-Japanese war of 1937-1945, and were resumed on a larger scale after the establishment of the People's Republic of China in 1949.

The Shang people wrote on bones and shells for purposes of divination.

Gordon 's overall case for stimulus diffusion is hardly helped by his advancing the claim that "Chinese in pigtails" (actually found only in the Manchu period, from 1644 to 1911) "are portrayed unmistakably in the art in pre-Columbian Middle America" (Gordon 191).

My own view of the matter is that the arguments for both approaches are seriously flawed and that at present there is simply not enough evidence to provide convincing proof for either claim about the origin of Shang writing.

Inscriptions on other materials tell us little, since they are in general restricted to a few characters.

Thus the second most important group, those on bronze vessels, consist in part of so-called "clan-name" inscriptions.

These are pictographs often encased in a sort of rectangular cartouche that is reminiscent of those found in Egyptian hieroglyphic inscriptions containing the names of royal personages.

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