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Shang and Zhou dynasties ©Epimetheus
1600 BCE Jan 1 - 1046 BCE

Shang Dynasty

Anyang, Henan, China

Archaeological evidence, such as oracle bones and bronzes, and transmitted texts attest to the historical existence of the Shang dynasty (c. 1600–1046 BC). Findings from the earlier Shang period comes from excavations at Erligang, in present-day Zhengzhou. Findings from the later Shang or Yin (殷) period, were found in profusion at Anyang, in modern-day Henan, the last of the Shang's nine capitals (c. 1300–1046 BC). The findings at Anyang include the earliest written record of the Chinese so far discovered: inscriptions of divination records in ancient Chinese writing on the bones or shells of animals—the "oracle bones", dating from around 1250 BC.

A series of thirty-one kings reigned over the Shang dynasty. During their reign, according to the Records of the Grand Historian, the capital city was moved six times. The final (and most important) move was to Yin in around 1300 BC which led to the dynasty's golden age. The term Yin dynasty has been synonymous with the Shang dynasty in history, although it has lately been used to refer specifically to the latter half of the Shang dynasty.

Although written records found at Anyang confirm the existence of the Shang dynasty, Western scholars are often hesitant to associate settlements that are contemporaneous with the Anyang settlement with the Shang dynasty. For example, archaeological findings at Sanxingdui suggest a technologically advanced civilization culturally unlike Anyang. The evidence is inconclusive in proving how far the Shang realm extended from Anyang. The leading hypothesis is that Anyang, ruled by the same Shang in the official history, coexisted and traded with numerous other culturally diverse settlements in the area that is now referred to as China proper.